Bob Lurie spent much of his tenure as San Francisco Giants owner being vilified. After saving the team from moving to Toronto with his purchase of the franchise from Horace Stoneham in 1976, Lurie lost money nearly every year since then, declaring as early as 1984 that he was ready to sell the team. Despite having more competitive teams in the late 80’s, Lurie could not build enough goodwill to pass stadium proposals in San Francisco (twice failed), Santa Clara County and San Jose (once each). So when the 1992 season came and went and the Giants were headed towards a 90-loss season, a deal struck in the summer to sell the team to Tampa Bay interests appeared to seal the team’s fate. The $115 million sale price, which had the blessing of MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, only required a vote of National League owners to move the team. When those winter meetings came around, the sale was rejected by a 9-4 vote, allowing SF interests one last chance to put together a local ownership group and creating a legal mess for MLB to untangle many years later.
During that ordeal, Lurie famously got the blessing of A’s owner Walter Haas to pursue the South Bay, which was during the late 80’s undesignated territory for MLB. After Lurie twice struck out in the South Bay and Peter Magowan’s group purchased the Giants for a lesser sum of $100 million (including $10 million of Lurie’s own money), the incoming group had South Bay territorial rights grandfathered. For years, the Giants have changed their rationale for keeping the territory, starting with the claimed inability to cover debt service payments on AT&T Park. Now the reasoning has settled with “half of the fan base” coming from the South Bay, or the Peninsula, or something else that sounds good. Lurie had something to say about that as well:
“It is the Giants’ territory, and they’ll certainly protect it. We used to draw at least half our attendance from the Peninsula, and I know the Giants don’t want to lose that association. At the same time, the A’s definitely deserve a much better stadium.”
In Lurie’s advanced age, he’s deserved the right to voice whatever opinion he likes about this and many other subjects, whether he sounds strident or diplomatic. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that he singled out the Peninsula, not the South Bay, which may sound like distinct areas but in terms of mindset have a tendency to blur.
Historically, the definition of the Peninsula begins with the northern limit of San Mateo County (Daly City, Brisbane) south along 101 and 280, past the Palo Alto-Menlo Park border (county line) and down to Mountain View. For many the Valley (somewhat synonymous with the South Bay) begins at Sunnyvale and Cupertino and covers the rest of Santa Clara County. Of course, Silicon Valley has an even more amorphous definition, with some saying it extends up to Redwood City, San Bruno, or even San Francisco. All of this confusion only adds to the sense of provinciality that pervades much of the Bay Area.
Lurie’s quote provides little insight into the inner workings of baseball, except that there’s something to be said for what may happen to your own initiative if MLB decides to wait a while. Perhaps someone at the BASHOF induction ceremony can ask Corey Busch about that. Busch, you may remember, is part of the three-man “Blue Ribbon” panel figuring out what to do with the A’s.
P.S. – Speaking of opinions, Murray Chass has his own about Bud Selig and the mess the A’s are in. (Thanks Tony)