Have the Giants regained their spot as the No. 1 team in the Bay Area and Northern California? You might think so if you go to a Giants game at AT&T Park. But then, you’d change your mind if you went to a 49ers game at Candlestick.
When the Giants first came to San Francisco, it was a huge story. Baseball was the No. 1 sport in the country and the Giants and Dodgers were the first teams to move west. The Giants owned the Bay Area through the ’60s with a colorful team that had Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, all now in the Hall of Fame, as well as two other Hall of Famers, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry, for part of that time.
But the national sports scene was changing. Pro football was taking over, and that change was reflected in the ’70s, when the 49ers became the favorite team, in the Bay Area and Northern California.
A local columnist decided recently that the pecking order had changed because the Bay Area ranked higher in some areas of TV ratings for the Giants’ World Series win than the 49ers’ appearance in the Super Bowl, but that’s apples and oranges.
The World Series is important only to those people living in the cities represented, and hardly at all to anybody in the East, with games ending at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time or later. The Super Bowl is an event watched by millions across the country, televised in prime time in the East. And many people watch at parties. The TV ratings measure only the sets tuned in, not the actual watchers.
Right now, both teams are poised for more success on the field. Though the Dodgers’ spending has gone through the roof under the new owners, there is no evidence they’ve put together a superior team. I’d bet on the Giants to win the division again, which will give them another shot at the ultimate prize.
The 49ers, too, have a strong organization, led by general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, and they’ve kept most of last year’s team together. They also will have 14 draft picks to fill holes, and I’d expect they’d package draft picks to move up in the first round if they’re targeting a specific player.
We can’t know what to expect from the 49ers’ new stadium but for this year, the Giants have a huge advantage in venue.
AT&T Park is a great place, artfully built to cut off the wind which sweeps through the area, except for some seats in the corners of the upper deck. The problem for baseball teams historically has been selling season tickets for so many games, but the Giants have eliminated that problem by making the games an experience, with something for everybody. There are food locations scattered around the park, playgrounds for children, TV sets throughout so you can follow the action if you’re away from your seat.
They’ve also won two World Series in the past three years. But for more than 40 years, my mail from readers has shown a consistent bias for the 49ers. That hasn’t changed. The Giants are very popular, but they’re No. 2.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.