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Horace Stoneham
Stoneham at the first game of the World Series, 6 October 1937.
Born(1903-04-27)April 27, 1903
DiedJanuary 7, 1990(1990-01-07) (aged 86)
OccupationBaseball executive
Valleda Pyke
(m. 1931)
Parent(s)Charles Stoneham (father)
Johanna McGoldrick (mother)
RelativesChub Feeney (nephew)

Baseball career
Career highlights and awards
As president

Horace Charles Stoneham (/ˈstnəm/ STOW-nəm; April 27, 1903 – January 7, 1990) was the owner of the New York / San Francisco Giants from 1936 to 1976. During his ownership, the Giants won the 1954 World Series and four National League pennants in 1936, 1937, 1951, and 1962, and moved from Manhattan to San Francisco.

Early life

Horace Stoneham was born in Newark, New Jersey on 27 April 1903 to Charles Stoneham and Johanna McGoldrick. He studied at the Hun School of Princeton and graduated from Trinity-Pawling School in 1921.[1] He briefly attended Fordham University but dropped after four days and was sent by his father to work in a copper mine in California during the winter of 1923-24.[1][2] His father bought the New York Giants in October 1918.[1] He returned at his father's insistence to the Giants' spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida ahead of the 1924 season to begin his apprenticeship as a baseball executive and future owner.[3] He worked on the Giants' grounds crew and in their ticket office and then moved into their front office, working as an assistant in the ticketing department.[4]

He managed the leasing of the team's Polo Grounds stadium for other sporting events, including football and boxing and managed the team's travel and accommodation with club secretary Eddie Branick. Horace would be admitted into team manager John McGraw's inner circle in the early 1930s, and would work closely with McGraw, Bill Terry and his father.[1]

In 1936, at age 32, he inherited ownership of the Giants on his father's death due to a heart attack on January 6. He became the youngest club owner in National League history.[3]

New York Giants

The Giants were one of the most prominent franchises of the National League. Horace oversaw four pennant wins and one World Series championship in his first two decades as owner. He moved the Giants from New York City to San Francisco, one of two National League owners to bring Major League Baseball to the west coast territory. Although the Giants won only one pennant (1962) and one division title (1971) in their first 15 years after moving to the Bay Area, they were a consistent contender that featured some of the era's biggest stars. But during the mid-1970s, lacklustre on-field performance and dwindling attendance forced Stoneham to sell the team in 1976.

Stoneham's ownership witnessed three separate pennant-contending and -winning eras: the team that he inherited, the 1936–1938 Giants with Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott; the 1949–1955 teams of manager Leo Durocher, with Monte Irvin, Sal Maglie, Bobby Thomson and Willie Mays; and the star-studded Giants of 1959–1971. During Stoneham's 41 years as owner, the Giants won National League pennants in 1936, 1937, 1951, 1954 and 1962, a National League West division title in 1962, and the World Series title in 1954.

Early success

Stoneham, circa 1945

Stoneham was known as a hands-on owner that was concerned with the day-to-day business of the Giants and personally involved in player trades and transactions.[3][5] In 1936, player-manager Bill Terry's last season as a player, the Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals by five games to win the National League pennant. However, in the World Series, the Giants were defeated by the New York Yankees four games to two. Terry would retire as a player at the end of the season and be appointed as the full-time manager until 1941. Terry also served as the general manager until the 1942. The Giants would again win the National League pennant in 1937 but fall four games to one to the Yankees featuring Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey and Lefty Gomez in the World Series. The Giants finished third in 1938 but not finish in the first division again, finishing fifth in 1939, sixth in 1940 and fifth in 1941. Terry resigned as the manager after the 1941 season and was succeeded by former teammate Mel Ott as player-manager.

Struggles during and after World War II

In the 1942 season, Ott led the league in home runs, runs scored and walks but the Giants finished third in the National League. The team struggled in the National League, falling into the league's second division after the end of World War II. Stoneham fired the popular but easy-going Ott mid-way through the 1948 season and hired Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher as a replacement.

World Series success and Shot Heard 'Round the World

Stoneham negotiated a deal with Dodgers' general manager Branch Rickey to release Durocher from his contract and join their cross-town rivals. Giant fans initially reviled Durocher as the pilot of the arch-rival Brooklyn Dodgers,[5] but he quickly produced an exciting team that just two years later was in the World Series. The Giants won the 1951 National League in a thrilling play-off against the Dodgers, on the back off Bobby Thomson's home run in the deciding game in what was to be known as the 'Shot Heard 'Round the World'. However, the Giants would fall four games to two to the Yankees in the 1951 World Series.

