DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.
Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season, and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the American Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Fortunately, the Giants' ballpark, while right on the Bay, doesn't have the same kind of whacked-out weather as their former home of Candlestick Park, now in its final days.
In spite of the city's weather reputation, for this series, sfgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, is predicting very good weather: Mid-70s in the afternoon, mid-50s at night, and absolutely no precipitation. I don't mean hardly any, I mean they're saying zero percent chance. (So, if you do get rained on, blame the Chronicle, not me.)
If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to note that it is no longer 1967, so you do not have to wear flowers in your hair. Considering that the Giants were then playing at Candlestick, it would have been pointless for hippies to go there: Anything in or on their heads, from flowers to headbands to joints, would have been blowin' in the wind, or even blown away by it.
But you should also note that the entire State of California is on Pacific Time, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.
Tickets. The Giants, still basking in the glow of their 2010 and 2012 World Championships, are in first place in the National League Western Division, 7 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers (a rivalry that goes back to when the Giants were in Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn). As a result, they are averaging 41,779 fans per home game -- a sellout, and 4th in the majors behind the Dodgers, Cardinals and Yankees. This is up from 41,087 last year. So if you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you may be out of luck. Another reason, along with my unavoidable delay, that this guide may help you for next season a lot more than for this season.
Like the Mets, the Giants use "dynamic pricing": The higher the profile of the opponent (and New York is among the highest), the higher the price. And, since the opponent is New York, and Californians (North and South alike) tend to not like New York, the prices will be pretty steep. Lower Boxes, if they can be had at all, are listed as $79. But upper deck seats go no higher than $33. Left field bleachers are $34, center field are $25, and the "Arcade" seats along that narrow right field barrier separating the field from the Bay are $52 -- and they don't provide quarters for the video games. (Just kidding: There are no video games, it's not that kind of arcade.)
Getting There. It’s 2,918 miles from Citi Field to AT&T Park. This is the longest regular roadtrip that either of the New York baseball teams has -- in fact, the only roadtrip in all of MLB that is longer is Seattle to Tampa Bay, or vice versa: 3,113 miles. (This does not count the possibility of Seattle playing Miami in Interleague play: That would be 3,297 miles.) This will remain the case, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.
You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.
But, if you really, really want to drive, get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 2C for Folsom Street. Turn left on Folsom, right on The Embarcadero, bear right on King Street, left on 3rd Street, and left onto Willie Mays Plaza. The official address for AT&T Park is 24 Willie Mays Plaza, in honor of Mays' uniform number.
Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:30. That’s 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.
That’s still faster than the bus or the train. You can get a round-trip Greyhound ticket from Port Authority to the San Fran station at 200 Folsom Street at Main Street (13 blocks from the ballpark) for $550 round-trip. You could leave as late as 5:00 PM Tuesday (tomorrow) and arrive in time for the Friday night game, at 1:25 PM (an hour and a half before first pitch). That's 68 hours and 25 minutes, and it includes changing buses at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno: 5 changes.
On Amtrak, you could leave Penn Station tomorrow on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:45 PM Eastern Time, and arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Wednesday. You would then board the California Zephyr at 2:00 PM Central Time on Wednesday, and arrive at Emeryville, California at 4:10 PM Pacific Time on Friday. Sorry, but Amtrak doesn't even go all the way to Oakland anymore, let alone across the Bay. You would then transfer to a bus leaving Emeryville at 4:25, arriving in downtown San Francisco at 5:45. Total time: 77 hours. Round-trip price: $630. That 5:45 arrival might just give you enough time to get to your hotel, check in, grab a quick shower, change, and get down to the ballpark for the 7:15 first pitch.
So, as you can see, flying is best. You could get a Friday morning flight out of Newark, and a Sunday night flight out of San Francisco, changing planes at Dallas in each direction, for a little over $700 -- not a whole lot more than Amtrak, and a lot faster.
There is a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It costs $8.65 to ride it into downtown.
