…. Ownership

A couple of people took the time to write well enough for the front page, so here we go:

Magowan had a unique set of skills that allowed him to navigate the impossible San Francisco political arena and actually accomplish something that benefitted the city, the franchise, the fans, MLB, and the corporations he works for and represents. Namely, the Park. Very few people had the money, the savvy, the contacts, the patience, the persistence and the vision to make that a reality. “Politics is the art of the possible.” Peter Magowan made something happen that most folks thought was impossible.

Giants fans quibbling about the Park are off-base, it is a hell of a thing and all of baseball has enjoyed it. You could make an argument that signing Barry Bonds was the greatest free agent move in the history of the game. That was quintessential Magowan: one player who was truly a difference-maker with long ties to the team and Bay Area, brought in at the moment of acquisition, in the midst of uncertainty. It was politics, PR, marketing, a great investment, and a sound baseball move all in one. Not many men claim a track record like that.

This site has documented Magowan’s fall from grace, and he’s earned the opprobrium, to be sure. But if we hit the rewind button and replay Game 6 –I know we have all done it far too many times– and alter history and WIN the fecking World Series in 2002, then Magowan completes his trifecta. Park, Player, Ring. (I’m not including “saving the team” in the list, and, at the time, that was enough for me to cut him a lifetime’s slack.)

But, while the failure to win the championship when it was in our hands will haunt the team the way McCovey’s line drive in 1962 did for forty years, Magowan cannot be blamed for that; bad luck, bad decisions, bad play, and a determined opponent get the credit. The wind came out of the sails after that Dark October, and a scrambling, desperate, penurious and out-of-touch mind-set took over the Front Office, and the Barry-less 2008 Giants is the result of that collapse of leadership.

Great accomplishments and great failures; quite a legacy. “He who never fell, never climbed.” If Peter Magowan takes his bow and walks off the stage; I’ll be standing and cheering, and I hope the rest of Giants fandom will be as well. But if you are mumbling “good riddance” under your breath as you do, I’ll forgive you.

Mark O’Connor

And then there’s the insulting, anonymous, Smack you with Facts, who wants everyone to know that Magowan didn’t save the Giants:

He did not stop the team from leaving. The move was blocked by the MLB owners/commish in order to keep the team in San Francisco (which is better for the league, apparently). Magowan was just one among a group of investors who was willing to pop some $$ in and take the team from Lurie.

He is also the one willing to be the leading man, though he never had the most shares of the team:

National League club owners today soundly rejected a move of the San Francisco Giants to St. Petersburg, Fla., handing the Tampa Bay area its seventh setback in seven attempts to attract a major league baseball team.

The owners, in a secret ballot that required 10 votes for approval, voted 9-4 against allowing Bob Lurie, the Giants’ owner, to sell the team for $115 million to the Tampa Bay group, which would have moved the Giants to the Florida Suncoast Dome in time for next season.

The action, which is expected to trigger a lawsuit from St. Petersburg officials, left the door open for a group of San Francisco investors, headed by Peter Magowan, president of Safeway Inc., to buy the Giants for $100 million and keep them where they have been since they left New York 35 years ago.

November 11, 1992

When this was going on, I was new to San Francisco, having moved here in February of 1990. I remember the situation fuzzily, and I haven’t found any really informative local newspaper articles yet. However, this one was written by MLB stooge Murray Chass, so it must be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, SYWF must be given some measure of proper due here, classless and boorish though he may be: The move was blocked by MLB, and that was what opened the door for Magowan and his partners to make an offer that, to my memory, was a bit smaller than what the Florida team was offering.

It also bears mentioning that it was just a short while later that Tampa got the OK for the Devil Rays, so it’s possible that there was a lot of back room dealings that we’ve never been privy to.

Here’s another piece, from 2000, that all but knights Magowan:

He was born and raised in New York, but Peter Magowan now stands on the precipice of a legacy as the man who saved baseball in San Francisco.

He saved it by heading up the brick and steel ballpark on Third Street, by building something out of nothing, by giving the Giants a home by the Bay, by forever rendering meaningless the idea of the Tampa/St. Petersburg Giants, or the Northern Virginia Giants or the Anywhere but The City Giants.
He gathered his boys, put together ideas, won an election where you just can’t win an election, sold the park’s name to a phone company, didn’t use any public money and peddled 29,000 season tickets – all because he couldn’t bear the idea of the alternative.

If necessity is the mother of the invention, consider Magowan the neediest guy around.

“The alternative was that the Giants would leave, and the alternative was just not acceptable,” Magowan said with the opening of his life’s dream, Pacific Bell Park, drawing near.

Get this clear: Magowan doesn’t want to be known as the savior. He points to vice president Larry Baer, ticket guru Tom McDonald, chief financial officer John Yee, marketing men Mario Alioto, Russ Stanley and longtime Giants executive Pat Gallagher as key factors in the building of the stadium nobody ever figured would get built.

But Magowan, the team president and managing general partner, is the public face atop the stadium, as out in the open as the Willie Mays statue planned for the main gate, as looming as the Coke bottle in left field. He’s on the hook if this thing is a bust in five years, if it turns into a ghost town of debt; conversely, he stands to be a hero for the decades if, as he predicts, Pacific Bell Park stands majestically in its spot for a half-century, a beacon for the timeless game of baseball and a mecca for generations of Giants fans.

Magowan doesn’t think the Giants have just built a stadium but have saved the soul of The City. He saw the Giants and Dodgers leave New York in 1958. He never wanted to see it again if he had something to say about it.

“I don’t think Brooklyn has recovered to this day,” Magowan said. “People were that upset and disillusioned. We just couldn’t let that happen in San Francisco. We believed enough that it must not happen, to find a way. We knew that if we failed, it was all over. It was really all over. We would have put the team up for sale and, in my opinion, nobody in the Bay Area would have bought it. We couldn’t have seen them bought by out-of-towners, which would have happened.”

I remember that feeling, that sense, that the Giants were on the precipice of leaving, and it was ongoing for most of the first five years I was here. In that sense, Magowan did save the team. They were hemorrhaging money, they had seen two separate ballpark referendums go against them, owner Bob Lurie wanted out, and for the longest time, no one in San Francisco wanted in.

If Magowan and his group hadn’t stepped up and come up with the $110 million, hadn’t gone out and landed Bonds, and hadn’t pulled off the first privately financed ballpark in 30 years; then, in all probability, the Giants were gonna leave. Here’s another article that details some of the difficulties the ownership group faced.

Really, I don’t see how you can say the Magowan-led group didn’t save the Giants. There were mitigating factors, for sure, but there was nobody else to buy the team. MLB was pretty much telling Lurie to stop crying and make it work in SF, and Lurie seemed to think that he wasn’t going to be able to. If you say he didn’t save the team, I guess you have to answer this question:

What would have happened if Magowan and his team hadn’t come through?

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