It wasn't always fun to be a Giants fan. Especially in 1976.
Then-owner Horace Stoneham — who 18 seasons earlier broke New Yorkers' hearts by shipping their baseball club out West — was set on devastating a whole new fan base. Almost broke, Stoneham threatened to sell the Giants to a buyer in Toronto.
But then a little local man stepped in with $8 million worth of investment backing. And the team stayed. That move, perhaps more than any other, is why Bob Lurie is in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is such a great thrill,” said Lurie, who was officially inducted Wednesday along with former A's manager Tony La Russa, former De La Salle football coach Bob Ladouceur, Olympic track gold medalist Jim Hines and Sharks great Owen Nolan. “I had heard a rumor, but I didn't believe it.”
Lurie owned the Giants from 1976 to 1993 and led the team to its first playoff appearance since 1971 in 1987 against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. The Giants lost in seven games.
“Once you get there … and then lose like we lose, it really hurts,” Lurie said. “But it was really one of the highlights of my life.”
Lurie was also there when La Russa's A's swept his Giants in the 1989 earthquake World Series. But that 1989 memory for La Russa — who earned two additional rings with the Cardinals (2006 and 2011) — isn't all that gratifying.
“I really am not happy at all with the way that I managed those two World Series,” La Russa said of his A's teams losing in 1988 and 1990. “With those teams, to have three chances and winning one. I mean, that's something that will haunt me forever.”
But La Russa's frowning bronze face on the Hall of Fame plaque won't likely cause the same amount of haunt.
“I'm surprised I wasn't smiling,” La Russa sarcastically said of the cast. “That's very inaccurate.”
But the others were smiling. Like Nolan, the Irish-born 2002 Canadian Olympic hockey gold medalist who 14 seasons ago proved to be bold in leading the eighth-seeded Sharks over the President Trophy-winning St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
Like Hines, the Oakland kid who in 1968 claimed two gold medals en route to becoming the fastest man on Earth.
Or like Ladouceur, who guided De La Salle to seven national championships, 17 state titles and a national-record 151-game winning streak.
Every one of those respected feats is special. And more than worthy of a place in this year's Hall of Fame.
Class of 2014
This year's Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame inductees:
Tony La Russa, A's manager (1986-95); won one of his three World Series with A's in 1989 (others came with St. Louis); his 2,728 victories are third-most in major-league history
Bob Ladouceur, De La Salle football coach (1992-2004); had 12 consecutive undefeated seasons as part of a national-record 151-game winning streak; career record of 399-25-3
Jim Hines, track and field; 1964 graduate of McClymonds High School in Oakland was first to crack 10-second mark in 100 meters (9.9 seconds at 1968 U.S. National Championship); bettered that mark at ensuing Olympics (9.5 seconds)
Bob Lurie, Giants owner (1976-1993); his purchase of the team in 1973 prevented the team from moving to Toronto; he sold the team in 1993 after threatening to move to St. Petersburg, Fla.
Owen Nolan, Sharks forward (1995-2003); was No. 1 overall pick by Quebec in 1990 NHL Draft; is third in Sharks history in goals and assists; was team captain from 1998-2003