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Horace Stoneham

Sport: Baseball

Born: April 27, 1903

Died: January 9, 1990

Town: Newark

Horace Charles Stoneham was born April 27, 1903 in Newark. His father, Charles, was a Manhattan stock market wheeler-dealer with an appetite for women and wagering. Horace was educated at various private schools in the city, as well as the Hun School in Princeton. He graduated from Trinity-Pawling School in Dutchess County, New York.

When Horace was 15, his father headed a group that purchased the New York Giants baseball team. Horace went to work for the club around the age of 20, working his way up (at his father’s insistence) from the grounds crew to the ticket office to the executive suite.

Charles Stoneham’s endless legal hassles and ill health made him a hands-off owner during the decade-and-a-half he controlled the team. When Horace inherited the Giants after his father’s death in 1936, he was an experienced baseball man at the tender age of 32. He worked together with his managers and general managers—include his nephew, Chub Feeney—to negotiate contracts and make player decisions. Horace also oversaw the establishment of the club''s top minor league club, the Jersey City Giants, in Roosevelt Stadium, mainting his Garden State roots.

The Giants won pennants on Horace’s watch in 1936, 1937, 1951, 1954 and 1962. The 1954 team swept the Indians in the World Series. Under Stoneham, the Giants put some of the first African-American stars on a big-league field, including Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson and Willie Mays. They also were one the first teams to mine baseball talent in the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic.

As the neighborhood around the Polo Grounds declined in the postwar years and affluent fans moved to the suburbs, attendance steadily declined. In 1956, the football Giants moved across the river to Yankee Stadium, depriving Horace of a lucrative tenant. In 1957, Stoneham decided to move the team. His plan was to relocate to Minneapolis until Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley convinced him to join him in California, where the two clubs could continue their decades-old rivalry.

The Giants drew extremely well in San Francisco, and moved into a new stadium (Candlestick Park) in 1960. Their star-studded lineup in the 1960s included Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, Jim Ray Hart, Tom Haller, Jim Davenport, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Mike McCormick. They won the just one pennant during the decade, however—in 1962—and lost to the Yankees in the World Series. Horace was loyal to his favorite players, often to a fault. Indeed, in at least a half-dozen seasons, a slightly better roster might have been enough to win the pennat.

In the 1970s, Horace had to deal with the arrival of the dynamic Oakland A’s, who syphoned off hundreds of thousands of baseball fans. As one of the last major sports owners who derived his income solely from his team, Horace had no choice but to sell the Giants. Potential buyers considered moves to Toronto and possibly to New Jersey, but the eventual buyer, Bob Lurie, kept the club in the Bay Area.

Horace retired to Arizona and for the most part disassociated himself from baseball. He passed away in 1990 and the age of 86.

 

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