ALL-STAR GAME: 2007 WORLD SERIES: 2002, 2010, 2012, 2014 (3 wins, 1 loss)
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: I took a tour on June 19, 2023.
Oracle Park, as it is now known, is widely regarded as one of the very finest of all the retro- / neoclassical baseball stadiums. It shares with PNC Park the unique attribute of water beyond the ballpark perimeter on the right field side, but in terms of the grandstand shape it more closely resembles Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It is beautiful in almost every way, from the Bay scenic backdrop to the palm trees to the brick construction. The commercialized big Coke bottle fits in with that huge old-style fielder's mitt behind the left field bleachers, in terms of nostalgia. There is a kids' playground and miniature baseball diamond behind those bleachers.
Much as Yankee Stadium was built to favor the pull-hitting left-handed slugger Babe Ruth, Pacific Bell Park (as it was originally known) was designed in part to facilitate Barry Bonds' home-run hitting. The very short 309-foot distance to right field is offset, however, by the 20-foot height of the wall plus the prevailing winds that blow from right to left field. The distance to the left field fence is slightly above average, while the deep corner on the right side of center field (originally 421 feet, now 415) is a very welcome opportunity for triples and inside-the-park home runs. Some say that Oracle Park is decidedly unfriendly to batters, and there were only 114 home runs there in 2002, fewer than in any other stadium, but I'm not completely convinced. The combination of the asymmetrical outfield dimensions plus the proximity to the Bay waters (splash!) makes this a unique ballpark. Where else do baseball spectators get around in kayaks? The seats are very close to the playing field, with only slightly more foul territory than at Wrigley Field; in both cases the bullpens were originally situated along the foul lines, exposing relief pitchers to line drive foul balls, but the bullpens were eventually moved to new locations out of play.
One feature that makes Oracle Park particularly attractive is that it was built almost entirely with private financing. The total construction cost was $319 million, and the San Francisco municipal government kicked in a mere $15 as a loan guarantee. (From the perspective of baseball franchise owners, however, this is an embarrassment, which may be why the MLB bosses postponed holding an All-Star Game there until 2007.) In its first two years in operation, Pac Bell Park was sold out for almost every single game, and the attendance figures in every day's game were exactly the same: 40,930. Since then, the capacity has been increased by several hundred, but I haven't detected any newly built permanent seats, so I assume they just allow more standing-room-only spectators. Part of that may be due to the removal of the big entry tunnel near the home team dugout on the left side, that space being filled in with seats. Average attendance relative to capacity in 2002 was an astonishing 96.9 percent, even higher than at Fenway Park. (Indeed, official attendance at almost every one of the 2002 postseason games approached 43,000.) People can watch from ground level through the brick arches in the right field brick wall, as well as from the narrow walkway on top of that wall. To the left of the "jog" by the 365-foot marker, there is a small (elevated) bleacher section.
From both a player's perspective and a spectator's perspective, this is unquestionably a much more comfortable ballpark than the old Candlestick Park. It does get rather windy and chilly in the evenings, but it's (usually) not as bad as before. Being close to downtown Frisco makes it a much more attractive after-work entertainment option than the old place was.
In January 2004, the stadium was renamed "SBC Park" to more accurately reflect the ownership structure of the stadium's naming patron. SBC was the parent company of Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, Cellular One, etc., etc. After SBC bought AT&T (which was the parent organization of Pacific Bell, once upon a time) in 2005, the stadium was renamed "AT&T Park" in March 2006. In January 2019, the name was changed to "Oracle Park" under the terms of a 20-year naming-rights contract worth over $200 million.
Even though it was built expressly as a baseball stadium, Oracle Park was used for football games when the San Francisco Demons XFL team played their home games there in the spring 2001 season -- the XFL's only season. Oracle Park has also hosted the Emerald Bowl in 2002, and bowl games with various names from then until 2013. They set up temporary bleachers in right field, and it actually was not a bad arrangement. The University of California Golden Bears played their home games there in 2011, while California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley was renovated. In March 2012, AT&T Park (as it was then called) hosted two soccer matches: between the MLS San Jose Earthquakes and the Houston Dynamo, and between Olympic hopefuls Mexico and Senegal. More soccer matches were played there in 2023.
Although the Giants' first World Series in their new home (2002, against the Angels) ended disappointingly, they more than made up for that in the following decade, winning three world championships within the space of five years: 2010, 2012, and 2014. Led by superstars Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey, the Giants established a veritable "dynasty" in the second decade of the 21st Century. Prior to the 2020 season, the bullpens were moved from foul territory to a much safer area beyond the center field fence, which was moved in about eight feet.
SOURCE: Lowry (2019), Pastier (2007), Rosen (2002)
FAN TIP: Brandon Henderson ("Demons"!)
|The Clem Criteria:
* See the Stadium locations page.
Visit San Francisco!
Without a doubt, San Francisco is one of the most scenic and culturally vibrant cities in the United States, if not the world. Thanks to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and streetcars, it is fairly easy to get to most of the main tourist destinations: Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, the Haight-Ashbury district, and the twisting Lombard Street. Oracle Park is located about 3/4 mile southeast of downtown, and about two miles northeast of where Seals Stadium once stood.