Once In the City. Believe it or not, San Francisco -- founded in 1776 by the Spanish as a Catholic mission in 1776, and named for St. Francis of Assisi -- has fewer people living within its city limits than neighboring San Jose. It's now the 4th-largest city in California, behind Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose -- whereas, not that long ago, it trailed only L.A. in the entire Western U.S. But that's due to those cities' growth, not to San Fran's shrinkage: It's home to 825,000 people, and there are 8.6 million people in the Bay Area overall, including Oakland, San Jose, and the suburbs of all 3 cities.
Important to note: Do not call the city "Frisco." They hate that. "San Fran" is okay. And, like New York (sometimes more specifically, Manhattan), area residents tend to call it "The City." For a time, the Golden State Warriors, then named the San Francisco Warriors, actually had "THE CITY" on their jerseys. They will occasionally bring back throwback jerseys saying that.
The sales tax in California is 6.5 percent, and it rises to 8.75 percent within the City of San Francisco. However, food and pharmaceuticals are exempt from sales tax. (Buying marijuana from a street dealer doesn't count as such a "pharmaceutical," and pot brownies wouldn't count as such a "food." Although he probably wouldn't charge sales tax -- then again, it might be marked up so much the sales tax would actually be a break.)
Since 2003, the San Francisco Examiner, once the starting point of William Randolph Hearst's media empire, has been a free daily, run outside Hearst Media. Ironically, Hearst Media now owns the paper's longtime competitor, the San Francisco Chronicle. Other Bay Area papers include the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News.
There isn't really a "city centerpoint," although street addresses seem to start at Market Street, which runs diagonally across the southeastern sector of the city, and contains the city's 8 stops on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system. A BART ride within San Francisco is $1.75; going from downtown to Daly City, where the Cow Palace is, is $3.00; going from downtown SF to downtown Oakland is $3.15, and from downtown SF to the Oakland Coliseum complex is $3.85.
The closest BART stop to the ballpark is Montgomery Street, 20 blocks up 2nd Street. However, the J and N streetcar lines stop outside the park, and the CalTrain terminal (entry-and-exit point for commuters on the peninsula that leads to Stanford and San Jose) is just a block away. Within the city, a one-way fare on BART is just $1.65. However, leaving the city on BART (as in going to the airport, to the Cow Palace in Daly City, or across the Bay) is much more expensive.
Going In. Parking at AT&T Park depends on where you park: It can run as high as $40, and as low as $5.75. Lots of small boats drop anchor in the section of San Francisco Bay known as McCovey Cove, beyond the right field wall. This is a reasonable thing to do -- if you live nearby and you own a boat. But if you hardly ever, or never will except for this trip, get to San Francisco, why would you go all the way there to see a game at AT&T Park, and not see a game in AT&T Park? That's like going to Chicago to see a game at Wrigley Field, and only seeing a game from a rooftop across the street.
Most likely, you will enter the ballpark on King Street/Willie Mays Plaza, at either 2nd street (left field corner) or 3rd street (home plate). The stadium faces due east, away from San Francisco, so while you won't see the city's impressive skyline, you will get a spectacular view of the Bay.
The field is natural grass, and not symmetrical. Outfield distances are 339 feet to the left field pole, 364 to straightaway left, 404 to left-center, 399 to straightaway center, 421 to right-center, 365 to straightaway right, and a mere 309 to the right-field pole.
In order to offset how short the distance to right field is, the right field wall is 24 feet high -- the number in honor of Mays. Ignore the steroid-inflated stats of Barry Bonds, including the park's longest homer, a 2001 shot measured at 499 feet: AT&T Park, formerly Pacific Bell Park and SBC Park, is a pitchers' park. The longest at Candlestick Park, also a pitcher's park due to the wind turning long fly balls into popups, isn't clear. It may have been a 500-or-so-foot shot by Willie McCovey in 1966.
