Fresno Giants

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Fresno Giants
19411988
(1941-1942, 1946-1988)
Fresno, California
Fresno Giants logo 1985.jpg
Team Logo
Class-level
  • Class A (1963-1988)
  • Class C (1941-1942, 1946-1962)
Minor league affiliations
Major league affiliations
Name
  • Fresno Suns (1988)
  • Fresno Giants (1958-1987)
  • Fresno Sun Sox (1957)
  • Fresno Cardinals (1941-1942, 1946-1956)
Ballpark
Minor league titles
League titles 1952, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1987
Division titles 1941, 1948, 1949, 1971, 1980, 1984
Fresno Sun Sox, 1957 logo

The Fresno Giants were a minor league baseball team that played in the California League from 1941-1988. The team was based in Fresno, California.

First teams[edit]

The city of Fresno had professional baseball as far back as 1898 when it had a team in the original California League, then considered an "outlaw" league (i.e., outside the bounds of Organized Baseball). The team dropped out of the league after that year, but the California League returned in 1905 with the Fresno Tigers, joined late in the season by Fresno native and future hall of famer Frank Chance. In 1906, the Tacoma Tigers of the Pacific Coast League moved to Fresno, playing as the Fresno Raisin Eaters for one season. In 1910, Fresno rejoined the old California League, which had entered Organized Baseball as the Class "D" California State League, but the league folded during the season. When the league reorganized, Fresno rejoined it in 1913, finishing second in a four-team league. Fresno finished first in 1914, after which the team and league folded. Starting in 1905, these teams played at Recreation Park.[1]

Cardinals Affiliation[edit]

When the modern California League was founded in 1941 as a Class "C" minor league, the Fresno Cardinals were a charter member, the others being the Anaheim Aces, Bakersfield Badgers, Merced Bears, Riverside Reds, San Bernardino Stars, Santa Barbara Saints, and Stockton Fliers. The Cards finished first, 6½ games ahead of the Saints, but lost the playoffs to the Saints 4 games to 1. In 1942, they finished second in a season shortened by America's entry into World War II. The league suspended play for the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons. In 1946, the California League resumed operations. The Cardinals won pennants in 1948 and 1952.

In 1955, the Cardinals fielded one of the best teams in the history of minor league baseball, ranked the 79th best minor league team of all time by baseball historians Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright. It was one of only a handful of lower classification teams (i.e., Class A, B, C and D) to have been included in the top 100 minor league teams. The Cards finished 104-43 for a .707 won-lost percentage, 5½ games ahead of the San Jose Red Sox for the season as a whole. The league played a split season schedule, though, and the Cards finished second, 2½ games behind the Stockton Ports in the first half of the split season. In the second half, though Stockton faded, Fresno barely finished first, only one game over San Jose. In the playoffs, Fresno defeated Stockton 3 games to 1 to win the CL pennant. The 1955 Cardinals set league records for most runs (1,048), hits (1,500), and RBI (893) in a season. Their 104 games won and .707 winning percentage remain California League records to this day. The team won its last pennant in Fresno the following year, 1956.

The Fresno Cardinals had long been one of the league's more popular teams, due in large part to its affiliation with the major league Cardinals. Until 1955, St. Louis had been the major leagues' western-most city, with the St. Louis Cardinals winning many fans in the western part of the United States as a result. In addition, a large percentage of the population of Fresno and the surrounding area consisted of transplants from the states of Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas, who arrived with a natural affinity for the Cardinals.

The televising of major league baseball games and other factors began taking its toll on minor league attendance during the 1950s, with many teams and entire leagues folding as a result. Scaling back their minor league operations, the St. Louis Cardinals sold their Fresno club after the 1956 season to the Greater Fresno Youth Foundation and ended their affiliation with the team. In 1957 the team, now known as the Fresno Sun Sox, operated without a major league affiliation, and finished last.

