20th anniversary: Giants stay in San Francisco

Twsenty years ago today was a great day in the history of the San Francisco Giants baseball franchise. It’s the day that the team was saved.

Well, that’s too melodramatic. The team would be around no matter what, but it wouldn’t be around in the Bay Area. On Jan. 12, 1993, Giants team owner Bob Lurie announced he was selling the club to a group of local businessmen led by Peter Magowan for the princely sum of $100 million.

This deal ended months of speculation that the Giants were destined to move elsewhere. It seems hard to believe now, but 20 years ago many thought the Giants were a team in trouble.

First, they typically weren’t a very good team. They had their moments—most notably winning the 1989 pennant—but they soon fell back to the pack, and by 1992 were 90-loss team.

Second and more importantly, they played in one of the worst stadiums in baseball history: Candlestick Park, a wind tunnel masquerading as a baseball stadium. The stadium deflated attendance figures, and when the team wasn’t very good, those figures could be quite low indeed.

Even in the pennant-winning 1989 campaign,the Giants were a middle-of-the-park fifth out of 12 National League teams in attendance. For the Candlestick’ers, that was a great figure. They’d been that high only once in the last 20 years. In 1990 they slipped to eighth place. By 1992, they were next-to-last in the NL.

Owner Bob Lurie purchased the club in the mid-1970s to keep it from moving to the virgin territory of Toronto, and in late 1992 announced in an emotional press conference that he was going to have to sell the club.

Originally, it looked like it was Florida-bound. St. Petersburg had already built a stadium in an unsuccessful attempt to lure the White Sox, and a group headed by Vince Napoli made a move for the Giants.

Lurie accepted, but NL owners nixed it. They wanted the team to stay put, if at all possible. OK, but that meant Lurie would need local backing willing to pay a steep price.

Twenty years ago today, he found that backing. It turns out that 1992-93 was a great offseason for the Giants. Not only did they keep their team, but they also signed the ultimate free agent, Barry Bonds. With him, the team won 103 games (but still finished eighth in attendance. Oh well, it was an improvement.).

After several more years in wind over-swept Candlestick Park, the team finally got a non-horrible place to play—actually a nice place to play, the place currently called AT&T Park. The Giants are now a highly profitable team.

Tampa did eventually get a team: the Devil Rays. As it turns out, the stadium that nearly lured the Giants in is another disaster, and between its sterile environment and the fact that not many live within an easy drive of the place, Tampa has the same attendance problems that the Giants used to have. That would’ve been a sad irony if the Giants escaped one dismal, fan-alienated place just to land in another one.

But it didn’t happen. The team stayed in San Francisco. And 20 years ago today that announcement was made.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Japanese star Tomoaki Kanemoto asks to be left out of today’s lineup, ending a streak of 1,492 games in which he’s played in every inning. He’s hitting just .167, which is why he asks to be benched. He’s used as a pinch hitter, keeping his games streak alive.

2,000 days since Aaron Harang pitches 10 innings for the Reds, the last time any Cincinnati pitcher has done that. Only one pitcher in all baseball has done that since then (Cliff Lee, last year).

4,000 days since the Red Sox sign free agent John Valentin for the final year of his career.

4,000 days since the Pirates sign free agent Pokey Reese.

9,000 days since Danny Tartabull hits an inside the park home run off Bert Blyleven. It’s the second straight year Tartabull has done that against Blyleven.

10,000 days since Wade Boggs reaches base for the 81st straight game, his best streak. He’s 128-for-322 with 46 walks and a .477 OBP.

30,000 days since Bob Friend is born.

Anniversaries

1872 Togie Pittinger is born. He’s an early 20th century pitcher with control problems. He’ll lead the NL in walks three straight years, 1902-04.

1884 In an oddity, a five-inning game involving mostly professional baseball players takes place on ice skates. Sure, why not? Cubs pitcher Larry Corcoran leads his side to a 41-12 win.

1890 Slugging star Harry Stovey jumps from Philadelphia to the Boston Reds.

1893 National League owners try to catch on the latest craze—bicycle riding. League owners say they’ll put bike tracks in at least eight of the 12 stadiums and form the National Cycling Association. It doesn’t take.

1903 Win Mercer, pitcher, dies at age 28. Apparently, it’s a suicide.

1910 Harry Staley, pitcher, dies at age 43. He had five 20-win seasons but also led the NL in losses in 1889 with 26.

1910 The Boston Braves release center fielder Roy Thomas.

1915 Lee Allen, baseball historian, is born.

1920 Baseball adopts a plan to draft players from the minors, based on the reverse order of team records from the previous season.

