Fans bid farewell to owner Peter Magowan


Peter Magowan, who saved the Giants from moving to Florida in the 1990s, died of cancer in January.

Steven Rissotto ’20, Sports Editor

Former San Francisco Giants owner and CEO of Safeway, Peter Magowan, died in late January at the age of 76. He was gravely ill and died after a long battle with prostate and liver cancer.


In 1993, the San Francisco Giants were in clear jeopardy of leaving the City by the Bay and unleashing a new journey in St. Petersburg, Florida when owner Bob Lurie was in the final stages of selling the franchise. Meanwhile, Magowan was entering his 14th year as the CEO of a California grocery store chain, Safeway.


After graduating Stanford University and Oxford University, Magowan followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle in the grocery business. Safeway was Magowan’s life and he was ultimately named CEO of the company in 1979. When he heard that the Giants were heading to Tampa Bay, he couldn’t resist a golden opportunity to help save his boyhood team.


The then 51-year old Magowan organized a group of investors to buy the team from Lurie for a total of $100 million, which was considered a huge amount of money back then. The group consisted of Sterling Bank founder Scott Seligman, billionaire and Yale donor Charles Johnson, and current CEO Larry Baer. The last minute deal kept the Giants in San Francisco and created a legacy that was just beginning for Magowan.


Even before the deal was officially struck, Magowan had his eyes on free agent outfielder Barry Bonds, who had Bay Area and organization ties. Bonds grew up in San Carlos and his father, Bobby, had been a All-Star for the Giants in the late 60s and early 70s. Bonds was ecstatic and ditched an offer from the deeper pockets of the New York Yankees. The left fielder’s six-year, $43.75 million deal was the highest ever for any big leaguer.


Magowan’s next task was finding a new home for the orange and black after the 1989 Earthquake weakened the already weak Candlestick Park, which was considered the lousiest place to watch a game for the average baseball fan practically from the time it was built.


Due to the threat of more earthquakes, the City and County of San Francisco declined to help finance. Magowan took it upon himself to privately fund the 42,000 capacity ballpark on the shores of San Francisco Bay in China Basin, worth $357 million.


At what is now called Oracle Park, fans enjoy the scenery view of 24 palm trees in honor of Willie Mays just outside the park.


The water just beyond the right field wall is dubbed McCovey Cove in honor of the late Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey. The bullpen mounds are located on the side of the field, which Magowan took from his favorite ballpark, the historic Wrigley Field in Chicago.


Magowan’s tenure at the helm of the Giants lasted until the end of the 2008 season. Shortly after, the Giants went on a run that would bring them three World Series titles in five years, something that Magowan’s legacy orchestrated. San Francisco fans will always be grateful to Magowan for saving the team, bringing Bonds home, giving the Giants a new home, and winning three World Series.