Los Angeles. San Francisco. With the names of these cities you would think it would be a holy war, and you would be right, except both of these franchises were New York’s, with storied histories which stretched back longer than Babe Ruth held the home run record. Before there was The Babe and the New York Yankees, there was John McGraw and the New York Giants. One of the legacies of Ruth was the exodus of the senior circuit of America’s largest city. The Babe was big enough **** all the air out of a city as large as New York City.
Neither the Dodgers nor the Giants could draw like the Yankees, and both were having difficulties negotiating with the city for new stadiums. Walter O’Malley, owner of the Dodgers, was offered a city financed and owned stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens: the current location of Shea Stadium. What happened next depends on who you talk to. O’Malley, a real estate magnate who wanted a piece of the stadium deal, would claim New York politicians forced him to move. Others believe O’Malley manipulated the situation to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by the wide open baseball market on the west coast. In either case O’Malley needed a team to play against, and he convinced archrival New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to join the Dodgers moving west. On April 18, 1958, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants at the Coliseum.
Dodger Stadium was the last publicly financed stadium for forty years as cities, shocked by the example of the Dodgers and Giants, caved to the demands of owners for new stadiums. Ironically San Francisco refused to subsidize a new stadium for the Giants to replace Candlestick, so Peter Macgowan privately financed Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park. To pull it off, he needed a superstar to pack the seats. Thus begins the saga of Barry Bonds. — Michael Norton