Bay Area Sports Franchises: San Francisco Giants

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

World Series Titles: 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954, 2010 (6)

Retired Numbers: #3 Bill Terry, #4 Mel Ott, #11 Carl Hubbell, #20 Monte Irvin, #24 Willie Mays, #27 Juan Marichal, #30 Orlando Cepeda, #36 Gaylord Perry, #44 Willie McCovey, #42 Jackie Robinson (retired league-wide)

Rivals: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics

As one of the oldest baseball teams, the Giants have won the most games of any team in the history of American baseball, and also of any North American professional sports team. Although their recent successes have come in San Francisco, the franchise saw much of its earlier triumphs on the east coast, as they won 14 pennants and 5 World Championships as the New York Giants. The Giants played at Harlem’s Polo Grounds until the end of the 1957, when they moved to San Francisco, along with the Dodgers program, who relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. The Dodgers’ owner at the time, Walter O’Malley, was attempting to relocate to California, but was told that he could not do so unless a second team moved to California as well. Thus, the Giants and Dodgers departed at the end of the 1957 season, and New York said goodbye to two tremendously successful programs in the city.

The San Francisco era of Giants’ history has met mixed fortunes over the years. Their first two seasons were played in Seals Stadium, home to a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, until 1960, when they moved into famed Candlestick Park, built on the city’s southeast corner overlooking the San Francisco Bay. After winning the pennant in 1962 but falling to the Yankees in the World Series, a dark fog settled over the program, as the Giants did not play in another World Series until 1989. During this drought, the Giants were often pennant contenders, many times with the proper pieces to make magic happen, but found themselves falling in the standings late in the season, bidding adieu to playoff and/or pennant hopes.

Following a 1989 World Series defeat to local rivals the Oakland A’s, the franchise’s future in the city was heavily threatened when attempts to find a new site to build a better stadium on were not proving to be fruitful. After the 1992 season, then-owner Bob Lurie put the team up for sale. A Florida-based group of investors agreed to purchase the team and move them to the Tampa Bay area, but National League owners voted against the acquisition. Instead, the A’s ownership granted the Giants the exclusive rights to the South Bay, enabling the Giants to explore all potential local sites for a new stadium. The team was instead sold to an ownership group that included Peter Magowan, the former CEO of Safeway. Magowan continued the hunt for a new stadium location within the Bay Area, and while he did, acquired a homegrown talent that shaped the franchise’s fortunes for more than a decade, the superstar free agent in Barry Bonds.

Bonds’ presence in San Francisco began with promise, along with a solid rotation and offensive support from Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, and more. However, the Atlanta Braves proved to be a bit too powerful for the Giants, battling back from a ten-game deficit to win the NL West by a single game.

After the 1993 late season competition, which sports historians have dubbed “the last pure pennant race,” the period of 1994 to 1996 was not good for the Giants, as the strike ended the 1994 season early, and the 1995 and 1996 seasons saw the Giants finish in last place. However, after three consecutive losing seasons, the Giants named Brian Sabean as new GM in 1997, who went on to make some originally questionable trades that ended up proving to be fruitful, as the Giants made the 1997 playoffs before falling to the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins. The 1998 and 1999 seasons were relatively solid ones in San Francisco, fueled by the powerhouse bat of Barry Bonds, and also motivated off the field by an impending move to their new Pacific Bell Stadium (now AT&T Park), located downtown and directly on shores of China Basin. AT&T Park is regarded as one of the better venues in all of professional sports.

The beginning of downtown baseball in San Francisco was relatively mediocre The Giants made the playoffs in 2000, before losing the division series to the Mets in four games. In 2001, the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on the second to last day of the season. However, after regaining their footing, the 2002 season saw the Giants finish 2nd in the NL West, bolstered by another stellar season from MVP Barry Bonds. They would make the playoffs as the NL Wild Card team, and ousted the Braves in a five game NLDS, before eliminating the Cardinals in five as well, enroute to an exciting World Series that went to seven games against the eventual champion Anaheim Angels.

The 1993 season was a successful one from day one for the Giants, but they lost to the Marlins in the NLDS in four games, a disappointing end for a season that saw 100 victories for the seventh time in franchise history. After that, 2004 until 2008 were periods of dominant play from Bonds and a solid supporting cast, but were not powerful enough to land the Giants a playoff berth. Additionally, these four years were times of great change and media frenzies in San Francisco, as Bonds’ record breaking hitting, 2007 departure from San Francisco, and acquisition of “The Freak” Tim Lincecum brought both highs and lows for Giants fans.

However, during the 2009 off-season, the Giants made some major moves, acquiring pitching vet Randy Johnson and infielders Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe. Although they finished this season in third place in the NL West, still out of playoff reach, the 2009 season would set the stage for a roster that would mold together and put together a 2010 World Series Championship, ousting the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. With Tim Lincecum, defending NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, and World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, among others, still on the payroll for the upcoming season, hopes are definitely high in the South Bay. Stay tuned tomorrow as we discuss the current state of affairs for Giants’ baseball!

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About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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