In 1954, Durocher and Willie Mays would lead the Giants to the National League pennant and their only World Series title. The Giants swept the heavily favoured Cleveland Indians. In Game One, center fielder Mays caught a long drive by Vic Wertz near the outfield wall with his back to the infield in a play remembered as "the catch". Stoneham was hailed as The Sporting News' Executive of the Year in baseball.[6]

In 1949, the Giants recruited former Negro League players Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson to become the second National League team to be fully integrated.[1]

Controversial move to San Francisco

The 1954 World Series title was the last hurrah for Stoneham and the Giants in New York. Stoneham was alarmed by a dramatic drop-off in attendance during the 1950s. The 1947 Giants had drawn 1.6 million paying fans despite finishing fourth. But the 1951 pennant winners and 1954 world champions struggled to hit seven figures in home attendance, and mediocre 1956–57 Giants' teams had drawn fewer than 700,000 customers each season. It did not help matters that the Giants' park, the Polo Grounds, was not aging gracefully. The park had been built in its present form in 1911 and had not been well maintained from the 1940s onward. Meanwhile, the park's surrounding neighbourhoods (in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan) had entered a steep economic and social decline, with rising rates of crime.[7] All of these factors contributed to a sharp drop in attendance.

The Giants' dwindling gates hit Stoneham particularly hard. Unlike most of his fellow owners, the Giants and the Polo Grounds were his sole source of income. Stoneham's balance sheet took a further hit after the 1955 season when the football Giants, who had spent their entire history as tenants of the baseball Giants, moved across the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium. With the loss of their football tenant, the baseball Giants' shrinking bottom line made it difficult for Stoneham to find the money needed for renovations even after laying off his maintenance staff. Even without that to consider, while the Giants owned the Polo Grounds, the land on which it stood was still owned by the heirs of James J. Coogan.[8]

In hopes of finding a way out, Stoneham briefly considered moving to the Bronx as tenants of the Yankees—possibly before his lease at the Polo Grounds ran out in 1962. Ironically, the Yanks had been tenants of the Giants at the Polo Grounds from 1913 to 1922.[7] However, impressed by the success of the Braves after their 1953 shift from Boston to Milwaukee, Stoneham decided to move his Giants to the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He intended to set up shop in Metropolitan Stadium, which had just been constructed in Bloomington, halfway between Minneapolis and St. Paul, for his Triple-A farm team, the Minneapolis Millers. The stadium had been built to major league specifications with the help of public funds, and Stoneham had declared there were at most two big-league parks that were better. Under baseball rules of the time, the Giants shared the MLB rights to the Twin Cities with the Dodgers, who operated the Millers' main rival, the St. Paul Saints, as one of their three Triple-A affiliates.[9]

Stoneham confided his plan to Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, who then revealed that he was negotiating to transfer the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. He suggested that Stoneham contact San Francisco Mayor George Christopher and explore moving his team there to preserve the teams' bitter rivalry. Stoneham soon abandoned his Minnesota plan and shifted his attention, permanently, to San Francisco. In 1961, the Twin Cities succeeded in getting their own big-league team when the 1901–60 incarnation of the Washington Senators moved there and became the Minnesota Twins.

Stoneham and O'Malley were vilified by New York baseball fans when their teams' boards approved the moves to the West Coast. Stoneham was confronted by fans both angry—they chanted, after their last home game on September 29: "We want Stoneham! With a rope around his neck!"[10]—and grief-stricken. During the August 19, 1957 press conference officially announcing the franchise's move to San Francisco, he explained, "Kids are still interested, but you don't see many of their parents at games."[11] (In his book Five Seasons, Roger Angell quotes Stoneham as saying, "The last day we played [at the Polo Grounds], I couldn't go to the game. I just didn't want to see it all end.")

Writer Roger Kahn said years later, during promotional tours for his book The Era 1947–57, that the deteriorating condition of the Polo Grounds, as well as the Giants' shrinking fan base, made it necessary for Stoneham to abandon New York. He noted, however, that the Dodgers—a year removed from the 1956 pennant and two from Brooklyn's first world championship—were still profitable and O'Malley's move West was motivated by a desire for even greater riches.

The Giants' transfer to San Francisco was initially a rousing success. The team began to play winning baseball and drew 1.27 and 1.42 million fans playing in a tiny (22,900 capacity) minor league ballpark, Seals Stadium, in 1958–59. Then the Giants moved to brand-new Candlestick Park in 1960 and attendance rose above 1.75 million fans. (Meanwhile, the National League returned to New York in 1962, with an expansion team, the Mets.)

1962 National League pennant

While Stoneham's San Francisco club produced only one pennant (in 1962), one National League West Division title (1971), and no World Series triumphs, the Giants of the late 1950s and 1960s were one of the most talented assemblages in the National League. They included five Hall of FamersWillie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry—and many other stars. The Giants were the first big league team to heavily scout and sign players from the Dominican Republic and brought the first Japanese player, pitcher Masanori Murakami, to the Majors in 1964.

