The 1957 baseball season saw not one, but two New York teams announce their departure from their long-time homes for the emerging markets of California. The New York Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham had been looking for a new stadium solution for several years. The team played at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan and had almost no parking and by the 1950’s, parking was a necessary part of the business of baseball.
Stoneham was the majority owner and he was considering a move to Minneapolis when he discussed the move with Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. O’Malley told Stoneham that he was in negotiations with the City of Los Angeles to move the Dodgers, but a sticking point with Major League Baseball, was their desire to have two teams in California. O’Malley suggested Stoneham contact San Francisco Mayor George Christopher. Negotiations moved quickly and San Francisco agreed to build the Giants a state-of-the-art stadium to ensure the move. The Giants and the Dodgers announced their moves in 1957, to much heated fan sentiment. The move did perpetuate and some say increase their overall rivalry.
For the 1958 and 1959 seasons, the Giants played at Seals Stadium, a former minor league stadium that held some 22,000 fans. The Giants were an immediate local success, consistently filling the old stadium. Meanwhile, a no-bid contract to build the new stadium, then called Bay View Stadium, was awarded to local contractor Charles Harney. Harney had purchased land in the Bayview Heights neighborhood which the city purchased and then granted him the contract to build the stadium. The deal resulted in a grand jury investigation but no charges were ever filed.
In 1960, the newly christened Candlestick Park opened and was seen as the first modern baseball stadium. The Giants played there until 2000, when they moved to what is now known as Oracle Park. The San Francisco 49’ers continued to play football at Candlestick through the 2013 season. Candlestick Park was demolished in 2015.
As the story in Hunters Point explains, baseball and professional sports has become a big business after World War 2. The reasons the teams moved, may in fact be more in line with the subterfuge that Kats discovers and the real reasons behind the no-bid contract may be more colorful than simple economics.