There have been 66 "Splash Hits" into McCovey Cove by Giants players, and 31 by the opposition. Barry Bonds did it 45 times. Next best is Pablo Sandoval with 7. Adam LaRoche, Ryan Klesko and former Met Carlos Delgado lead opposing players with 3.
The park has also hosted a game by the U.S. national soccer team, a 2006 win over Japan.
Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. The ballpark benefits from this.
The Giants' signature food item, going back to Candlestick, is Gilroy Garlic Fries, available all over the park. They have the regionally-themed California Cookout at Sections 107 and 315, and the Cable Car Bar at 114, 143 and 318. You can reactivate your New York appetite with Hebrew National hot dogs at 112.
The Giants also get cute: They have a stand just for clam chowder at Section 110, a Chinese stand called Edsel Ford Fong at 118, Japanese at Mashi's Sushi Bistro at 210, a Cognac Bar and a Long Taters Baked Potato at 232, and a seafood stand called Crazy Crab'z in center field.
Like Boog Powell in Baltimore, Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Luis Tiant in Boston, Gorman Thomas in Milwaukee and Randy Jones in San Diego, the Giants have a barbecue stand with a legendary player's name on it. In fact, they have two. One is Orlando's Caribbean BBQ, at 142 and 315, and the other is McCovey's 44 BBQ, in center field. Unlike most of those, the star in question does not oversee operations at the stand and shake hands with visitors: Orlando Cepeda entrusts the cooking and management to others, while a bad back and countless knee surgeries (seriously: He says he's lost count, but it's at least 12) have confined McCovey to a wheelchair. He's not unhealthy, but it's difficult for him to get around. There's also Say Hey! Sausage Specialties, named for Mays' signature expression, at 127 and 320.
Team History Displays. The Giants have displays of their 2010 and 2012 World Championships on the left field wall. They also have baseball-shaped stanchions with their retired numbers, near the left field corner at the bottom of the upper deck.
From the San Francisco era, these include: Center fielder Mays (24, 1951-72), 1st basemen-outfielders McCovey (44, 1959-80) and Cepeda (30, 1958-66), and pitchers Juan Marichal (27, 1960-73) and Gaylord Perry (36, 1962-71).
From the New York era, they are: Mays, 1st baseman Bill Terry (3, 1923-36, manager 1932-41), right fielder Mel Ott (4, 1926-45, manager 1941-48), pitcher Carl Hubbell (11, 1928-43), left fielder Monte Irvin (20, 1949-55), and two figures from the pre-uniform number era, for whom the letters "NY" for "New York" stand in for their numbers: Manager John McGraw (1902-32) and pitcher Christy Mathewson (1900-16).
All of these are Hall-of-Famers. They also honor Hall of Fame broadcasters Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons and Jon Miller with representations of old-style microphones. The Number 25 worn by father and son, Bobby Bonds (right field, 1969-74) and Barry Bonds (left field, 1993-2007), has been removed from circulation, but not retired.
McGraw, Mathewson, Hall of Fame right fielder Ross Youngs (1917-26, died of kidney disease the next year) and infielder Eddie Grant (1913-15), who was killed in combat in World War I, were honored with plaques or, in Grant's case, a monument on the field at the Polo Grounds. Also so honored were a pair of football Giants killed in World War II, Al Blozis and Jack Lummus; and State Senator and Mayor Jimmy "Beau James" Walker.
Why Walker, rather than the much more accomplished and far less scandalous Fiorello LaGuardia? Well, LaGuardia was a Yankee Fan, Walker a Giant fan. Walker was deeply involved with New York sports, at one point running the State boxing commission while he was also a State Senator, and was one of the few people to manage to become a friend of both McGraw and Babe Ruth. Supposedly, it was a scolding from Walker at a postseason banquet in 1922 that got Ruth to curtail his carousing and get in shape, leading to the Yankees winning the 1923 World Series. So if you're a Met fan, that's a better reason to hate Walker than his corruption and womanizing.
