When did the Giants move to SF?
On April 15, 1958, now 62 years ago, the SF Giants hosted the LA Dodgers in the first MLB game ever played on the West Coast.
Prior to 1958, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, along with the Yankees, were rivals in New York City. That was the “Subway Series” of old, before the Subway Series of today between the Yankees and Mets.
Chris Landers of MLB.com wrote about the history of the two teams’ moves to California. The Dodgers’ owner at the time, Walt O’Malley, was exactly the kind of owner we’d recognize today: a real estate guy asking for someone else to help him pay for a new stadium. Ebbets Field just wasn’t doing it for him anymore and New York City wasn’t giving him what he wanted.
So he looked west. And then really far west: Los Angeles, a quickly growing city that had already reached a population above 2 million. LA was happy to provide the land O’Malley wanted. It made perfect sense.
But one team on the West Coast with the closest rival more than 1,600 miles away in Kansas City wasn’t going to do it. They were going to need another team. That’s where the Giants came in.
The Giants played at the old, decrepit Polo Grounds, and their drawing power was quickly falling. The attendance was 1.6 million in 1947, per Baseball-Reference. It was just 629,000 in 1956. Owner Horace Stoneham needed to move as well.
He looked west — Minneapolis. After all the Boston Braves’ move to Milwaukee seemed to go well and the farthest west teams at the time played in St. Louis and Kansas City.
But then Stoneham looked really far west, at the urging of O’Malley, who really needed that second club to make the California move work. Stoneham found city leaders in San Francisco to be welcoming.
On May 28, 1957, fellow National League owners voted to allow the Dodgers and Giants to move to California following the end of the 1957 season. Only a couple of months later, both teams were on their new coast.
On April 15, 1958, the teams opened against each other in front of their newly found California fans, at Seals Stadium at the corner of Bryant and 16th streets in the Mission District. At the time, the stadium was 27 years old, the home of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. It was a temporary solution while Candlestick Park was being built.
The Giants beat the Dodgers 8-0 that day (box score). Ruben Gomez pitched a shutout, allowing six hits and six walks while striking out six. Don Drysdale took the loss for the Dodgers, failing to make it out of the fourth inning.
Danny O’Connell scored the Giant’s first run on the West Coast in the third inning, driven in by Jim Davenport. Gomez himself had the Giants’ first hit.
Daryl Spencer and Orlando Cepeda hit the first two home runs, in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. By then it was a 7-0 rout. San Francisco added one more run for good measure in the eighth.
The game was a crisp 2 hours and 29 minutes, played in front of 23,448 fans.
The Giants finished third in the NL that year, going 80-74. They were 44-33 in SF. The Dodgers went 71-83 and finished seventh.
The Giants drew 1.27 million fans that year, a vast increase. In 1960, they brought in nearly 1.8 million fans.
All these years later, and the rivalry is as good as ever and the teams are ranked among the most valuable in baseball. The teams’ black and white history might be in New York, but their bright future is in California.