The best-run sports organization in the Bay Area is clearly the Giants, the only team to build its own stadium and the first to win a world championship since the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl in 1995.
But those are not the only reasons to crown the Giants as the area’s best. In every area, from marketing to taking care of their fans to looking to the history of the club as well as the present, the Giants are the best.
This all started at a time when it seemed the San Francisco Giants would cease to exist. In August of 1992, as the Giants were headed to a dismal 72-90 end, owner Bob Lurie announced the sale of the Giants to a group of Tampa businessmen who would have transferred the team to St. Petersburg, Fla.
Almost immediately, a group of San Francisco businessmen, headed by Walter Shorenstein, came together to try to keep the Giants in The City. Though Lurie’s deal with Tampa was for $115 million, he had said he would take $100 million if a local group would buy the team and keep it in San Francisco.
The group had not yet come up to $100 million when the National League met in St. Louis to vote on the Tampa sale. I covered that meeting and it was soon obvious that league owners wanted to keep the Giants in San Francisco. League president Bill White, who had played for the Giants in New York, delayed the vote to give the San Francisco group an opportunity to raise the money, which they soon did. Shorenstein, who was involved as a matter of civic pride but had little interest in baseball, dropped out and Peter Magowan took over as managing general partner. Magowan’s first decision, before the sale was even approved, was to sign Barry Bonds as a free agent.
Major League Baseball made its approval of the deal contingent on the Giants getting a new park. Aware that they would have to finance it themselves, the Giants insisted on territorial rights to the Peninsula and San Jose, so they could tap into the Silicon Valley money to build the park.
Larry Baer, now the club president, was the main man in getting money from businesses, including $50 million from Pacific Bell (now AT&T) for signing rights.
Significantly, the new owners agreed to spend considerably more than the club was earning in its final days at Candlestick, doing as much as they could to improve the facility while building a team that would be a serious contender when they moved into the park.
When the park was ready in 2000, it was a beauty, with great vistas and all the modern conveniences. Statues have been erected to honor Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, all of whom are special advisors for the club.
The team, still led by Bonds, that moved into the new park was also very good, nearly winning the World Series in 2002, while attendance remained near or above 3 million in each of the first 11 seasons.
And now, they’re the reigning champions of baseball. They’ve earned it.