After the last Giants game at the Polo Grounds on September 29, 1957, the plaque on Grant's monument was removed. A photo taken of four Mets before their first game at the old stadium, April 13, 1962, shows the marble slab, but no plaque on it. It's not certain what happened to the plaque; the most notable claim to it has been debunked.
Some people thought the Giants were under "The Curse of Captain Eddie," saying that, as long as Grant's plaque was not restored at the Giants' ballpark, they would not win another World Series. A replica was put up at AT&T Park in 2006, and the Giants won 2 World Series in the following 6 seasons. Make of that what you will.
Outside the King Street/Willie Mays Plaza (3rd base) side of the park are plaques honoring the members of the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame. It includes:
* Infielders: Cepeda, McCovey, Jim Davenport, Jim Ray Hart, Johnnie LeMaster, Jack Clark, Chris Speier, Darrell Evans, Will Clark (no relation to Jack), Robby Thompson, Matt Williams, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Rich Aurilia.
* Outfielders: Mays, both Bonds, Felipe Alou, Tito Fuentes, Jeffrey Leonard, Chili Davis, 1986 Met Kevin Mitchell and Marvin Benard.
* Catchers: Tom Haller, Dick Dietz, Bob Brenly and Kurt Manwaring.
* Pitchers: Marichal, Perry, Mike McCormick, Bob Bolin, Stu Miller, Vida Blue (better known from across the Bay in Oakland), John Montefusco, Randy Moffitt (tennis legend Billie Jean King's brother), Greg Minton, Mike Krukow (now a broadcaster), Gary Lavelle, Jim Barr, Atlee Hammaker, Rick Reuschel, Rod Beck, Scott Garrelts, Jeff Brantley, Robb Nen, John Burkett, Kirk Reuter, Shawn Estes and Jason Schmidt.
There are 5 statues outside the park: Mays', at the front entrance; McCovey's, in the right field corner by the Cove; Cepeda's, at the corner of 2nd & King; Marichal's, at the Lefty O'Doul Gate at the right field corner; and one of a seal, in center field, honoring the former Pacific Coast League team, the San Francisco Seals.
The gate is named for Francis Joseph O'Doul, a San Francisco native who played with the Seals as a pitcher, but couldn't make it in the majors, pitching for the Yankees from 1919 to 1922 and the Red Sox in 1923, before heading back to the minors and reinventing himself as an outfielder. He came back to the majors with the Giants in 1928, then starred with the Phillies, Dodgers, and back with the Giants, whom he helped win the 1933 World Series. He won 2 batting titles, and played in the first All-Star Game in 1933. His lifetime batting average is a smoking .349. From 1937 to 1951, he managed the Seals, winning 4 straight Pennants, 1943-46. In spite of his achievements, he has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York -- though he should be.
He opened Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, which I will describe in "After the Game," one of the all-time greatest sports bars & restaurants. Legend has it that O'Doul invented -- no, not non-alcoholic beer -- the Bloody Mary. (This is almost certainly untrue.) A bridge near AT&T Park is named the Lefty O'Doul Bridge.
The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including AT&T Park. The ones honored there, on the walls of the Park's concourse, are Mays, Marichal, McCovey, Cepeda and Blue -- even though Blue is better known with the A's. This is flipped, as Frank Robinson and Bill Rigney, both of whom managed the Giants in San Francisco -- Robinson, the first black manager in each league, becoming so the first in the NL with the Giants; and Rigney, the manager at the time of the move -- were Oakland natives and are thus honored with plaques at the Oakland Coliseum. Will Clark's plaque is at San Francisco International Airport. Perry has been elected, but no plaque has yet been dedicated.
Mathewson and Mays were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. That same year, they, Terry, Ott, Hubbell, Marichal, Perry, McCovey, Bonds and 1920s New York 2nd baseman Frankie Frisch were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. And Giant fans selected Mays in the poll for DHL Hometown Heroes in 2006.
