Honoring The History Of Bay Area Baseball.
The San Francisco Bay Area has a rich Baseball history that goes back long before the Giants & A’s made their move to California. Living in the Bay Area I see the incredibly stupid “Let Tim Smoke,” “Fear The Beard,” and “SF Giants F*ck Yeah” shirts/stickers/posters on a daily basis alongside the oceans of morons who leave the stickers on their flat billed Baseball caps. However, if you look around the Bay Area closely you will find other Baseball related items that honor the sport in a much more relevant and respectful way.
I recently set out to document some of these things that I speak of which pay respect to the history of the game and in turn bring recognition to the teams and players who graced the local Baseball fields of the past. It’s very possible I missed some stuff here and I hope that if you’re reading this and know of something I have missed, please let me know so I can check it out. One more thing, as cool as they are I decided to pass on the statues and various plaques at At&t Park as those are already well known to everyone. Here we go, I hope you all enjoy…
Double Play Bar & Grill on 16th & Bryant.
Double Play Bar & Grill is a place that I had heard about forever but I just never checked it out. Recently I made my way over to 16th & Bryant to get more acquainted with the place. Double Play Bar & Grill has been around since 1909, so it has some real history in the joint. I didn’t take photo’s once inside as I didn’t know if it would be cool or not. The walls are covered in sports memorabilia of the past and present with an emphasis on the San Francisco Seals who played across the street from the bar from 1931 to 1957 at Seals Stadium. They even have a dining area that is surrounded by walls made to look like old Seals Stadium which is very cool.
I like the vibe of the place, its fun and if you happen to be a San Francisco Giants fan they have some cool stuff that should interest you too. To see some cool footage inside the place, check out this VIDEO that I found on YouTube which interviews author Bill Soto-Castellanos who wrote the great book “16th & Bryant.”
Giants Plaque at 16th & Bryant.
Across the street from Double Play Bar & Grill is a plaque dedicated to 50 years of the San Francisco Giants. This plaque was dedicated back in 2008 due to the fact that the Giants played their first game (and first 2 seasons) at Seals Stadium. I was informed by my buddy Paul who I play Baseball with that this exists so I decided to seek it out. I assumed it was on a wall or somewhere highly visible but this was not the case. It took me a few minutes to find it and when I did I was surprised that it was literally in the sidewalk on the street corner. I really wanted to stay away from anything Giants or A’s related in this post but the relevance to the old Pacific Coast League is undeniable here.
While this is very cool in a historical Baseball sense, it’s also kind of bitter-sweet due to the fact that there is nowhere that I know of in SF which pays respect to the legacy of the San Francisco Seals or Mission Reds. You would think there would something on the actual street block they played at for over a quarter of a century, but no. Click HERE for a close up of the plaque.
Oaks Park Plaque.
This is my favorite item in this post and was by far the most difficult to find. I found a photo of this on the Ebbets Field Flannels Facebook page and knew right away I had to see this for myself. I coaxed my friend Chelsea to come with me for the adventure and she was down. All I knew at that time was that the plaque is located in Emeryville (outside of Oakland), is surrounded by bushes, and that I had the names of the 4 streets that surrounded the stadium back in the day. With that info we drove around for quite a long time until we basically gave up hope. I looked out the window right when the moment of defeat set in and saw the plaque for a split second as we drove by. Needless to say, I was very excited to find it.
The plaque pays homage to the Oakland Oaks in addition to Baseball legends Casey Stengel and Billy Martin. That is super cool for me as I am such a nerd about this stuff. As far as the physical condition/appearance of the plaque goes, unfortunately it has some graffiti on it and had bushes hanging over it. I guess it’s safe to say that it’s not properly maintained. I ripped off the hanging bushes to make it more visible but couldn’t do anything about the graffiti. I plan on going there again in the near future with paint thinner and some brown paint to clean it up if it doesn’t get fixed up soon.
Joe Dimaggio North Beach Playground and Pool.
The Yankee Clipper is by far the most famous Baseball related individual to be associated with the city of San Francisco and I noticed this sign almost 10 years ago when I first moved here. The park is located on 764 Greenwich street, kind of where North Beach and the Marina District converge. After doing some research I found out that the park was dedicated to DiMaggio back in November of 2000. I had assumed for years that it was done while he was still alive due to the fact that he played sandlot Baseball there as a kid.
Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant & Piano Bar.
Located at 333 Geary street right near Union Square, Lefty O’Doul’s was opened by the Baseball legend himself in 1958. I have to admit, I have never been inside the place as it seems to be mostly tourist types that hang out there but from what I can tell it seems like it is much like Double Play Bar & Grill in the sense that the walls are covered with Baseball memorabilia.
I plan on braving the tourists soon and checking it out so I can get lunch, check out the photos on the walls and buy something from Lefty’s Stadium Store. O’Doul is one of my favorite players in Baseball history so I owe it to myself to make this trip sooner than later. A somewhat related fun fact: The bridge which goes over McCovey Cove behind AT&T Park is named the Lefty O’Doul Bridge.
San Francisco Baseball Mural in the Mission.
On 19th street around the corner from the always tasty Taqueria Cancun on Mission street is this massive Baseball painting which I assume you have seen if you spend anytime in the Mission District here in San Francisco. I don’t remember exactly when this thing went up but it’s pretty cool even if you’re not a Giants fan. I personally like the mural because on the left side they included Seals Stadium, Joe DiMaggio in a Seals uniform and 3 players in Mission Reds uniforms. A close up of that section can be seen HERE.
Golden Gate Park Baseball Statue.
Many people who have been in Golden Gate Park have probably seen this statue and not given too much thought to it. To tell you the truth I never did either as I was not even sure if it was Baseball related for the longest time. The statue is located across from the Garfield monument which is very close to the Conservatory of Flowers. Somewhat recently I did some research on the statue and it turns out it has a cool history.
The statue was created by artist Douglas Tilden in 1889, is named “The National Game” but better known as “The Ball Player” and features a stereotypical Baseball player from the 1880’s. The bottom of the statue says “Presented by a close friend of the sculptor as a tribute to his energy, industry and ability.” At some point William E. Brown of the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the statue for $1700 and later gave it to the city of San Francisco. However I have also read that former Mayor James D. Phelan presented the statue to the city. I guess it doesn’t really matter who gave it to the city.
Why this statue is relevant to the history of Bay Area Baseball is that Tilden was from Northern California and spent much of his life in the Bay Area. Add this to the fact the first official Baseball game in the history of California took place in San Francisco on February 22nd of 1860. With that said, I think it’s safe to say that Tilden (1861-1935) probably witnessed the game grow and mature in its formative years here in the Bay Area therefore he very well may have based his statue on a player(s) he personally witnessed play the game. It’s just an idea I came up with and I very well could be wrong but it’s an interesting enough theory.