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Baseball's Orphans : San Francisco Giants Have No Place to Play

October 13, 1985|United Press International

SAN FRANCISCO — Major League baseball's regular season may have ended at Candlestick Park on Oct. 6, but the games have continued.

San Francisco Giant owner Bob Lurie has told the city his team will not play another season at blustery Candlestick Park. Instead, he offered to buy out of the nine remaining years on his lease and move his team to the Oakland Coliseum, sharing that facility with the American League A's.

Lurie said his plan would give San Francisco time to put together the necessary property and capital to build a new downtown baseball-only facility.

However, the Giants owner made one major mistake at the very start. When he called a press conference to announce his plans, he failed to inform either Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson or A's President Roy Eisenhardt that he was going to tell the world he was coming over for a three-year visit.

Wilson reacted publicly, Eisenhardt's reaction was kept private.

The Oakland mayor said he would not welcome the Giants to his city. He cited the many problems such an arrangement would present.

The city of Oakland has been involved in a costly five-year battle in the state court system to try to force the NFL's Raiders franchise to return from Los Angeles through the powers of eminent domain.

Among the city's arguments supporting its right to condemn and takeover ownership of the NFL team has been the claim the Coliseum was built as a football stadium and not as a baseball facility.

With two major league teams playing in the Coliseum that argument would seem to be groundless.

Wilson said he was further concerned the number of dates needed for an added 82-game season would hurt Oakland's chances of landing an NFL expansion team.

"Having the Giants at the Coliseum would not have the same positive impact on the city as an NFL team would," he said.

There is also the matter of the $25 million loan the Coliseum made to the A's when the American League franchise extended its lease in September to beyond the year 2000.

Wilson's final concern was the impact the Giants using the facility would have on concert promoter Bill Graham's "Day of the Green" series.

Those concerts had brought in $650,000 in revenues to the facility before the recent two-day sellout of Tina Turner. Wilson said the 20 days that would likely be open in a summer filled by both teams at the Coliseum would not be enough to take care of Graham's needs.

The rejection by the Coliseum Board and the A's caught Lurie by surprise.

"I believed, based on prior meetings with A's officials, that such approval would be given," Lurie said. "I was mistaken. After a lengthy meeting, Mr. Walter Haas Jr. was unwilling to express support for the Giants' temporary relocation to Oakland. In fact, it's clear to me that the A's may not support this proposal at all."

However, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein said she wasn't surprised by the Board's action.

"This was no surprise," she said dejectedly. "What we really have to do now is make sure we can put together a new downtown stadium. I think I now have enough votes on the Board of Supervisors to do that."

Feinstein has thrown her considerable political weight behind the controversial stadium project. She says she has the support of eight of the city's 11-member Board of Supervisors for the project. That is all she needs as long as no public funds are spent on construction of the new stadium. If public funds are needed, the issue must go to the voters, where it is likely to be rejected.

The current state of events leaves Lurie in a Catch-22.

On the one hand he may get his downtown stadium, but on the other he will have to play at the focus of his ire--Candlestick Park--until 1989.

While Lurie has not commented on the latest developments, Feinstein said she felt confident the Giants owner would agree to stay.

"This (the Giants moving to Oakland) is the only alternative plan I feel I could ever support," she said. "Now all I can do is try to make life a pleasant as I can for the Giants at Candlestick. They should stay at Candlestick."

The Giants owner does have one other option. He could sell the team. Likely buyers that have been rumored are Denver oilman Marvin Davis or a group in Vancouver, B.C.

Lurie's bittersweet love affair with San Francisco fans began in 1976 when he bought the Giants from Horace Stoneham, blocking a possible move to Toronto.

San Francisco finished the 1976 season in fourth place in the National League West. Despite promises that things would improve, they did not. From 1979-1985 the team could finish no better than third and could break the .500 mark for the year just three times.

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