Stuff. The Giants have team stores at Willie Mays Plaza, at the Marina Gate at center field, and at Sections 28, 134 and 315. They also have several Dugout Stores: At AT&T Park, at the Embarcadero, at Union Square, in Palo Alto, and in a few other places.
Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history, even if you only count the San Francisco years, the Giants have had several books written about them, although these books don’t always put the team in a good light.
Giant broadcasters Andrew Baggerly and Duane Kuiper (you may remember him as a weak-hitting 2nd baseman for the Giants and Cleveland Indians) wrote A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants (with the "SF" in Misfits" in alternating color with the rest of the title, to point out the city's initials). Brian Murphy wrote a Golden Anniversary tribute to the team: San Francisco Giants: 50 Years, in 2008.
There are 2 books that detail the 1962 Giant-Dodger Pennant race, culminating in a Playoff that echoed the one across the country in 1951: Chasing October by David Plaut, and A Tale of Three Cities: The 1962 Baseball Season in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco by Steven Travers. This book is also recommended for Met fans wanting to understand their team's beginnings. (If you don't want to understand them, that's understandable.) Be warned, however, that, despite the Giants having beaten the Dodgers in 1962, Travers' book is heavily pro-Los Angeles, mercilessly insulting San Francisco for its longstanding liberal politics and permissiveness. (As if L.A. isn't a liberal city, although those who've had to deal with its police force would say stuff like Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, Venice Beach and South Central mask a cruel lean toward fascism.)
I have often remarked that, for fans who aren't old enough to remember it, the New York era of the Giants revolves around 2 games: Game 3 of the 1951 NL Playoff against the Dodgers, and Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. In other words, we think of the New York Giants as having just 3 moments: Bobby Thomson's home run, Willie Mays' catch, and Dusty Rhodes' walkoff pinch-hit homer -- and even Rhodes' homer sometimes gets lost in he discussion of Mays' catch 2 innings earlier.
The reason for this is twofold: The Giants' great moments before that seemed to stop with the 1937 Pennant (the 3rd they won in a 5-year stretch), and you rarely see moments from before the Baby Boom era on television (except maybe on PBS and the History Channel); and no one ever wrote a Boys of Summer for the 1950s New York Giants, the way Roger Kahn did for the final years of the Brooklyn period of the Dodgers.
The Kahn Dodger book came out in 1972, as those Dodgers were in their late 40s and early 50s, and starting to die (within a year of its publication, both Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson would fall to heart attacks). There have been some good books about Willie Mays, and Leo Durocher published his self-serving if fascinating memoir Nice Guys Finish Last in 1975; but nobody published a loving, Kahnesque memoir about them. And it's not like there weren't candidates: George Plimpton was a Giant fan, and so was Roger Angell, who has written beautifully about baseball, including a heartrending essay on the final Giants game at the Polo Grounds in 1957.
The best book about the New York Giants is The Giants of the Polo Grounds, by Noel Hynd -- and that didn't come out until 1988; by that point, the team had been gone for 30 years, most of the big names of the club were either approaching or past age 60 (or dead), and the Dodgers had "won the historical argument": No matter how good the 1951-54 Giants were, or how good at integration they were (bringing in several black players before the Yankees did), they were doomed, by the Yankees' dynastic achievements, the fawning over the 1941-56 Dodgers, and the historical significance of the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson, to be New York's 3rd team, even though they were the 1st team almost continuously from 1902 to 1937. But I do recommend the Hynd book, if only to see just how good these guys were.
The Giants have DVD collections for their 2010 and 2012 World Championships, and a DVD of Matt Cain's recent perfect game. They also have a DVD of the official highlight film of the one World Series they won between 1943 (the start of official World Series highlight films) and 2010: 1954, the one sparked by Game 1, with Mays' catch and Rhodes' walkoff. As yet, there is no Essential Games of the San Francisco Giants or Essential Games of Candlestick Park (or AT&T Park) DVD collection.
