Seals Stadium

From BR Bullpen

Home of the San Francisco Giants, 1958 and 1959


BUILT: 1931

CAPACITY: 16,000 (1931); 22,900 (1958)

FIRST MLB GAME: April 15, 1958, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Giants 8, Dodgers 0)

LAST GAME: September 20, 1959, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodgers 8, Giants 2)

LARGEST CROWD: 23,192 - April 15, 1958, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

HIGH SEASON ATTENDANCE: 1,422,130 (1959)

LOW SEASON ATTENDANCE: 1,272,625 (1958)


When the New York Giants headed west for the 1958 season, they took up temporary residence in San Francisco's Seals Stadium. Built in 1931, the park was home to both the San Francisco Seals and San Francisco Missions of the Pacific Coast League. It was one of the most famous minor league stadiums and minor league home to Joe DiMaggio. "The Queen in Concrete", as it was known, was located in downtown San Francisco near the Hamms Brewery.

History[edit]

Seals Stadium opened on April 7, 1931 at a cost of $1,250,000 to construct, The stadium design was unusual in that it was built with three dressing rooms to accommodate the two home teams the stadium would host. There was a dressing room built for the visiting team, and one for each of the minor league home teams, the San Francisco Seals and the Mission Reds. It was built for night games, with six tower banks which were described as the best in minor league baseball at the time. With a capacity of 18,600, the stadium had no roof over the grandstands because of San Francisco's lack of rainfall during the summertime and the fans' preference to sit in the sun.[1] The stadium initially consisted of an uncovered grandstand stretching from foul pole to foul pole and an uncovered bleacher section in right field. In some years during its minor league days, a live seal was kept in a water tank underneath the grandstand. The field was oriented southeast, with the right field bleachers bounded by 16th Street.[2]

Seals Stadium had a single deck built of steel and concrete with no roof which curved most of the way down the foul lines and 15 rows of bleachers stretching from the rightfield foul lines to the centerfield scoreboard. The outfield had no warning track, and there was originally a 20 foot high fence running from the leftfield foul pole to the centerfield scoreboard. Despite large outfield dimensions, Seals Stadium was considered a hitters' park because winds of 15 to 20 miles per hour often carried to left field. The stadium, which had two home teams from 1931 to 1937, had three clubhouses, which in 1945, Seals' owner Paul Fagan equipped with draft beer, a soda fountain, a barber, and a shoeshine stand. For several years, the park also featured the first glass backstop in baseball.

With the arrival of the Giants in 1958, 5,000 bleacher seats were added in left field. The next season, a 31 foot high scoreboard was installed in center field, a 15 foot high screen in left, and a 16 foot high screen in right. The Giants drew near capacity crowds at nearly every game here, and despite the park's relatively small size, the team attracted over two and a half million fans in the two seasons that they called Seals Stadium home.

San Francisco Giants[edit]

On May 28, 1957 New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham announced intentions to vacate the Polo Grounds in New York and move the franchise to San Francisco. Major League owners approved the move with the condition that the Brooklyn Dodgers also complete their intended move to Los Angeles. Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley and San Francisco Mayor George Christopher had worked in partnership with Stoneham on the move to San Francisco, as both teams moving to California together made sense for balance and travel. On August 19, 1957, after both teams and both cities worked out the logistics, the final announcement of the move was made.[3][4] The Giants would play at Seals Stadium for two years while Candlestick Park was under construction and the Dodgers would play at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

On April 15, 1958, the first ever West Coast Major League game was played at Seals Park. With the legendary Willie Mays and Rookie (and future Hall of Famer) Orlando Cepeda in the lineup, the Giants opened with an 8-0 victory over Don Drysdale theLos Angeles Dodgers. Cepeda would hit his first career home run in the game.[5] The Giants would draw well at Seals Stadium, with attendance of 1,272,625 fans in 1958 and 1,422,130 in 1959.[6]

To accommodate Major League Baseball, more seating was needed at Seals Stadium. A separate uncovered bleacher section was added in left field with the New York Giants move to the city in 1958. The Giants played at Seals Stadium for two years while Candlestick Park was under construction. Given the temporary nature of their stay at the old park, they declined to rename the stadium. Throughout the ballpark's MLB tenure, it lacked a warning track.[7] The original plan was to play just the first year at Seals Stadium.

The final game at Seals Stadium took place on September 20, 1959. The Giants lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-2 in front of 22,923.[8]

Demolition[edit]

Seals Stadium was demolished in November, 1959 as the Giants prepared to move to the new Candlestick Park. Many of the seats and the light towers were reused at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington.[9] From the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the site was a White Front department store. For many years afterward, the area (bounded by Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street) housed several San Francisco automobile dealerships. In the late 1990s, the site was converted to a shopping center.[10]


50 Year Anniversary Tribute[edit]

On April 15, 2008, the Giants hosted an event at the Seals Stadium site, and at AT&T Park, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Opening Day. The Giants Home Game that day – against the Arizona Diamondbacks – started at 1:35 p.m. The start time commemorated the same time of day that Giants' pitcher Rubén Gómez threw the first pitch at Seals Stadium on Opening Day, April 15, 1958. The first 20,000 fans attending the Diamondbacks-Giants game received a commemorative poster print of the Gomez' first pitch from 1958. Orlando Cepeda and Gino Cimoli, the first man at bat on that historic day, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.[11][12]

There were pre-game events at the site of Seals Stadium. Ceremonies included the unveiling of a new bronze historical plaque at the site, a recreation of the radio call of the first pitch by Jon Miller, an honoring of Mike Murphy, the Giants 50-year legendary clubhouse manager, as well as speeches/recollections by Willie Mays and others. Among those recognized were Giants Hall of Famers Mays and Orlando Cepeda and former 1958 Giants players Jim Davenport and Eddie Bressoud. Descendants of former Giants' owner Horace Stoneham and Mayor George Christopher (both instrumental in moving the Giants from New York to San Francisco) were in attendance.[13]

References[edit]