Although I’m not much of a sports fanatic, there are times when I enjoy watching a Major League Baseball game. That is, one I attend in person, at the stadium with all the smells, sounds, and fellow fans. In fact, I’m tentatively planning to return to San Francisco next year. The trip will be made with the Giants home schedule in mind, hopefully on a game day when my Giants play the Dodgers.
The two teams have been rivals, practically from their beginnings when they were both located in New York City and had very quaint names.
The first Brooklyn team was first fielded in 1849 as a member of the defunct Interstate League. Not long afterwards another Brooklyn team was formed then affiliated with the American Association. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms debuted in 1890. The name came about because seven of their players were married at around the same time in 1888. The next name for the Brooklyn team was the “Trolley Dodgers”. This was due to the fact that pedestrians had to avoid the numerous streetcars that inhabited the streets of that borough. The Dodgers won the pennant race in 1890 and transferred their affiliation to the National League.
Meantime, across town, in 1883, the owners of the American Association affiliated, New York Metropolitans, organized a new National League club they named the New York Gothams. Two years later, Gothams absorbed many of the star players from the pennant champion Metropolitans into the Gothams. That same year, the Gothams changed their name to the New York Giants.
In 1888, the New York Giants snagged their first National League pennant. They then went on to claim the World Series from the American Association’s Saint Louis Browns.
1889 was a big year for the Giants. They squeaked by the Boston Beaneaters to take the pennant. For the World Series, the Giants defeated the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The win started baseball’s greatest rivalry. The wrangling between the Dodgers and the Giants, that exists to this day.
The next big event to affect the storied New York teams began brewing in the mid 1950s. The Dodgers were relegated to an aging Ebbets field that could accomodate only 32,000 fans. Meantime, the Giants had to play in the dilapidated Polo Grounds. Neither park had enough room for adequate parking lots.
The New York City Parks Commissioner opposed the idea for the Dodger’s plan to build a modern, domed stadium on Atlantic Avenue. Dodger’s owner Walter O’Malley and city officials were unable to reach any agreements after two years. O’Malley had been contacted by city officials in Los Angeles to consider a move to that city. By February of 1957 the Dodgers got the rights to Los Angeles’ market.
Meanwhile, the New York Giants had suffered through a few venue moves. Team owner Horace Stoneham was eager to move the Giants out of New York. At the beginning of the 1957 baseball season, Stoneham had Minnesota in mind for a new home.
However, Dodger’s owner O’Malley met with Stoneham to request that the Giants act as a travelling partner to relocate in California so there would be more than just one team on the West Coast. Finally, O’Malley succeeded in convincing Stoneham to move to San Francisco.
A meeting of National League team owners convened in Chicago on May 28, 1957. The owners voted unanimously to permit the Dodgers and the Giants to move to California. There was only one major stipulation. That being, both teams were required to move but neither one would be allowed to do so alone.
Throughout the 1957 season, New York City officials tried negotiating with both teams to keep them in the city. By the end of the season, negotiations failed. The Dodgers and the Giants were primed for their offseason moves to California.
The two teams would be sharing a huge California radio and television market and a market split from the hated American League Yankees team. The dominant Dodgers already had a stadium contract with L.A. officials. The up and down Giants hoped their future in the City by the Bay would revitalize the slumping team.
Seals Stadium in San Francisco was packed to standing room only on the first day of Major League Baseball on the West Coast. On April 15, 1958, Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers 8 to 0. That season, the Giants went on to a third place National League finish.
The newly relocated Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game at the converted football stadium, LA Memorial Coliseum, three days later, on April 18th. They enjoyed revenge over the rival Giants, 6 to 5. The first season ended in a disappointing seventh place League ranking.
As the 1950s decade came to a close, the Dodgers and the Giants were the fourth and fifth relocated teams. The Boston Braves were first as they settled into Milwaukee. By the way, the Twin Cities were consoled after their close brush with a Giants franchise. The American League’s Washington Senators relocated, in 1961, and were renamed the Minnesota Twins.