During the Game. Giant fans have a rough reputation. This is mainly due to the Pacific Coast's largest media center being Los Angeles, and full of Dodger fans, who hate the Giants. Giant fans don't particularly like the Mets, but you're not Dodger fans. Don't provoke them, and they almost certainly will not fight you. Unless you're wearing Dodger Blue, they'll be all mouth. Plenty of mouth, to be sure, but that will be it.
The Barry Bonds era is over. The cloud that hung over the facility that was born as Pacific Bell Park in 2000, became SBC Park and now AT&T Park -- the one that made Giant fans say, "We know he's cheating, but he's our cheat, and we have to defend him" -- is gone. They happy-go-lucky team of 2010 totally changed the atmosphere. No longer are they a franchise whose biggest active star is a suspected crook and a surly churl. No longer are they a franchise that has never won a World Championship in its current city. No longer are they a team with a fan base that has to be jealous of the more successful (at least, in total) franchise across the Bay, or the one down the Coast in L.A. And no longer does the malefactory spirit of Candlestick infect them. They are now survivors of what they call "torture" (which is different from Dick Cheney's definition -- or Keith Olbermann's). If not quite the hippies that San Francisco became known for in the 1960s -- or the beatniks of the 1950s -- they do have the leftover cool that those groups gave that city.
In 1984, the Giants had a weird-looking thing called the Crazy Crab, and it was perhaps the most hated mascot in baseball history. It was abandoned after a year, and they wanted until 1997 to establish another mascot, Lou Seal (based on "Lucille," B.B. King's guitar, and the old San Francisco Seals). Lou has proved much more popular.
The Giants don't have a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch, but in the middle of the 8th, they play "Lights" by Journey, and occasionally play that band's most famous song, "Don't Stop Believin'" -- lead singer Steve Perry is a big Giant fan, and accepted an invitation to participate in their 2010 World Series victory parade. After the game, they play Tony Bennett's legendary version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
After the Game. AT&T Park is in the China Basin section of town, and should be safe. There are plenty of places in San Francisco to get a postgame meal, or even just a pint. The aforementioned Lefty O'Doul's is at 333 Geary Street, corner of Powell Street, just 3 blocks from the Powell Street BART station and right on a cable car line.
San Francisco native Joe DiMaggio had a restaurant with his name on it at 601 Union Street at Stockton Street, but it closed in 2007, and has been replaced by a relocated version of another San Fran institution, Original Joe's. A park named for DiMaggio is 4 blocks away, at Powell & Greenwich.
There are two bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces Bar, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender, and to also be friendly to Giants, Knicks and Rangers fans; whether they will welcome Met fans, I do not know. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the official local Jets fan hangout, and maybe be more accommodating to 7 Liners. The Wreck Room, at 1390 California Street at Hyde Street, is also said to be a place for Jet fans. And Greens Sports Bar, at 2239 Polk at Green Street, is also said to be a Yankee-friendly bar.
The Kezar Pub is rated by many as the best sports bar in San Francisco. It's at 770 Stanyan Street, at Waller Street, in the Haight-Ashbury, across from Golden Gate Park and the new version of the stadium from whence comes its name. Number 7 bus.
Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Giants' park:
* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s.
The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season; they also won 7 Pennants before the park opened, between 1909 and 1928). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store.
Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.
* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and the 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.
The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 6 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers there in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals.
The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour. The Giants got out, and the 49ers have now done the same, with Levi's Stadium ready for the 2014 season. The U.S. national soccer team recently played their 4th and final match there, a win over Azerbaijan. MLS' San Jose Earthquakes are scheduled to do so on July 27, which will probably end up being the last sporting event. On July 12, nearly 30 years after their Super Bowl XIX matchup, legendary quarterbacks Joe Montana of the 49ers and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins will lead teams in a flag football game there, with the proceeds going to charity. And Paul McCartney, having played its first concert with the Beatles 48 years earlier, will play its last concert on August 14, the last scheduled show before the place is demolished.
The best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who has to see the place, I wouldn’t blame you if you crossed it off the list.
* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the PCL’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court).
These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat, and by his managing of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers to a Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage the Bronx Bombers in 1949. Upon leaving Oakland, Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.
Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.
* Oakland Coliseum complex. The Raiders played at the Coliseum from 1966 to 1981, and have done so again since 1995. The A's have played there since 1968, although they are looking to get out. The Coliseum has also hosted 3 games of the U.S. national soccer team, all wins, most recently over China in 2001.
The Warriors have played most of their home games since 1971 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. You don't have to know what those buildings are called now; they're "the Coliseum" and "the Coliseum Arena." It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972.
It’s also worth noting that the Warriors have put together a plan to leave the Arena and move into a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront, 4 blocks from the Giants’ ballpark, for the 2017-18 season, 47 years after they last played on that side of the Bay. It’s just as well: The Warriors are one of the most underachieving franchises in professional sports. Despite great support from a metro area that loves its basketball, they’ve won only 1 NBA Title since leaving Philadelphia half a century ago, pulling off a famous upset of the Washington Bullets in 1975; and haven’t even reached the Conference Finals since then – and only did so twice before that, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to their Philly successors, the 76ers, in 1967. (Whether they'll keep the "Golden State Warriors" name they've had since 1971, or go back to "San Francisco Warriors" as they were from 1962 to 1971, I don't know.) Coliseum stop on BART.
* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets.
High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.
The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.
* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have their deathly serious image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans.
It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.
* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions, nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater, respectively. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard Street at 4th Street, nominating Walter Mondale.)
The 1964 Republican Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society, the Tea Party idiots of their time. When Senator Goldwater, buoyed by the Birchers and other conservative activists, made his speech accepting the Presidential nomination, he told the delegates and the people in the stands, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)
Built in 1941, the Cow Palce is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites still standing, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors from 1962 to ’71, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 1991 to ’93 until their current arena could open, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, the only one to date held in the Bay Area, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.
The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.
In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957. This is also where the 1920 Democratic Convention was held, nominating James M. Cox, who lost to Warren Harding.
* SAP Center at San Jose. Formerly named the San Jose Arena and the HP Pavilion, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.
* Spartan Stadium. Home to San Jose State University sports since 1933, it hosted both the old San Jose Earthquakes, of the original North American Soccer League, from 1974 to 1984; and the new version, of Major League Soccer, from 1996 to 2005. It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national team, most recently a 2007 loss to China, and games of the 1999 Women's World Cup.
1251 S. 10th Street, San Jose. San Jose Municipal Stadium, home of the Triple-A San Jose Giants, is a block away at 588 E. Alma Avenue. From either downtown San Francisco or downtown Oakland, take BART to Fremont terminal, then 181 bus to 2nd & Santa Clara, then 68 bus to Monterey & Alma.
The first event will be an MLS match between the Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders on August 2. The 49ers will play their first regular-season game there on September 14, a Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears. It will begin annually hosting the Pacific-12 Conference Championship Game in December, and Super Bowl L (50) will be played there in February 2016. They will open it for the 2014 season, and the NHL will host a Stadium Series outdoor hockey game there in the 2014-15 season, between the Sharks and their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.
ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara, with San Jose residents being able to reach the same station via VTA Light Rail.
* Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco, was first built in 1921. It was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.)
It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, a game of the 1999 Women's World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. It's hosted 10 games by the U.S. national team.
The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street & Nelson Road. Caltrain to Palo Alto. Maples Pavilion is right around the corner, at Galvez & Campus Drive. Stanford won college basketball's National Championship in 1942, but didn't get back to the Final Four until 1998.
* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University renovated the stadium in time for the 2012 season, making it ready for 63,000 fans.
The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART.
Haas Pavilion, formerly Harmon Gym and named for former A's owner Walter Haas, is a 12-minute walk from the stadium, at Bancroft Way & Dana Street. Cal reached the Final Four in 1946, won the National Championship with Darrell Imhoff in 1959, and reached the Final again in 1960.
