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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Ojeda

Oracle Park - San Francisco Giants

Photos by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57

Oracle Park 24 Willie Mays Plaza San Francisco, CA 94107

Year Opened: 2000 Capacity: 41,503


Twenty-five Seasons by McCovey Cove

The San Francisco Giants have a deep baseball history that dates back to their golden days in New York. Established in 1883 as the New York Gothams, they would be renamed three years later as the New York Giants. There would be many a memorable moment for the New York Giants franchise such as Willie Mays over the over-the-shoulder catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series and Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” in 1951. All told the New York Giants would win 14 pennants and five World Series championships.

With decreasing attendance and the Polo Grounds deteriorating, like their longtime nemesis from Brooklyn, the Giants were seeking a new yard. During this time, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, looking to move to Los Angeles after a failed attempt of their own for a new yard, convinced Giants majority owner Horace Stoneham to move out west and so for the first time in 1958, Major League Baseball would have two franchises west of the Mississippi.

The Giants would take up temporary residence at Seals Stadium. Upon arriving in The City, Stoneham was searching for a spot where his team could call their own. During a visit to Candlestick Point on the shore of San Francisco Bay, he ventured through the area on a nice warm morning when the winds were calm. Little did he know what would “blow” ahead…

Candlestick Park would be the Giants home for 40 seasons from 1960 -1999. Throughout the years, nightly winds accompanied by the city’s fog would wreak havoc on players from both teams. Candlestick would be enclosed in 1970 to accommodate the 49ers move from Kezar Stadium, but winds remained so unpredictable that routine fly balls were anything but.

Food & Beverage 5

San Francisco is a city that loves to eat. The variety throughout the yard, from the simple hot dogs and brats to the various ethnic choices is vast and too much to list. Whatever your dining pleasure is, you will not go wrong.

One of the many plentiful food items the locals love is their garlic fries. The aroma from the fries is evident throughout the entire stadium as the smell of garlic permeates throughout the concourses onto the stands. The variety of fine ballpark dining options is reason alone to arrive early.

Among the favorites here are the Crazy Crab’z Sandwich, a fresh Dungeness crab on grilled sourdough bread, as well as The Baby Bull Carved Tri-Tip Sandwich and the Cha Cha Bowl, which comes with jerk chicken, white rice, and black beans topped with pineapple salsa; the latter two in honor of Giant legend Orlando Cepeda, known during his playing days as “The Baby Bull.”

Oracle Park Crazy Crab Stand, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey

Craving some Filipino finger foods? The Lumpia Company is a locally owned lumpia hotspot serving a variety of fried spring roll options including a Shanghai-style lumpia with ground pork, diced shrimp, carrots, and water chestnuts, a vegan option with kale, potatoes, and roasted mushrooms, and a bacon cheeseburger lumpia stuffed with beef, smoky bacon, cheddar, and onions. If you want to keep it simple I highly recommend the pork and shrimp lumpia. 

Oracle Park Lumpia, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey

Beverages available are your usual Coke products as well as a wide variety of domestic and import draft and bottled beer, wine, and specialty cocktails.

Ghirardelli, a San Francisco institution, offers fans a sweet tooth of hot fudge sundaes, 2 scoop waffle cones, and hot cocoa for those cold evening games. The ice cream flavors are simple, Ghirardelli Chocolate and vanilla. While nothing spectacular, the options Ghirardelli offers are something you may want to enjoy at the yard as part of the Oracle Park and San Francisco experience. 

Atmosphere 5

The vibe one gets is evident as you approach the yard. Since its opening in 2000, Oracle Park has featured some of the busiest turnstiles in all of baseball. From the views beyond the bay to the nightly breeze, Oracle Park, with its gorgeous surroundings anchored by the bay, has done more than its share to bring baseball fans to its gem.

Adding to the San Francisco atmosphere, an actual cable car is located in the right-center field arcade. The car, originally car #4 formerly #504, is now numbered 44 in honor of Willie McCovey. To take in one of the many true “Oracle Park/San Francisco Experiences,” fans are encouraged to take in an inning.

Neighborhood 4

Once an industrial area that occupied World War 2 storage units, Oracle Park has certainly helped revitalize the surrounding area since its opening in 2000. Located in the district known as China Basin, the area around the yard has seen its share of high-end luxury units migrate into the neighborhood.

Among the popular pre and post-game hangouts are MoMo’s and Lucky Strike, conveniently located across the street from the yard’s grand entrance, Willie Mays Plaza on 3rd, and King. MoMo’s is right around the corner on 2nd and King.

If you are looking to explore the area during your visit to China Basin, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority offers trolley service to and from the yard, with the “N” line taking fans by historic Golden Gate Park with stations along Market Street in downtown connecting you to other trolley and transit lines to explore other parts of The City. Speaking of the Golden Gate, if it’s that highly talked about bridge you want to visit, you can take the “N” to Judah Street and 19th Avenue and transfer to bus line 28. The 28 will drop you off right at the foot of the bridge.

