As we continue counting down 60 seasons of San Francisco Giants baseball, we will take a look at the 1970s.
The San Francisco Giants were one of the best teams in the 1960s, but things suddenly turned south in the ’70s. It all started on May 11, 1972, when Willie Mays was traded to the New York Mets. That season, they had their first-ever losing season in the City by the Bay. The team bounced back and went 88-74 in 1973.
However, the Giants only drew 834,193 fans in 1973, and longtime owner Horace Stoneham had to cut corners. Willie McCovey was traded to the San Diego Padres, and Juan Marichal was traded to the Boston Red Sox shortly afterwards. That was it. The faces of the franchise when the Giants moved out West were all gone.
The Giants had their fair share of talent heading into 1974. They still had outfielder Bobby Bonds, who was the MVP of the 1973 All-Star Game, and they still had fan-favorite second-baseman Tito Fuentes. The Giants also had some new young talent in the outfield in the slick-fielding Garry Maddox and the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year “Sarge,” Gary Matthews.
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The Giants got off to a fairly decent start, as they won their first four games. They played .500 ball for the first two and a half months of the season, but the Hated Ones from LA surged to a 41-15 start. On June 7, the Giants were 30-28, but they were in fifth place and 11 games behind the Dodgers.
Then, the team tanked. The Giants lost 18 of their next 22 games to pretty much cement 1974 as a completely forgettable season.
There was also a more ominous issue surrounding the organization; Candlestick Park. Three years prior in 1971, the stadium became enclosed and the grass was replaced by Astroturf to accommodate the 49ers’ move into the stadium.
By 1974, nobody was coming to games. Only 17,527 showed up on OPENING DAY. Their best crowd was on May 26 against the Dodgers, when they drew 22,526. Not only that, but that was one of only two times that season the Giants even drew 20,000 fans for a game.
The Giants went 72-90, which was their worst loss total in San Francisco at the time. As for attendance, they drew 519,987 fans for the entire season, and for the icing on the cake, they only drew 748 fans on Monday, Sept. 16 against the Braves.
About that last sentence, you didn’t misread it, and I didn’t make a typo; the Giants actually only drew 748 fans for a game. Anyway, their season total of 519,987 was the franchise’s worse since 1943. The situation was bad, but a year later, it would get much worse and much scarier.