Fans packed Seals Stadium from the first day of big league ball on the West
Coast. On April 15, in that historic opener, Ruben Gomez shut out the Dodgers,
8-0, and a rookie first baseman from Puerto Rico hit a home run in his second
Major League at-bat.
Orlando Cepeda, "the Baby Bull," went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and overshadowed the astounding Willie Mays, whom many fans viewed as New York's star, not their own.
Mays still turned in a brilliant season, batting a career-best .347 and hitting 29 homers. But without the spacious outfield of the Polo Grounds, the "Say Hey Kid" had few chances to show off the unbelievable catches he had been known for. Fans voted Cepeda as team MVP over Mays.
Although the Giants finished 12 games out in third place, they still tallied a respectable 80-74 record. More importantly, they beat the transplanted Dodgers 16 out of 22 times, keeping alive a 75-year-old rivalry.
For the first two years of their tenure in the city by the bay, the Giants
would occupy Seals Stadium, a former minor league ballpark.
Owner Horace Stoneham left New York primarily because the Polo Grounds had inadequate parking and attendance was suffering. But Seals Stadium also lacked parking, so it would only serve as a temporary residence. The city of San Francisco promised to build the Giants a new stadium, and a piece of land on Candlestick Point was chosen as the site for the ballpark.
On April 12, 1960, the Giants first took the field at Candlestick Park. On hand to christen the new stadium were Vice President Richard Nixon, who threw out the first pitch, and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.
Nixon declared it "the finest ballpark in America," but like most launches, the opening wasn't a perfectly smooth endeavor.
Vice President Richard Nixon was on hand for the opening of Candlestick Park.
"[Opening Day] was exciting because we had a brand-new ballpark, but it was not without its problems, wind being one of them," said Mike McCormick, who pitched the second game at Candlestick Park. "I think people were surprised how windy it was.
"There were a lot of design problems, things were leaking, things weren't working, pipes that weren't right," McCormick said. "Some of the bathrooms didn't work. They had put thermal heat in the concrete under box seats and that didn't work."
The toilet in the Giants' dugout had no door, but one was quickly added once it was noted that fans in some box seats could see into the dugout. In the third inning, the umpires protested the placement of the new park's foul poles, which they claimed were completely in fair territory.
But the flaws could hardly dampen the festive atmosphere that permeated the day. The Giants did their part by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1, behind a three-hitter from Giants starter "Sad" Sam Jones.
The Cardinals' Bill White (who later became president of the National League) had the honor of getting the first hit at Candlestick Park, but fittingly, the first Giants player to get a hit was homegrown star Orlando Cepeda. He smacked a two-run triple in the bottom of the first inning.
On that first sunny day, spirits were high despite the wind, but relief pitcher Stu Miller noted the honeymoon was short-lived.
"Everybody loved Seals Stadium. It was a nice, cozy ballpark," recalled Miller. "But here comes the new ballpark. We thought, 'Oh man!' but that didn't last long.
"We said, 'Wait a minute, it's a little windy here,'" Miller said with a chuckle. "We thought maybe the first windy day was an aberration, but after a week, we said, 'It looks like it's going to be that way all the time!'"
Willie Mays continued to be an offensive star despite the winds, cracking 29 homers and driving in 103 runs with a .319 average. Mays, Cepeda and Willie McCovey were joined by another future Hall of Famer when Juan Marichal made his debut mid-season with a one-hit shutout against the Phillies.