Seals Stadium was built for the minor league San Francisco Seals, the team where Joe DiMaggio and his lesser-known brothers Dominic and Vince got their start. Until 1938, however, the San Francisco Missions also played there as the home team, which is why there was a third locker room there. Seals Stadium had a simple one-deck design but had elegant architectural stonework on the outside and an Art Deco ticket sales / office building near the right field corner. It was situated in an elevated spot, providing fans with an impressive view of the Mission District. The land was sloped, with the field at ground level in right field, and about 30 feet higher behind the grandstand on the third base side. In back of the stadium there was a tall Hamm's Beer brewery. ("From the land of sky blue waters...") Across 16th Street beyond right field was Franklin Square, a small park. The third base side of the grandstand was shorter than the right side because 15th Street made an odd bend near the left foul pole. In the late 1940s, bleachers were added in right field, presumably at about the same time that light towers were installed. In 1951, an inner fence was built in left field, reducing the distance down the line from 365 to 347 feet. Much like what the Pittsburgh Pirates did at Forbes Field, the gap was named "Paul's Porch," for the franchise owner Paul Fagan, but it was removed before the 1952 season began. I have seen no basis for the original left field distance of 340 feet that was given by Lowry in Green Cathedrals.
The Giants played at Seals Stadium for two years while Candlestick Park was under construction. With its long foul line distances, relatively standard distance to center, tight foul territory, and roofless, wide-open grandstand, it is hard to imagine a sharper contrast to the Giants' former home in the Polo Grounds. The outfield fences were angled inward, perpendicular to their respective portions of the grandstand, so that the power alleys were relatively modest in length, much like Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. The left field bleachers were added in time for the Giants' arrival, but the seating capacity of 22,900 was still woefully inadequate for Major League games. (Some photographs suggest that the left half of the bleachers in left field were several feet higher than those on the right side, but aerial photographs fail to corroborate that, so it may simply be that the bleachers were steeper on the left side.) Meanwhile, the Dodgers, the other migrants from New York (Brooklyn), were playing in gigantic Memorial Coliseum, which had a capacity of nearly 100,000. The fence in front of the center field scoreboard was moved several times over the years. According to Lowry (2007), the outfield dimensions were reduced slightly between 1958 and 1959, but I have seen no photographic evidence of this, and the latter dimensions appear more reliable. The distance to the right field corner was probably 354 feet; the 350 foot figure pertains to the corner of the bleachers. One odd feature of Seals Stadium was that it never had dirt warning tracks, one of the last major league ballparks without them.
In July 1959 Willie McCovey played his first major league game in Seals Stadium, just a few months before the Giants moved out and demolition began. Today an automobile dealer and grocery store occupy the land where it once stood.
SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Pastier (2007), Ritter (1992), Gershman (1993), Sacramento Bee
FAN TIPS: Bruce Orser, Bill Kalenborn