Giants Affiliation[edit]

1958-1984 logo
Bill Thompson in 1984

In 1958, the team entered into a working agreement with the San Francisco Giants, who had moved from New York the previous winter, and were renamed the Fresno Giants, winning the California League pennant in their inaugural year.

In 1963, the entire minor league system was reorganized, with the California League granted Class A status for the first time. As a Class A team, the Fresno Giants won championships in 1964, 1968, 1974, 1985 and 1987. With the 1987 championship, Fresno tied Modesto for most California League championships (9) up to that time in the history of the league.[2] On August 8, 1985, Fresno became the first California League franchise to win 3,000 games (Source: Bill Weiss). On July 17, 1986, Fresno hosted the only California League All-Star game played at Euless Park. (Source: 1986 California League All Star game program, page 3, retrieved May 19, 2014).

The Greater Fresno Youth Foundation operated the Fresno Giants and hosted an annual hot stove league dinner in the winter. The San Francisco Giants, Oakland A's, Los Angeles Dodgers and other teams sent players and coaches to the dinner regularly as part of their winter hot stove league tours. The Greater Fresno Youth Foundation had two general managers during the time it owned the team. Tom McGurn ran the ballclub (source: Fresno Bee death notice, October 24, 1989, retrieved July 11, 2014) from 1957 to 1978. In those days, running a minor league baseball operation was a one-man job. Bill Thompson,[3] who had formerly teamed with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons announcing San Francisco Giants radio broadcasts from 1965-1975,[4][5] was hired as general manager in 1978 and was there when the Greater Fresno Youth Foundation sold the team to Modesto-based Save Mart Supermarkets president Bob Piccinini in 1982. As minor league operations became more sophisticated and required more management, Piccinini and Thompson hired an assistant general manager, Curt Goldgrabe in 1983. (source: Fresno Bee, October 27, 1983, retrieved May 19, 2014) Thompson remained general manager until Piccinini sold the Fresno franchise following the 1987 season.[6] (In 1999, Piccinini led an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Oakland A’s.)

An account of the rest of the ownership story of the Fresno Giants is found in a Fresno Bee sports article from September 13, 1988: ″Piccinini sold the team to Bill Yuill, a Canadian media mogul, for a reported $560,000 on September 15, 1987. After the 46-year old Euless grandstand was condemned because of structural defects and the team lost it's long working agreement with the San Francisco Giants, Yuill reportedly sold it to Dave Kramer, a Van Nuys businessman, for $615,000 in 1988.

Kramer suffered major financial losses as the team was forced to rent portable bleachers and trailers to house its dressing rooms, concessions and offices at Euless. In addition, the Suns operated as a co-op, with players supplied by several major league clubs and the Hanshin Tigers of Japan.″

Up to 1988, Fresno and the San Francisco Giants held the longest continuous working agreement in all of minor league baseball, 30 years[7] (Source: San Francisco Giants publicity department). Without a working agreement, operating independently as the Fresno Suns in 1988, and lacking an adequate park, the team finished near the bottom of the standings and drew only 34,734 patrons, less than half the league average. The franchise was bought by Joe Buzas, who moved it to Salinas for the 1989 season.[8]

Minor league baseball returned to Fresno in 1998, when the owners of the Tucson Toros of the AAA Pacific Coast League moved their franchise to Fresno and renamed it the Fresno Grizzlies, where it once again became a San Francisco Giants affiliate.[9] Grizzlies games were played at Pete Beiden Field on the Fresno State campus until a new downtown ballpark, Chukchansi Park, was finished for the 2002 season.[10]

Ballpark[edit]

Euless Park aerial view, Spring 1987
John Euless Park stands in 1984
Left field fence after windstorm on April 24, 1984.