1921 Kennesaw Mountain Landis becomes the first baseball commissioner.

1924 The Red Sox purchase Bobby Veach from the Tigers.

1927 The A’s sign aging future Hall of Fame outfielder Zack Wheat.

1927 Judge Landis clears the 1917 Tigers from a claim made by former Chicago Black Sox that they laid down for four games in the 1917 pennant race.

1942 The Phillies release former star hitter Chuck Klein.

1946 The first professional baseball game in Venezuela takes place.

1946 Ted Williams is officially discharged by the Marines Air Corps.

1949 The Giants are fined $2,000 and team manager Leo Durocher gets hit personally with a $500 fine for signing Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons as a pitching coach despite the fact that he’s still under contract to the Braves.

1950 The Yankees sell the Newark Bears, for a long time the crown jewel of their farm system, to the Cubs, who will move them to Springfield, Mass.

1950 Randy Jones, Cy Young Award winning pitcher, is born.

1960 Jimmy Lavender, pitcher on the post-pennant Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs, dies at age 75.

1960 Mike Marshall, outfielder, is born.

1961 The Cubs name two of the members of their College of Coaches concept: Charlie Grimm and Verlon Walker.

1971 In today’s amateur draft, the Indians claim Duane Kuiper, whom they will sign. The most notable drafted players who will not sign at this time are Rich Dauer (A’s) and Roy Smalley (Red Sox).

1972 Tigers owner John Fetzer announces that he’s signing a lease to build a $126 million domed stadium for baseball and football. This will die in lawsuits and a failed bond.

1977 Tex Carleton, 1930s pitcher, dies at age 70.

1980 Bobby Crosby is born.

1981 Atlanta signs free agent Gaylord Perry.

1982 Dontrelle Willis is born.

1982 In the January draft, the Royals take Danny Jackson, and the Twins land Kirby Puckett, both of whom will sign. The A’s draft Robby Thompson and the Reds Randy Myers, but neither sign with those teams at this time.

1984 Scott Olsen, pitcher, is born.

1999 Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball from 1998 sells at an auction for $2.7 million.

2000 The Brewers make an incredibly bad trade, sending Jose Valentin and Cal Eldred to the White Sox for Jaime Navarro.

2004 The Giants sign free agent pitcher Brett Tomko.

2005 The Angels sign free agent Orlando Cabrera.

2006 Arizona signs Terry Mulholland as a free agent.

2009 John Smoltz signs with the Red Sox as a free agent.

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Comments

  1. baycommuter said...

    What happened? People make the difference.
    The president of Safeway, Peter Magowan, a childhood New York baseball Giants fan, found enough partners to buy the team.
    Mayor Dianne Feinstein’s planning director looked at a map and found some old rail yards within walking distance of downtown that they could squeeze a ballpark into if they get the state to transfer it to the city and come up with some money to clean it up.
    Willie Brown became mayor and muscled the power establishment and voters of S.F. to overcome the anti-development forces that dominated the town and approve the deal after two previous failed ones.
    Now for something to happen like that for my A’s…

  2. thirteenthirteen said...

    A great moment in the life of young me. I remember listening to KNBR’s montage of great moments of San Francisco Giants history and crying. Trying to figure out if I would be able to follow the Giants in Florida, or if I would end up an A’s fan.

    A lot of the stuff that’s happened since still seems kind of vaguely improbable. Maybe this is Bizarro World. How Giants have nice ballpark and win World Series? Why Giants not mediocre and play in hellhole? World backwards.

  3. cal guy said...

    Now for something to happen like that for my A’s…

    You need an owner who is not deliberately trying to alienate the local fanbase, not obstinately refusing to consider any possible plans to keep the team in Oakland, and not trying to rally support from the rest of major league ownership because “he is seeking the best interests of baseball” when he is obviously using the team to try hoodwink the citizens of San Jose into building him a retail-entertainment mega-complex.

  4. Marc Schneider said...

    It would have been terrible for San Francisco-one of the great cities of the world-to have lost the Giants.  I have read that the new park was “privately built.”  I’m not sure how true that is-I hope it is-but I think it would behoove major league baseball to establish a fund to build new ballparks for teams rather than asking for handouts from taxpayers.  Obviously, they aren’t going to do that as long as they can extort funds from city officials.  It’s interesting how people will rail about “takers” and complain about benefits to poor people but they don’t complain about wealthy businesspeople expecting handouts from the tax payers to build ballparks.

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