Fisherman’s Wharf is not far from the yard either. One could walk along King Street through The Embarcadero to The Wharf and enjoy the sweeping views of the bay throughout the approximately 3-mile walk. Or one could take one of San Francisco’s vintage street cars to The Wharf as well. Scoffed by locals as being touristy, if it’s your first time venturing into The City, you may still want to pay a visit to The Wharf and grab yourself a crab sandwich or some chowder on sourdough from one of the many vendors. One of my favorite activities to do at The Wharf is visiting the sea lions along the pier at the Sea Lion Center.

Fans 4

With San Francisco being one of the most expensive cities to live in, the crowd can be upscale. Even with such an upscale crowd, the fan base is diverse. Though San Franciscans can have a reputation of being the wine and cheese type; that does not prevent the locals from showing off their passion for the home nine.

Inside Car 44, Photo by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey

With a lineup full of young prospects the Giants continue to average over 30,000 fans a game, putting them among the upper half of the league.

Access 4

Navigating through the concourses can be a bit of a challenge, especially a promenade along the arcade. This is mostly due to space limitations during the building of this gem. Otherwise, strolling the park is highly encouraged to soak in all the beautiful vantage points.

Parking can not only be a challenge but also extremely pricey. However, depending on how far you’re willing to walk you may be able to find a spot starting at $20

Public transit is highly recommended. The SFMTA N-Line trolley drops fans off directly across the street from the yard along King Street as well as a few other bus lines that are within the vicinity of the yard. If you’re heading to or coming from Union Square or Chinatown the T-Line trolley has a stop one block from the yard on 4th and King. Both the trolley and transit lines provide connections to most other Bay Area transit options, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) for fans coming from points stretching as far south as San Francisco International stretching to Oakland and beyond the East Bay.

Return on Investment 5

Starting prices for most games have recently become reasonable. Weeknight games and perhaps some weekend games, depending on the opponent, can be purchased for as low as $10. 

Even tickets for games against their longtime rivals from L.A. have been reasonably priced with tickets starting at $35. 

If you have a chance and want a full experience of everything Oracle Park has to offer, try a couple of weeknight games on the cheap and take full advantage of the Oracle Park experience. It will certainly rank high among your ballpark experiences.

Extras 5

One of the more recent upgrades fans will notice this season was made to enhance the sound and lighting system. If the Giants enter the visiting 9th with a slight lead, fans will be treated to a Hollywood-like spectacle as closer Camilo Doval trots in from the bullpen to finish off the visitors. 

Should you decide to bring the little ones and they get restless, the Coca-Cola Superslide, a green Coke bottle with a children’s slide inside, is one of the park’s most visible features alongside the Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove. (It’s really hard to miss those two features…) Both features are located behind the left-field stands. Should you decide to continue exploring more of what the yard has to offer, walk along the concourse beyond the Arcade, located behind the right field stands.

As you walk along the concourse you will not only be offered beautiful views of the Bay Bridge but you will be a stone’s throw away from McCovey Cove, where you will see kayakers awaiting a Splash Hit. 

Limited on funds? How ‘bout some free baseball? That’s right folks! The Portwalk, located beyond the right field wall outside the yard along McCovey Cove, allows fans to peek into the action. Fans are permitted free viewing every three innings, however, depending on the size of the crowd and the discretion of Giants management, it is possible that one could spend a whole 9 innings or more viewing a free MLB game. Who doesn’t love free baseball?

Another recent addition, this one for kayakers and those strolling along the portwalk is a 12-foot screen mounted above the portwalk. 

Final Thoughts

After years and years of vying for a new stadium, groundbreaking would begin in the industrial waterfront area known as China Basin on December 11, 1997. Known then as Pacific Bell Park, this would be the first privately built MLB park since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. Even with the anticipation and excitement of a new yard, fans could not have envisioned the beauty of a gem they continue to frequent.

Since the opening of Camden Yards in 1992, 21 other yards have opened. With two no longer used for baseball, Oracle Park, now in its 25th season, is just as vibrant as the day it opened to such grand fanfare on April 11, 2000. 

If visiting The City for the first time, it is a good idea to pack some warm clothing and a sizable budget. San Francisco can be surprisingly chilly for the first-time visitor expecting some warm California weather. Oracle Park is as iconic to San Francisco as its Golden Gate Bridge. Lodging and other activities in The City, as well as any other major tourist activity, are anything but cheap but can be well worth the visit.

One visit to this beauty and you will see why Oracle Park consistently ranks among the top ballpark experiences among baseball fans. As you walk away to the tune of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” a piece of your heart will undoubtedly be left at 3rd and King.

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