On the eve of the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres recent two-game series in Mexico City, the Chronicle ran a long piece by Susan Slusser on April 28 about “The Giants’ Mission for MLB.” The first sentence implied she might review the relevant history: “Baseball is nothing new in Mexico’s largest city.” But her focus would be on future earnings. The Chronicle could have played the story on the business page.
“The big thing for us is this could be the No. 1 growth area for our sport in general,” Giants general manger Larry Baer told Slusser. “It’s also a young market, and those are two things we’re focused on — young, diverse markets.”
Both the Giants and Padres “have sent officials to talk to local travel professionals, travel writers and event organizers to tout the charms of San Francisco and San Diego. Mexico already sends more tourists to San Francisco than any other country, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, but with tourism down overall, a market like Mexico City — with about 23 million people — is all the more important.
“Baseball is understanding more and more that the travel industry is part of this,” said Joey Nevin, a vice president with Giants Enterprises, a division of the franchise that helps stage tours, concerts and other events at and near Oracle Park. He’s made presentations to nearly 200 trade representatives in two days. ‘You bring people to a town, you take a tour and they can bring their group to a game. It’s a total brand builder.’
“We’re finding there are a lot of connections with Mexican businesses in San Francisco, whether it’s potential sponsors from California coming here or the Giants getting sponsors from here,” Baer said. “It’s like a virtuous cycle.”
Helping MLB expand to Mexico City will be “a win-win-win” for the Giants, Slusser assures us. She quotes Giants’ general counsel Matt Valdez: “Baseball needs to grow, we need to expand and we have such historic roots in Latin America, and it makes so much sense.” She notes that Valdez is “a San Franciscan of Mexican descent… the team’s point person for the series.”
Chicanos up front?
Valdez undoubtedly knows the poignant history that didn’t make it into Slusser’s account of the Giants’ looming “win-win-win” – the firing of Sal Maglie by Horace Stoneham in the spring of 1946 because Maglie had entertained an offer to play in the Mexican League. The Commissioner of Baseball (representing the club owners) then decreed that Maglie and the 21 other major leaguers who had “jumped” to play in Mexico would be banned from the US major leagues for five years!
1947 is celebrated as the year that when Jackie Robinson was signed by Branch Rickey. It was also the year that Sal Maglie was blacklisted by Happy Chandler.