Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Before the Giants came to San Francisco in 1958, the San Francisco Seals baseball team enraptured the city in love. They featured players such as the DiMaggio brothers and Lefty Gomez. Players such as these and so many more went on to star in the MLB. The Seals were not just good, they featured some of the greatest minor league teams of all time. What follows is an overview of the San Francisco Seals.
The San Francisco Seals were a charter member of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) which was founded in 1903. In their inaugural season, they were sometimes known as the Stars but kept the Seals name in subsequent seasons. They played their games at Recreation Park in those early years and were contenders for the league championship. They won their first championship in 1909 under manager Daniel Long with a 132-80 record. The Seals wandered around the middle of the league for the next few years, finishing no better than third. After spending a year at Ewing Field, the Seals returned to Recreation Park in 1915 and won the league championship, posting a 118-89 record under first year manager Harry Wolverton.
The Seals slipped to a .500 record the following year but won the league championship in 1917. That was when World War I was heating up and as a result the team had two managers for the year, Harry Wolverton and Jerry Downs. The Great War forced the 1919 season to be suspended and the team finished with an incomplete 51-51 record.
Charlie Graham failed to manage the team to a championship in three years at the helm. Those three post-war years gave the ownership the insight into who they wanted to run their team. Dots Miller was their man and he led the team to a 1922 league championship with a 127-72 record. Miller was diagnosed with tuberculosis the following year and passed away on September 5, 1923. Herbert Ellison took Miller's place and managed the team to another championship in 1923 with a 124-77 record.
Ellison led the team to another championship in 1925 and left the following season. Nick Williams took Ellison’s place at the helm and won the league championship in 1928. In all, the San Francisco Seals won four league championships in the 1920’s.
The Glory Years
The 1930’s started off well with the Seals moved into their permanent home, Seals Stadium in 1931. It was a good decade for the Seals but they only won two league championships; winning in 1931 with Nick Williams and 1935 with Lefty O’Doul. It was with Lefty O’Doul when the Seals would truly grasp their greatness as a minor league team. In between those championship seasons, Joe DiMaggio played for the Seals from 1932 to 1935 and his brother Vince played with the team during the 1932 and 1933 seasons.
The team won the league championship from 1943 to 1946 with O’Doul. The 1946 season was arguably the Seals greatest season with a 115-68 record. O’Doul left following the 1951 season. He was the Seals greatest manager winning five PCL championships and going to the playoffs 10 times.
The Seals won one final PCL championship in 1957 under Joe Gordon before leaving for Arizona following the season. The Giants were coming to town and the Seals ownership realized that it was only a matter of time before they would eventually go out of business. They were renamed the Phoenix Giants and were the San Francisco Giants top farm team for a number of years. Eventually, they were displaced by the Arizona Diamondbacks when that franchise was born in 1998. Since then the Seals have wandered around from state to state and have changed their name many times. Despite the moves and name changes, their legacy lives on in the minor leagues and within the Giants organization. In 55 years of operation in San Francisco, the Seals won 14 PCL championships. As a tribute to the Seal's legacy, the Giant’s named their mascot after the team, Lou Seal.