But the National League was so powerful and competitive—it had far outpaced the American League in signing African-American and Latin American players—the Giants had only one pennant to show for a decade-plus of contention. In 1962, the team won 101 games and forced another best-of-three playoff with the Dodgers, then prevailed in the final inning of the decisive third game. In another echo of 1951, they were defeated by the Yankees in the World Series.

Stoneham was partially to blame for the Giants' lack of sustained dominance, as he squandered the resources of his productive farm system through a series of poorly advised trades, usually for starting pitchers who could complement Marichal and Perry. He also hired as his manager from 1961–64 Alvin Dark, who had a brilliant baseball mind but a poor relationship with at least some of his minority players. Dark was fired after the 1964 Giants fell just short in a wild, end-of-season pennant race; almost as notably, his dismissal came after he had made well-publicized and derogatory remarks to the press about Latin ballplayers during the season. (Dark later said he was misquoted.)[12] Long-time Durocher aide Herman Franks, Dark's successor, then produced four consecutive second-place finishes through 1968.

In 1971, Mays' final full season with San Francisco, the Giants roared to an early lead in the NL West, winning 37 of their first 51 games to build a 10+12-game margin over the Dodgers through May 31. Then they fell to earth, going only 53–58 for the rest of the season. Still, they prevailed by a single game over Los Angeles to become division champions. In the 1971 National League Championship Series, however, the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates handled Stoneham's club in four games.

In 1959, Stoneham began developing a spring training facility for the San Francisco Giants at Francisco Grande, in Casa Grande, Arizona. Francisco Grande hosted its first exhibition game in 1961, where Willie Mays hit a 375-foot home run in the fourth inning. Francisco Grande, now a hotel and golf resort, still houses various memorabilia of the San Francisco Giants of the 1960s.

Struggles during the 1970s

After their initial success, Stoneham's Giants fell on hard times after 1971. The arrival of the cross-bay Oakland Athletics in 1968 split the market. The Athletics themselves struggled at the turnstiles, leading to doubts about whether the Bay Area was big enough for two MLB teams. Attendance at cold and windy Candlestick Park plummeted after 1971 to levels even below those at the Polo Grounds in the mid-1950s; during Stoneham's final five years as owner, only in 1973 did the Giants draw more than 648,000 fans, causing Stoneham financial hardship. This was the same situation that forced him to move to San Francisco almost 20 years earlier.

Finally, in 1976, he put the team up for sale. The Giants very nearly moved back east, to Toronto, when a deal with Canadian investors seemed imminent. In addition, it was briefly rumoured that they might return to the metropolitan New York area, perhaps to a new baseball stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Instead, Stoneham sold it to San Francisco real estate magnate Bob Lurie and Phoenix, Arizona-based meat-packer Bud Herseth for $8 million, with the transaction unanimously approved by the other National League club owners on March 2, 1976.[13] The deal represented a handsome return on his father's purchase of the team for $1 million 57 years earlier.[1]

Personal life

Stoneham married his wife Valleda (née Pyke) on 14 April 1924. They had two children, son Charles Stoneman and a daughter also named Valleda. Stoneham died at age 86 in a nursing home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Garratt, Rob; Treder, Steve. "Horace Stoneham". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 18 January 2024.
  2. ^ Graham, Frank (May 1956). "The Shy Boss of the Giants". Sport: 49.
  3. ^ a b c Obituary, The New York Times, 1990-01-09
  4. ^ Angell, Roger (1977). Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 269. ISBN 9780803259508.
  5. ^ a b Durocher, Leo, with Linn, Ed, Nice Guys Finish Last. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975, pp. 235–239
  6. ^ "The Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year". Baseball Almanac.
  7. ^ a b Thornley, Stew, "The Polo Grounds (New York)", Society for American Baseball Research
  8. ^ Murphy, Robert E. (2007-06-24). "The Real Villain of New York Baseball". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-18.
  9. ^ Landers, Chris (2019-01-25). "Just why did the Dodgers and Giants move from New York to California?". Retrieved 2024-01-18.
  10. ^ Richman, Milt, Associated Press, in The Second Fireside Book of Baseball. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1958, page 292
  11. ^ Mozley, Dana. "Giants Gone; It's Frisco in '58," Daily News (New York City), Tuesday, August 20, 1957. Retrieved February February 4, 2020
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Herseth Replaces Short As Co-Owner; Rigney Named Giants Manager," United Press International, Wednesday, March 3, 1976. Retrieved February 29, 2020
  14. ^ Rogers, Thomas (1990-01-09). "Horace C. Stoneham, 86, Owner Who Moved Giants to West Coast". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-18.