|The Queen of Concrete|
Bryant & 16th Streets|
(right field corner)
Mission District, San Francisco
|Coordinates||37°46′0″N 122°24′33″W / 37.76667°N 122.40917°WCoordinates: 37°46′0″N 122°24′33″W / 37.76667°N 122.40917°W|
San Francisco Seals|
Paul I. Fagan
Left Field – 340 ft (1931), 365 ft (1958), 361 ft (1959)|
Left-Center – 375 ft (1958), 364 ft (1959)
Center Field – 400 ft (1931), 410 ft (1958), 400 ft (1959)
Right-Center – 397 ft (1958)
Right Field – 385 ft (1931), 365 ft (1940), 355 ft (1958), 350 ft (1959)
|Opened||April 7, 1931|
|Closed||September 20, 1959|
San Francisco Seals (PCL) (1931–1957)|
Mission Reds (PCL) (1931–1937)
San Francisco Giants (MLB) (1958–1959)
Seals Stadium was a minor league baseball stadium in San Francisco. Opened in the Mission District in 1931, it was the longtime home of the San Francisco Seals (1931–57) and the Mission Reds (1931–37), both of the Pacific Coast League. It was later home for the Major League San Francisco Giants for their first two seasons in the city, 1958 and 1959. Less than three decades old, the stadium was demolished in late 1959 after the completion of the baseball season.
Built during the Depression, Seals Stadium opened on April 7, 1931. It cost $1,250,000 to construct, and Seals President "Doc" Strub described how laborers would leap onto the running boards of his automobile and beg for the opportunity to work on the project for $3 a day. The stadium was unusual in that it was built with three dressing rooms – one for the visiting team, and one for each of the minor league home teams, the San Francisco Seals and the Mission Reds, a.k.a. the San Francisco Missions. 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. 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.
San Francisco Seals
After their inception in 1903 as an original Pacific Coast League member, the San Francisco Seals previously played at Recreation Park (1903–1913, 1915–1930) and Ewing Field (1914) before Seals Stadium was built to house the team. While the Seals played exclusively at Seals Stadium, the other original tenant, the Mission Reds moved to the Los Angeles area in 1938 and become the Hollywood Stars.
Seals Stadium officially opened with a Spring training game between the Seals and the Detroit Tigers on March 13, 1931. At the regular season Home Opener on April 7, 1931 Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch at the game, which drew 25,000 fans.
Hall of Fame legend Joe DiMaggio grew up in San Francisco and played for the Seals from October 1932 through 1935. In 1933, DiMaggio hit safely in a record 61 straight games and had 169 RBI, with a batting average of.340. Another future major league player Gus Suhr had an incredible season for the Seals in 1929, hitting .381 with 51 home runs and 177 RBI. Other notable players for the Seals included: Dominic DiMaggio, Vince DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Cronin, Albie Pearson, Ferris Fain, Earl Averill and Lefty Gomez.
The Seals drew well at Seals Park, setting a minor league attendance record in 1948, drawing 670,000 fans. This showcased the feasibility that San Francisco could someday sustain and support a Major League franchise. After the Giants announced their move to San Francisco, the Seals were forced to move and the minor league franchise was relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 1958, becoming the Phoenix Giants.
San Francisco Giants
On May 28, 1957 the New York Giants and team owner Horace Stoneham announced they intended to leave the Polo Grounds in New York and move the franchise to San Francisco. The rest of the major league owners approved the move under the condition that the Brooklyn Dodgers would also complete their intended move to Los Angeles. The Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley and San Francisco Mayor George Christopher had worked to partner 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. 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, bypassing the smaller Wrigley Field (Los Angeles), while Dodger Stadium was under construction.
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 and the new Los Angeles Dodgers. Mays would go on to hit .347 with 29 home runs in 1958. Cepeda would win the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1958. Willie McCovey, another future Hall of Famer, then won the award in 1959. Cepeda would hit his first career home run at Seals Stadium on April 15, 1958. The Giants would draw well at Seals Stadium, with attendance of 1,272,625 fans in 1958 and 1,422,130 in 1959.
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. The original plan was to play just the first year at Seals Stadium.
Prevailing winds to left field aided right-handed hitters; of the 45 home runs hit in its first 19 major league games in 1958, 36 were to left field. A brewery was just north of the venue. At the time, its weather was thought to be considerably less favorable than at the site of the park under construction at Candlestick Point.
On February 22, 1933 boxer Young Corbett III defeated Jackie Fields at the stadium, earning the title of World Welterweight Champion. Corbett later won the Middleweight Championship at Seals, beating Fred Apostoli on February 22, 1938.
With the new ballpark safely nearing completion, Seals Stadium was demolished in November 1959. Many of the seats and the light towers were reused at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. From the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the site was a White Front discount department store. For many years afterward, the site (bounded by Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street) housed several San Francisco automobile dealerships after the demise of Van Ness Avenue's famed auto row in 1982. In the late 1990s, it was converted to a shopping center.
50 Year Anniversary Tribute
On April 15, 2008, the Giants had a tribute 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 Ruben Gomez 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.
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.
- "San Francisco park smallest in majors". Victoria (TX) Advocate. Associated Press. February 20, 1958. p. 13.
- Sullivan, T.R. (April 21, 2006). "There used to be a ballpark here". Major League Baseball. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- The Sporting News "Take Me Out To The Ball Park", 2nd Edition, 1987 by Lowell Reidenbaugh – p 230
- Malinowski, Erik (February 12, 2010). "Seals Stadium home plate found after 50 years". Wired. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Lowry, Philip (2006). Green Cathedrals. Walker & Company. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8027-1608-8.
- "45 home runs hit at Seals Stadium". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. May 9, 1958. p. 4B.
- Price, Warren C. (July 26, 1959). "Seals Stadium tough? It's just a neat cozy park". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 2B.
- Sherwin, Bob (July 28, 2004). "Cheney Stadium the focal point for Tacoma's link to M's". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Branch, John (October 24, 2012). "Shoppers roam where Giants once did". New York Times. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Seals Stadium.|
- 1931 Aerial View showing Seals Stadium (toward lower right) and the Seals' prior home Recreation Park (toward upper left)
- Found SF – 16th and Potrero – Seals Stadium
- SF Gate.com – first major league baseball game in California – April 15, 1958
- Ballparks of Baseball – Seals Stadium
- Ballparks.phanfare.com – Seals Stadium
- Ballparks.com – Seals Stadium
- SF Gate.com – Seals Stadium: Tribute to an epic ballpark
- Photos of Seals Stadium: http://digitalballparks.com/National/Seals.html
- http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1202&context=etd_theses - The Development of San Francisco and the San Francisco Seals, James McSweeney, San Jose State University, Master's Thesis, 1991.