The home of minor league baseball in Fresno was originally called Cardinal Field in 1941-42.[11] Grandstands seating 2,600 were built on the site during World War II (source: Fresno Bee, May 20, 1984, retrieved May 19, 2014) to host the Fresno Cardinals on the campus of what was known then as Fresno State College, and was called Fresno State College Park from 1946 to 1957.[12] After the Cardinals affiliation ended in 1957, the name was changed to John Euless Park[13] for John Euless,[14] a local proponent of professional baseball who was associated with the Greater Fresno Youth Foundation and instrumental in keeping pro baseball in Fresno.[15] In 1956, Fresno State moved its campus to its present location in the northeast part of the city, and Fresno City College bought the old campus.[16]

It seemed the beginning of the end of the ballpark started on April 24, 1984 when a gust of wind blew down the left field fence two hours before the start of a game (source: Fresno Bee, April 25, 1984, retrieved May 19, 2014), the same day a 6.1 earthquake hit northern California.[17] Then, the next night, a transformer blew during a game, knocking out the lights and cancelling two games against the Reno Padres (source: Fresno Bee, April 27, 1984, retrieved May 19, 2014). The State Center Community College District, now owner of the ballpark, made an emergency allocation of $42,136 to finance repairs to the outfield fence during a meeting on Tuesday May 1, 1984, and repairs were completed about a month later (Source: Fresno Bee, May 3, 1984, retrieved June 9, 2014). At the same time, Euless Park received a new scoreboard and new field lights, which were installed by July 14, 1984 (Source: Fresno Bee, July 15, 1984, retrieved June 9, 2014).

Constructed entirely of wood, the stadium grandstands were intended to be a temporary structure, but continued in its mostly original form until the stands were bulldozed due to structural defects (thought to be termite damage)[18] in the spring of 1988. (Source: Fresno Bee column by Bob McCarthy, September 7, 1988, retrieved June 9, 2014)

Fresno City College baseball teams still use this facility for home games today.[19] The ballpark is adjacent to FCC's Ratcliffe football stadium and across Blackstone Avenue from the current Fresno City College campus.[20]

Former players and coaches[edit]

Will Clark and Jeff Brantley were teammates at Mississippi State before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants and sent to Fresno in 1985.
Wendell Kim played for the Fresno Giants in 1974 and was their manager 1983-85
Garry Maddox 1974

The following is an alphabetical list of Fresno Giants players and coaches who played or coached in the major leagues. The year played in Fresno is listed after the name.[21]

The 1988 Fresno Suns players who played in the major leagues.[22]

Individual Awards[edit]

Fresno players and coaches who received California League[25] or significant Major League Baseball[26] awards.

California League Awards[edit]

Most Valuable Player: 1946 Tommy Glaviano, 1952 Larry Jackson, 1958 O'Neil Wilson, 1964 Ollie Brown, 1972 Skip James, 1974 Gary Alexander, 1986 Ty Dabney

Pitcher of the Year: 1985 Charlie Corbell

Rookie of the Year: 1949 John Romonosky, 1956 Nelson Chittum, 1964 Masanori Murakami, 1974 Jack Clark, 1986 Ty Dabney

Manager of the Year: 1955 Roland LeBlanc, 1956 Ed Lyons, 1964 Bill Werle, 1968 Dave Garcia, 1974 John Van Ornum, 1980 Jack Mull, 1985 Wendell Kim

Major League Baseball Awards[edit]

National League Most Valuable Player: George Foster, 1977 Cincinnati Reds

Gold Glove Winners: Randy Hundley, Chicago Cubs 1967, Bobby Bonds, San Francisco 1973-74, Garry Maddox, Philadelphia 1975-76-77-78-79-80-81-82, Dwayne Murphy, Oakland 1980-81-82-83-84-85, Will Clark, San Francisco 1991, Robby Thompson, San Francisco 1993

Rolaids Relief Man Award: Jeff Brantley, Cincinnati 1996

Roberto Clemente Award: Garry Maddox, Philadelphia 1986

Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award: Gary Matthews, San Francisco 1973

Silver Slugger Award: George Foster, Cincinnati 1981, Jack Clark, St. Louis 1985 & 1987, Matt Nokes, Detroit 1987, Will Clark, San Francisco 1989 & 1991, Robby Thompson, San Francisco 1993

National League Manager of the Year: Hal Lanier, 1986 Houston Astros

San Francisco Giants Wall of Famers[edit]

Former Fresno Giants in bold.

