Goldman: What are the Giants even doing in San Francisco anyway?

From SABR member Steven Goldman at Baseball Nation on October 29, 2012:

Andrew Freedman, the owner of the New York Giants from 1895 through 1902, experienced a personal crisis in 1907. The stock market collapsed that year, and Freedman was almost wiped out. He recovered, dying with a net worth of some $4 million in stiff 1915 dollars, but in his will he made sure that any other millionaires who might lose their nest egg would be protected from living rough. He created a trust that would build a great mansion on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, as the historian Caroline Bird put it, “a charity for the rich so they won’t have to go to a public institution and live like other people if they lose their money.”

When Horace Stoneham, one of Freedman’s successors as owner of the Giants, had had his team in San Francisco for less than 20 years, it was losing so much money that he faced the possibility of moving into the Andrew Freedman Home for indigent millionaires himself. Stoneham was one of the old breed of baseball owners whose income derived solely from his team and by the mid-1970s it seemed clear that unlike Walter O’Malley, who had moved his team to Los Angeles and thrived, in moving the Giants to San Francisco Stoneham had sowed the seeds of his own destruction.


The defects of Candlestick Park are legendary and there is no need to rehearse them here; suffice it to say the Giants, who approved all aspects of the publicly-funded ballpark, had saddled themselves with one massive disincentive to anyone wanting to take themselves out to the ballgame. Combine this with the arrival of the A’s in Oakland and their rise to championship status and the Giants might as well have been the third team in a two-team town.


Voter referendums to help build a new park failed numerous times, even though the Giants (in a move that must have driven Bud Selig and the other owners simply nuts) offered to pick up most of the tab. Lurie claimed he was sustaining heavy losses, and as he too attempted to sell out there was another threat of moving, this time to Tampa-St. Petersburg. Sure, it all ended well, as their latest World Series victory attests, and presumably the team is now turning a healthy profit. And yet, it’s still possible that Stoneham made a terrific mistake.

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Originally published: October 29, 2012. Last Updated: October 29, 2012.