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Hidden Histories: SF Baseball Stadiums

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Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden Histories, where Curbed contributor Alex Bevk highlights a San Francisco location with a secret past. Maybe it’s no longer there, maybe it’s been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in SF history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open, or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Baseball game at Seals Stadium, Dec 20, 1945 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

Whether you root for the Giants or the A’s, Bay Area residents have an abundance of baseball pride. But before the Bay Bridge series and corporate named stadiums, San Francisco had a long history of professional baseball and stadiums located throughout the city.

Recreation Grounds, Cor. of Folsom and Twenty-Fifth Sts. San Francisco, 1875 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The first official professional baseball park was The Recreation Grounds in the Mission, which operated from 1868 - 1884. Located where Garfield Park sits today at 25th & Harrison streets, the stadium held up to 17,000 people.

Central Park at 8th & Market Streets, 1901 [Photo: Greg Gaar Collection, San Francisco, CA via FoundSF]

The next field to open was Central Park, located at 8th & Market streets. Opening in 1884, it held 15,000 fans, and in 1888 became the home of the newly formed California State League. It was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

"Big Rec" at 15th & Valencia, c1924 [Photo: Greg Gaar Collection, San Francisco, CA via FoundSF]

Most well-known to old school San Franciscans would be the San Francisco Seals, a team that played from 1903 to 1957. After the destruction of Central Park, a new stadium was built at 14th and Valencia streets. It was named Recreation Park (but fondly referred to a ‘Big Rec’) and the Seals played there from 1907 through 1930. According to FoundSF, a section of the bleachers was roped off with chicken wire and became known as the "booze cage." Admission price entitled the patron to a choice of either a sandwich or a shot of whiskey. Awesome.

A brief interlude in 1914 took them to Ewing Field in the Richmond District, near Geary and Masonic, but too many people complained about the cold windy foggy weather. Outsidelands has some amazing stories about Ewing Field. Like when Elmer Zachar, an outfielder for Oakland, was so confused by the fog that the mascot for the "Oaks" was sent from the bench to inform Elmer that the side had been retired. Or when Pete Daly built a fire in the outfield to emphasize the need to stay warm. (After burning down in a fire started by a cigarette in 1926, Ewing Field was demolished in 1938.) The Seals returned to Recreation Park in 1915, where they shared the stadium with the Mission Reds, a second San Francisco team that played there when the Seals were on the road. The Reds only lasted a few years, from 1926 - 1937.

Seals Stadium at 16th & Bryant, 1957 [Photo: Telstar Logistics]

By 1931, the Seals opened their own Seals Stadium at 16th & Bryant Streets. Holding over 18,000 people, the team continued to play there until 1957 (sharing with the Reds through 1937), when they were moved to Phoenix to become a minor league affiliate of the new San Francisco Giants, and were renamed the Phoenix Giants. The Giants played their home games in Seals Stadium for the 1958 and 1959 seasons, eventually moving to Candlestick Park in 1960. The Seals Stadium was demolished in 1960, and today the site is the Potrero Center.
· Baseball Teens-20s [FoundSF]
· Ewing Field: Lost in the Fog Bank [Outsidelands]