As somebody raised attending the ballpark Peter Magowan dreamt of on the shores of San Francisco Bay, I was saddened to hear the supermarket tycoon and former Giants owner died on Sunday. The 76-year-old apparently loved writing letters and receiving them from fans, so it feels fitting to take this space to say thanks.
Thank you for picking the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers or the dreaded Yankees as your team while growing up in Manhattan. You were fortunate enough to lay eyes on the 1954 Giants team that won the World Series, led by NL MVP Willie Mays, and often brought up your memories of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World.”
Thank you for hanging tight to your boyhood baseball memories, which influenced the crucial decisions that saved and improved the team you grew up cherishing.
Thank you for preventing the creation of the Tampa Bay Giants. When former Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed to sell the team to a group ticketing the team to Florida, you helped spearhead a last-gasp effort to keep the team in San Francisco. You were the glue keeping a group of investors together that may have understandably been timid about pouring millions into a dormant franchise that called Candlestick Park “home.”
Thank you for reinvigorating the fan base by signing Barry Bonds to the richest contract in baseball history before you even owned the team. As told by Bonds’s agents, if your group didn’t win MLB approval to own the Giants, you agreed to pay Bonds the difference between your contract offer and any other team’s. It’s hard to fathom any executive today doing something that gutsy.
Thank you for setting a new precedent in professional sports by privately financing the Giants’ new stadium. It may have ticked off other owners who envisioned their new stadium being built with public dollars, but you realized private capital was the only way a new Bay Area ballpark would ever be built. Residents in Cobb County, Georgia, Arlington, Texas and Miami have shelled out in recent years for new baseball venues. You ensured no San Franciscan would shoulder that burden.
Thank you for letting your imagination sketch the blueprint for Pacific Bell Park after the Giants left freezing Candlestick for good. Your methodical ballpark tour and meticulous study produced a perfect home. There is a historic touch with the green seats, on-field bullpens that pay tribute to Wrigley Field and the manual scoreboard in right. There is a distinctive feel with the monstrous 421-foot gap in right-center, the free walk-up view through the rightfield arches and the supersized Coca-Cola bottle and glove erected beyond the bleachers.
Thank you for embracing the team’s past. The constant presence of Hall of Famers like Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry and the late Willie McCovey around the yard always allowed fans a first-hand glimpse into the Giants’ rich history.
Thank you for leading humanitarian initiatives with team. Your contributions to AIDS research by starting “Until There’s A Cure Day” should not go unnoticed.
Thank you for allowing Bonds to finish his home run chase in a Giants uniform. Surely you faced pressure from those inside and outside the organization to cut ties with the embattled slugger, but in the eyes of most Giants fans, controversy took a back seat to legend. He was the best reason to watch the team from 2005–2007, but he offered the fans a chance to witness history every day.
Thank you for hiring Bruce Bochy as manager after the 2006 season. It was perhaps your final franchise-altering personnel decision, but arguably your most important. You instilled continuity, something increasingly hard to find in professional sports, as a hallmark of the Giants.
Thank you for maintaining your fandom even after unceremoniously exiting as managing general partner. You probably didn’t feel four consecutive losing seasons was the way you should have departed, but life rarely provides storybook endings. I hope World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 were more gratifying to you than anyone else.
Lastly, thank you for all the years you dedicated to San Francisco, the Giants and Major League Baseball. The city, the team and baseball fans everywhere are forever indebted to you. Your tireless, inspired work changed the franchise forever.