The University of San Francisco won the National Championship with Bill Russell and K.C. Jones in 1955 and '56, and reached the Final Four again in '57. Santa Clara University reached the Final Four in 1952.
Joe DiMaggio, who grew up in San Francisco and later divided his time between there and South Florida, is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, on the Peninsula. 1500 Mission Road & Lawndale Blvd. BART to South San Francisco, then about a 1-mile walk.
The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music, if not legendary concerts the way it did in the Sixties and early Seventies. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band on Thanksgiving Night 1976 (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols in January 1978, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.
San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. 100 34th Avenue. Number 38 bus. (For those of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.)
The Palace of Fine Arts isn't just an art museum, it has a theater that hosted one of the 1976 Presidential Debates between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter -- the one where Ford said, "There is no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe." 3301 Lyon Street. Bus 30.
And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.
Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.
The Transamerica Pyramid, at Montgomery & Washington Streets (with Columbus Avenue extending northwestward from it), went up in 1972, and is 853 feet high. It will remain the tallest building in Northern California until the Salesforce Tower is completed in 2017. The 1,070-foot tower is being built at 415 Mission Street between Mission & Fremont Streets at the Transbay Terminal. However, the Wilshire Grand Tower going up in Los Angeles is also scheduled to be finished in 2017, and will beat it out for the title of tallest building not just in California, but in North America west of Chicago.
Because of its picaresque setting, San Francisco has long been a setting for fiction: Books, movies, television shows. The car chase over the hills in Bullitt and the confrontation between Clint Eastwood and the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry are legendary -- and were based on the same man, SFPD Inspector Dave Toschi.
The Golden Gate Bridge, carrying U.S. Route 101 from the city to Marin County, is up there with Los Angeles' HOLLYWOOD sign as the West Coast's greatest icon. (Don't even think about Seattle's Space Needle being a contender.) Movies from The Graduate to Star Trek IV (not to mention J.J. Abrams' perversions of the Trek mythos) have used the big red bridge as a cultural marker.
The best-remembered movie set in old, pre-major league, San Francisco is The Maltese Falcon, John Huston's 1941 version of Dashiell Hammett's novel featuring Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade. According to the novel, Sam's office was at 111 Sutter Street, and the address does exist, at the corner of Montgomery Street: It's known as the Hunter-Dulin Building, and it still hosts commercial offices. Also downtown, in keeping with the fiction of the film, a plaque on a building on the corner of Burritt Alley and Bush Street reads, "On approximately this spot, Miles Archer, partner of Sam Spade, was done in by Brigid O'Shaughnessy." And, although Sam fell in love with Brigid, he was true to his word: In the end, he did not play the sap for her.
The Fan, about a fan's obsession with a Giants player, filmed at Candlestick Park. So did Experiment In Terror, Freebie and the Bean, and Contagion.
Probably the most famous TV house in San Francisco is the one from the 1987-95 ABC sitcom Full House -- and, unlike a lot of TV houses, it actually is in the city in which the show is based, rather than in or around Los Angeles, at 1709 Broderick Street at Pine Street. (But the show was taped in L.A.) On the show, the address was listed as 1882 Girard Street. Like a lot of TV show addresses, this address has a high last 2 digits, so that show fans won't find the actual house and disturb the real-life owners. Girard Street does exist, on the city's southeast side, and if 1882 Girard existed, it would be at Wilde Avenue, accessible by the city's 8X bus. 1709 Broderick is in Pacific Heights, at Bush Street. If you visit, though, remember that it's a private residence, so don't knock on the door and ask if anybody from the cast is home. As Stephanie Tanner (played by Jodie Sweetin) would say, "How rude!" And, as Michelle Tanner (either Mary-Kate or Ashley Olsen) would say, "You're in big trouble, Mister!" So, please, as Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) would say, "Have mercy."
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the City By the Bay. Even if you don't accept the connection with the former New York franchise of the National League.