Former Giants owner Peter Magowan dies

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Peter Magowan, the man who formed and led the ownership group that saved major league baseball in the City of the San Francisco, died of cancer yesterday at the age of 76.

While the Giants are now one of the most financially successful teams in Major League Baseball, that was not always the case. Indeed, due to poor revenues and attendance and an inability to get out of the less-than-ideal Candlestick Park, by 1992 it looked as though the team would abandon San Francisco altogether. The team’s then-owner, Bob Lurie, had a deal in place to move to the then-new and then-vacant ballpark in St. Petersburg that would later be named Tropicana Field. Magowan, a lifelong Giants fan who made his fortune as the chairman and CEO of Safeway grocery stores, stepped in and purchased the team from Lurie for $100 million, keeping the team in San Francisco. He was just getting started.

Before the paperwork was even complete on the purchase of the team, Magowan made two moves that would go a long way toward reshaping Giants baseball. He signed free agent outfielder Barry Bonds to a then-tremendous six-year, $43.5 million deal. He also hired Dusty Baker as the team’s new manager. Bonds, the 1992 MVP with the Pirates, won his second straight MVP Award in his first season in San Francisco and Baker led the team to 103 wins, a 31-win improvement over the previous year’s record. The team’s fortunes would ebb and flow for the remainder of the decade, but the success of 1993 and Bonds’ star power sparked newfound enthusiasm for the team.

That enthusiasm would eventually lead to a new home for the team when Magowan put together a plan to build the first privately-funded major league ballpark in decades. Pacific Bell Park, which would later be named SBC Park, AT&T Park and is now known as Oracle Park, opened on San Francisco’s waterfront in 2000. It was and remains one of the most gorgeous ballparks in the game, and has been filled to or near capacity for most Giants games for nearly two decades now. The Giants made the playoffs four times in Magowan’s 16-years as owner, including winning the 2002 National League pennant. He stepped down as chairman in 2008, but the ownership group he formed continues to run the team to this day. The Giants, of course, won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Magowan’s accomplishments extended beyond the game on the field. Among other charitable and community outreach initiatives, at his direction the Giants became the first professional sports team to dedicate an annual game to combat AIDS/HIV, launching “Until There’s A Cure Day” in 1994. He likewise helped the Giants reconnect with a rich franchise history that was often neglected under previous ownership, bringing, among others, Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry into the organization as ambassadors and special advisors. In one of his last acts as an active owner he established the Giants Wall of Fame. He himself will be added to that Wall of Fame in a ceremony next month.

Magowan is survived by wife Debby, five children and 12 grandchildren. His family issued the following statement upon his passing:

“Our family lost a great man today. We all know how much Peter loved his Giants and San Francisco, and he had that same love and passion for his family. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren, and we will forever cherish the memories we made together.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement as well:

“During a tenuous period for the franchise, Peter stepped up and led the group that purchased the Giants and kept them in San Francisco. With groundbreaking vision, he then guided the effort that resulted in a ballpark that became a landmark for the city. In his 16 seasons of leadership, Peter oversaw a winning, civic-minded ballclub that represented the spirit of San Francisco. The foundation created under his direction helped make the Giants the model club they remain today.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.