Felipe Alou Gary Lavelle Jim Barr Johnnie LeMaster Willie Mays
Rod Beck Jeffrey Leonard Vida Blue Kirt Manwaring Willie McCovey
Bobby Bolin Juan Marichal Jeff Brantley Jack Clark Mike McCormick
Bob Brenly John Burkett Stu Miller Bobby Bonds Orlando Cepeda
Randy Moffitt Greg Minton Kevin Mitchell Will Clark Mike Krukow
Jim Davenport John Montefusco Chili Davis Matt Williams Robb Nen
Dick Dietz Gaylord Perry Darrell Evans Jim Ray Hart Rick Reuschel
J. T. Snow Tito Fuentes Kirk Rueter Scott Garrelts Robby Thompson
Tom Haller Chris Speier Atlee Hammaker Jeff Kent Rich Aurilia
Shawn Estes Marvin Benard Jason Schmidt

Yearly Records[edit]

Year Name Won Lost PCT GBL Place Manager Notes
1898[27] Fresno
1905[1] Fresno
1906[28] Raisin Eaters Mike Fisher[29]
1908[30] Tigers
1909[31] Raisin Growers
1910[32] Tigers William McDonough
1913[33] Packers 2nd George Wheeler[34]
1914[35] Tigers 1st George Wheeler[34] (Old Fresno records show unconfirmed championship)
1941[36] Cardinals 90 50 .643 -- 1st George Silvey Lost to Santa Barbara Saints in championship series 4-1
1942[37] Cardinals 34 33 .507 9 3rd Lou Scoffic League disbanded June 29, 1942[38]
1943-45 No Team
1946[12] Cardinals 58 72 .446 20 5th Everett Johnston, Paul Bowa[39]
1947[40] Cardinals 58 82 .414 37 7th Frank Demaree,[41] Wm. Harris, Chas. Baron,[42] Wm. Brenzel[43]
1948[44] Cardinals 85 55 .607 -- 1st Stan Benjamin Lost to Santa Barbara Dodgers in semifinal series 3-2
1949[45] Cardinals 83 57 .593 2.5 2nd Frenchy Uhalt Lost to San Jose Red Sox in semifinal series 3-0
1950[46] Cardinals 58 82 .414 27 7th Roland LeBlanc[47]
1951[48] Cardinals 61 86 .414 27 7th Larry Barton[49]
1952[50] Cardinals 88 52 .629 -- 1st Roland LeBlanc[51] Won championship series vs. San Jose Red Sox 4-2
1953[52] Cardinals 64 77 .454 29 6th Roland LeBlanc[53]
1954[54] Cardinals 73 67 .521 15 5th James Hercinger[55]
1955[56] Cardinals 53 23 .697 3 2nd Roland LeBlanc[57] Won championship series vs. Stockton Ports 3-1
51 20 .718 -- 1st Fresno and Cal League record for most wins in a season (104)
1956[58] Cardinals 91 49 .650 -- 1st Ed Lyons Won championship series vs. Stockton Ports 3-1
1957[59] Sun Sox 27 44 .380 16 7th Roland LeBlanc Unaffiliated
25 42 .373 16 8th LeBlanc won 366 games as a Fresno manager—most in Fresno history.
1958[21] Giants 46 26 .639 -- 1st Mike McCormick Won championship series vs. Visalia Redlegs 3-1
39 29 .574 6.5 2nd
1959[60] Giants 21 49 .300 21.5 6th Mike McCormick Fresno record for most losses in a season (96)
23 47 .329 22 6th
1960[61] Giants 38 32 .543 5 3rd Buddy Kerr
37 33 .529 9 3rd
