There Used To Be A Ballpark Here
By Jerry Cohen, Founder/CEO of Ebbets Field Flannels
Seals Stadium, San Francisco, California.
Looking toward "home plate"
Third base is around here somewhere...
Looking up from the street, it’s just possible to imagine that a ballpark still lies beyond the wall and the Spanish-style structure on the corner of 16th and Bryant. Alas, when I climbed the stairs from the street I was greeted not by an emerald green oasis, but by the parking lot of the rather generic Potrero Shopping Center. Trying to keep my mind’s eye focused on the past, as if I could concentrate hard enough a dimensional shift would occur and the ballpark would materialize in front of my eyes, I paced along what I estimated was the right field line towards home plate. Thoughts of Willie Mays chasing fly balls and Joe DiMaggio legging out one of his hits during his 1933 61-game streak raced through my head.
Seals Stadium opened on the edge of the Mission District of San Francisco in the depth of the Great Depression in 1931. Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch on April 7th, Opening Day. The elegant 18,500-seat structure was tucked into a plot of land bounded by Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street. Among its features were three clubhouses instead of the typical two, one of the Seals, one for the visitors, and the third for the city’s “other” Pacific Coast League team, the Mission Reds. (Unable to compete with the Seals, the Missions would head to Hollywood after the 1937 season).
Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Dom DiMaggio and Lefty O’Doul hanging out at Seals Stadium in October of 1937.
The Double Play Bar & Grill
Returning to my reverie, I deduced that the location of home plate must lie somewhere in the Office Depot store, now closed. Following the rough outlines of the old diamond brought me to “second base”, in the Starbucks are inside the Safeway, and “third base” next to the pizzas in the frozen foods aisle. The injustice of all of this depressed me a little bit. Fortunately the Double Play Bar and Grill on 16th still very much exists, and I repaired to the tavern to ponder the afternoon’s events. With its original décor mostly intact, numerous photos of the old park on the walls, and locals mixing it up at the bar, it was almost possible to believe I would head across the street to the park to catch a Seals game as soon as I finished my beer.
When the National League’s two New York teams pulled up stakes and headed to California in 1958, what had been one of minor league baseball’s largest parks became MLB’s smallest. The Giants hosted the Dodgers at Seals Stadium on April 15th for the first official big league game on the West Coast. The home team bested the former Bums 8-0, with Ruben Gomez getting the win against Don Drysdale. After two seasons of service, the Giants moved over to the newly-built Candlestick Park, and the rest, for better or worse, is as they say, history.