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Remembering the AstroTurf years at Candlestick Park

The Giants have always looked ugly when they’ve tried to save money.

Field Hockey Coverup

The Giants have been one of the wealthiest franchises in Baseball for some time now, but there was a time in their history when they coasted solely on name recognition/brand awareness and a cavalcade of Hall of Fame-caliber names and faces.

Despite the move west, Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham found himself with a dud. The Giants simply weren’t making a lot of money. A recent industry trend had been to install AstroTurf, an artificial field material that was definitely much more about saving money on ground/lawn maintenance and the water bill than about affecting play, safeguarding player healthy, or beautifying stadiums.

There’s an archive of Bay Area news footage that I can’t embed here but which you should go and take a look at. In particular, there’s a KPIX report from February 27, 1970 that shows the grass field at Candlestick Park getting ripped out and replaced with the turf. Click this link to go watch the 1 minute, 28 second report. The description beneath the video is illustrative of the situation in its own right:

KPIX Eyewitness News footage from February 27th 1970 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, featuring views of the natural bluegrass surface being torn out and replaced with astroturf. Also includes views of the astroturf being rolled out and an interview with a groundsman, who reflects that: “This modern age, you know, everything seems to be going on the phony side, so I guess we gotta go along with the times. And not seeing grass grow out here anymore and not having to cut anything, I think I’m gonna be kind of lonesome.”

Stoneham eventually sold the team in 1976 and new owner Bob Lurie had it removed after the 1978 season, but we’ll always have that weird time period where the Giants were a conventional, struggling, bad to boring baseball team just... existing. The average record during the AstroTurf era (1970-1978) was 80-82. Just enough to keep people coming back occasionally, not enough to be interesting and with that fake field, just plain ugly.

Now the Giants have the best-looking stadium in the sport, a full history including a recent run of championships, and the top payroll in the game. Good thing those bad old days are long over.