1961[62] Giants 37 33 .529 16 3rd Salvador Taormina[63]
37 33 .529 14 4th
1962[64] Giants 35 38 .479 14.5 4th Salvador Taormina[65]
32 34 .485 6.5 6th
1963[66] Giants 38 35 .521 5 3rd Bill Werle
35 32 .522 11 3rd
1964[67] Giants 44 25 .638 -- 1st Bill Werle Won championship—no playoff series
42 28 .600 -- 1st
1965[68] Giants 36 33 .522 4.5 3rd Ed Fitz Gerald
34 36 .486 9 3rd
1966[69] Giants 39 31 .557 2 3rd Ed Fitz Gerald
35 35 .500 12 3rd
1967[70] Giants 35 35 .500 11 4th Dave Garcia
32 37 .464 9 5th
1968[71] Giants 36 34 .514 8 4th Dave Garcia Won championship series vs. San Jose Bees 2-1
43 26 .623 -- 1st
1969[72] Giants 38 32 .543 4 2nd Bill Werle
34 36 .486 9 4th
1970[73] Giants 36 33 .522 10 4th Bill Werle, Dennis Sommers Werle won 302 games as Fresno manager—second-most in Fresno history
35 35 .500 12 5th
1971[74] Giants 42 28 .600 -- 1st Dennis Sommers Lost to Visalia Mets in championship series 2-0
28 42 .400 18 7th
1972[75] Giants 34 34 .500 14 4th Frank Funk
40 30 .571 5 2nd
1973[76] Giants 34 36 .486 12 4th Frank Funk
35 35 .500 5 4th
1974[77] Giants 48 22 .686 -- 1st John Van Ornum[77] Won championship series vs. San Jose Bees 3-2
37 33 .529 8 4th
1975[78] Giants 37 33 .529 6 2nd John Van Ornum
37 33 .529 6 3rd
1976[79] Giants 41 29 .586 8 2nd Andy Gilbert
36 34 .514 7.5 3rd
1977[80] Giants 41 29 .586 8 2nd John Van Ornum
42 28 .600 6 2nd
1978[81] Giants 32 37 .464 19 3rd John Van Ornum
27 43 .386 19 3rd Van Ornum won 301 games as Fresno manager—third-most in Fresno history.
1979[82] Giants 34 36 .486 10 4th Jack Mull
32 37 .464 16.5 4th
1980[83] Giants 37 33 .529 -- 1st Jack Mull Lost to Visalia Oaks in divisional series 2-0
37 33 .529 7 3rd
1981[84] Giants 37 33 .529 7 3rd Wayne Cato[85]
26 44 .371 18 7th
1982[86] Giants 25 45 .357 16 5th Jim Maloney
25 45 .357 16 5th
1983[87] Giants 37 33 .529 8 2nd Wendell Kim
41 29 .586 1 2nd
1984[88] Giants 43 27 .614 -- 1st Wendell Kim Lost to Bakersfield Dodgers in divisional series 2-1
39 31 .557 1 2nd
1985[89] Giants 35 37 .486 15.5 2nd Wendell Kim Won championship series vs. Stockton Ports 3-2
49 25 .662 -- 1st
1986[90] Giants 37 34 .521 11 3rd Tim Blackwell
29 42 .408 14 4th
1987[91] Giants 41 30 .577 -- 1st R. J. Harrison Beat Bakersfield Dodgers in 1 game playoff to win 1st half
39 33 .541 -- 1st Won championship series vs. Reno Padres 4-3
1988[22] Suns 27 44 .380 20.5 4th Dean Treanor[92] Unaffiliated
26 45 .366 20 3rd Set Cal League record of 20 straight losses in 2nd half. (source: Fresno Bee Sept. 1, 1988, retrieved June 9, 2014.)

References[edit]

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