San Francisco Seals (baseball)

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San Francisco Seals
19031957
San Francisco, California
SanFranciscoSeals(baseball)Logo.PNG SanFranciscoSeals CapLogo.svg
Team Logo Cap Insignia
Class-level
  • Open (1952–1957)
  • Triple-A (1946–1951)
  • Double-A (1908–1945)
  • A (1903–1907)
Minor league affiliations
  • Pacific Coast League (1903–1957)
Major league affiliations
Name
  • San Francisco Seals (1903–1957)
Ballpark
Minor league titles
League titles 1909, 1915, 1917, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1928, 1931, 1935, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1957

The San Francisco Seals were a minor league baseball team in San Francisco, California, that played in the Pacific Coast League from 1903 until 1957 before transferring to Phoenix, Arizona. They were named for the abundant California Sea Lion and Harbor Seal populations in the Bay Area.

Early history[edit]

Along with the Los Angeles Angels, Portland Beavers, Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, and Seattle Indians, the Seals were charter members of the Pacific Coast League which was founded in 1903. The team played their home games at Recreation Park at Harrison and 8th Streets until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

The mild climate of the west coast allowed the PCL to play a much longer season than the major leagues and the other eastern professional baseball leagues. Seasons often ran 200 games or more, especially in the early years. In the 1905 season, the Seals set the all-time PCL record by playing 230 games (Pacific Coast Baseball League Record Book 1903-1969, compiled by William J. Weiss, League Statistician; published by the PCL, 1969; p. 30).

1907 advertisement for game at Valencia Street Recreation Park stadium.

The Seals finished the 1906 season playing home games at Freeman's Park in Oakland. A new Recreation Park was constructed at 14th and Valencia Streets for the 1907 season. The Seals won their first PCL pennant in 1909, finishing 13½ games over the runner-up Portland Beavers. They won flags also in 1915, 1917, 1922, 1923 and 1925.

During the 1914 season, the Sacramento Solons were moved to San Francisco, where they finished out the season playing as the San Francisco Missions, representing the city’s Mission District. The idea of a second team in San Francisco remained alive and, after the 1925 season, the Vernon Tigers were purchased by a group headed by San Francisco businessman Herbert Fleishhacker and moved to San Francisco and renamed the Mission Reds or simply the "Missions," again representing the Mission District as this team played their games five blocks from Mission San Francisco de Asís. From 1926 through 1930, they played their home games at Recreation Park, playing at home while the Seals were on the road.

In 1918, financially strapped owner Henry Berry put the San Francisco Seals up for sale and Charles H. Strub, George Alfred (Alfie) Putnam and Charles H. Graham each acquired a one-third share in the team.

In 1931, the Seals moved to their own park, Seals Stadium, an 18,600-seat facility located at 16th and Bryant Streets. Seals Stadium was unusual in that it boasted three clubhouses: one for the visitors, one for the Seals, and one for the Missions, who moved there with the Seals and were the Seals' tenants from 1931 through 1937, after which the team moved back to Los Angeles to become the Hollywood Stars in 1938.

There were three breweries on the adjoining northwest corners of Seals Stadium, which included Hamm’s, Budweiser and Lucky Lager.

The Seals celebrated their inaugural year in Seals Stadium by winning the PCL pennant in 1931. The following year, Seals outfielder Vince DiMaggio arranged a tryout for his younger brother Joe. In 1933, Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 61 straight games,[1] a harbinger of his 56-game hitting streak for the New York Yankees in 1941. The team won the pennant again in 1935.

Change of control[edit]

1940 cap logo

In 1945, a controlling interest in the team was purchased by businessman Paul Fagan, with the stated intention of bringing major league baseball to the west coast by having the Pacific Coast League becoming the nation’s third major league. He spent thousands of dollars upgrading Seals Stadium to perceived major league standards. He hired former major league player Lefty O'Doul, a native San Franciscan and fan favorite, as manager. Though the Seals won the pennant in 1946, subsequent teams under Fagan’s watch did not fare as well, typically finishing in the second division. Rival clubs did not buy into Fagan’s major league ambitions. Rather, they established working agreements with major league teams, and fared better than did the independent Seals.

Fagan gave up his aspirations and sold his interest in the Seals, who became an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. After their Bay Area rival, the Oakland Oaks, moved to Vancouver after the 1955 season, the Seals won their last PCL pennant in 1957, which proved to be their final season. During the 1957 season, the New York Giants announced their move to San Francisco for the 1958 season, and the Seals were forced to relocate.

The Seals moved to Phoenix, Arizona for the 1958 season. They became a minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, and they were renamed the Phoenix Giants. The franchise then moved to Tacoma, Washington, where they played from 1960 to 1965, returning to Phoenix for the 1966 season. The team remained in Phoenix until MLB expanded in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. This forced another move of the former Seals franchise. In a complicated deal the franchise became the Tucson Sidewinders, displacing the existing Tucson Toros, affiliated with the Diamondbacks. The Giants' affiliation was transferred to the displaced Tucson AAA franchise, which became today's Fresno Grizzlies. In 2009, the Tucson Sidewinders franchise moved to Reno, Nevada. They retained their affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks as the Reno Aces, and play their home games at Aces Ballpark. The Tucson Toros returned under the same ownership as the Sidewinders, but they are not affiliated with a major league club. The Sidewinders play their home games at Hi Corbett Field.

The Giants played their home games at Seals Stadium in 1958 and 1959, moving to Candlestick Park in 1960. Seals Stadium was subsequently torn down to make way for a White Front store. When this chain of stores went out of business, the building stayed empty for some years. It was finally turned into a car dealership and later a Safeway grocery store. The legacy of the Seals lives on in the Giants' mascot Lou Seal, as well as in a statue of the Seals' cartoon mascot (c. 1947) at AT&T Park.

Affiliations[edit]

The Seals were largely independent of major league farm systems except for the following affiliations:

Year Affiliation(s)
1936; 1945 New York Giants
1942 Brooklyn Dodgers
1951 New York Yankees
1956-57 Boston Red Sox

Notable alumni[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p. 210, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, A Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0
  • Kelley, Brent P.. The San Francisco Seals, 1946–1957. McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 1995. ISBN 0-7864-1188-0.
  • O'Neal, Bill. The Pacific Coast League 1903–1988. Eakin Press, Austin TX, 1990. ISBN 0-89015-776-6.
  • Snelling, Dennis. The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 1995. ISBN 0-7864-0045-5.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Louisville Colonels
Boston Red Sox
AAA affiliate

1956–1957
Succeeded by
Minneapolis Millers