AT&T Park is an open-air ballpark, home to the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball. The park also hosts the Emerald Bowl, a college football bowl game, every year. The park is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, at the corner of 3rd Street and King Street in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California.
Formerly known as SBC Park and Pacific Bell Park, the stadium was officially renamed AT&T Park on March 3 2006, just two years after it adopted the SBC Park name. SBC Communications, the flagship sponsor of the park, merged with AT&T Corp. in 2005 and the new AT&T Inc. took the more iconic name for their company. This marked the third official name for the park since its opening in 2000.
When it opened on March 31 2000, the ballpark was the first Major League park built without public funds since the completion of Dodger Stadium in 1962. However, the Giants did receive a $10 million tax abatement from the city and $80 million for upgrades to the local infrastructure (including a connection to the Muni Metro). The Giants have a 66-year lease on the ballpark site, paying $1.2 million in rent annually to the San Francisco Port Commission. The park opened with a seating capacity of 40,800, but this has increased over time as seats have been added.
In just its first few years of existence, the ballpark has seen its share of historic events primarily due to veteran Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. On April 17, 2001, Bonds hit his 500th career home run at then Pacific Bell Park. Later that year, he set the single season home run record when he hit home runs number 71, 72, and 73 over the weekend of October 5 to close the season. On August 9, 2002, Bonds hit his 600th career home run at the park. On April 12, 2004, Bonds hit career home run 660 at SBC Park to tie Willie Mays for third on the all-time list and on the next night, he hit number 661 to move into sole possession of third place. On September 17 2004, Bonds hit his 700th career home run at the park to become just the third member of baseball's 700 club. On May 28, 2006, Bonds hit his 715th home run at the park to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list. On August 7, 2007, Bonds hit his 756th home run, breaking Hank Aaron's record.
The park hosted the 2002 World Series against the Anaheim Angels, which the Giants lost four games to three. It also hosted the 2007 MLB All-Star Game, which the American League won 5-4 over the National League.
Pacific Bell, a local telephone company in the San Francisco Bay Area, purchased the naming rights for the park for $50 million over 24 years when the park opened. Pacific Bell's parent SBC Communications eventually dropped the Pacific Bell name and reached an agreement with the Giants to change the park's name on January 1 2004. The name change upset some fans, leaving them in the awkward position of desiring the park's former corporate name.
After SBC merged with AT&T on November 18 2005, the name of the merged company became AT&T, Inc. As a result, the stadium was given its third name in six years: "AT&T Park." Fans still refer to the stadium as "Pac Bell Park", as it was the first name given to the stadium. Others have named the stadium "The Phone Booth" or "Telephone Park", for the constant name changes, as well as "Mays Field" in honor of Giants great Willie Mays or simply "The Bell". Many also refer to the stadium as "China Basin" after its location, which would be immune to changes in sponsorship naming. The city and Caltrans required PacBell/SBC/AT&T to reimburse them for costs associated with changing signs on streets, freeways and public transport vehicles.
The stadium contains 68 luxury suites, 5,200 club seats on the club level and an additional 1,500 club seats at the field level behind home plate.
On the facing of the upper deck along the left field line are the retired numbers of Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Jackie Robinson, Willie McCovey, and Gaylord Perry as well as the retired uniforms, denoted "NY", of Christy Mathewson and John McGraw who played or managed in the pre-number era. These two pre-number era retired uniforms are among only six such retired uniforms in all of the Major Leagues.
Lining the foul portion of the wall are rubber chickens, which are put up by fans whenever a Giants player (especially Barry Bonds) is intentionally walked. The fans do this to show that the opposing team is "chicken" for not pitching right to the Giants players. To some old-timers, the right field area vaguely suggests the layout at the Polo Grounds. This deep corner of the ballpark has been dubbed "Death Valley" and "Triples' Alley." Like its Polo Grounds counterpart, it is very difficult to hit a home run to this area, and a batted ball that finds its way into this corner often results in a triple. Triples' Alley is also infamous for bad bounces, most notably when Ichiro Suzuki hit the first-ever inside the park home run in an All-Star Game by lining the ball off one of the archways and sideways past the outfielders.
Beyond right field is a section of the bay, dubbed McCovey Cove after famed Giants first baseman Willie McCovey, into which a number of home runs have been hit on the fly. As of July 2, 2008, 47 "Splash Hits" had been knocked into the Cove by Giants players since the park opened; 35 of those were by Barry Bonds. Opponents had hit the water on the fly 17 times; Todd Hundley of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the first visitor to do so on June 30, 2000. Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cliff Floyd of the Chicago Cubs are the only visiting players to do so twice, while Carlos Delgado of the New York Mets has performed the feat three times. Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros became the first Astro to hit a "Splash Hit" on May 15, 2008. Barry Bonds is the Giant who has hit the most home runs into "The Cove" as Giants fans call it.
Behind the scoreboard in center field there is a pier where ferries can tie up and let off fans right at the park. On game days, fans take to the water of McCovey Cove in boats and even in kayaks, often with fishing nets in the hope of collecting a home run ball. (This echoes what used to happen during McCovey's playing days. Before Candlestick Park's upper deck was extended, the area behind right field was occupied by three small bleacher sections and a lot of open space. Kids in those bleachers would gather behind the right field fence when "Stretch" would come to the plate). Just beyond the wall is a public waterfront promenade, where fans can watch three innings of a game through the wall's archways, free of charge, albeit with a somewhat obstructed view. Across the cove from the ballpark is McCovey Point and China Basin Park, featuring monuments to past Giants legends.
Behind the left field bleachers, the ballpark features an long Coca-Cola bottle with playground slides that will blow bubbles and light up with every Giants home run, and a miniature version of the stadium. If one were viewing the outfield promenade from home plate, directly to the bottle's right is another oversized representation of a ballpark stalwart, the baseball mitt—this particular one being a detailed replica of a vintage 1927 glove. Behind and further to the left is a miniature baseball diamond—sort of a minor league tryout for Pee-Wee Ball.
To the right of the glove sculpture is the elevator and large plaza area for functions and parties to be held during games. Right-center field features a real San Francisco cable car (retired cable car #4, formerly #504), with a label that states "No Dodgers Fans Allowed", and a fog horn—a feature transferred from Candlestick Park—that blows when a Giants player hits a home run. Continuing right takes one to the promenade above the cove, so that one can make a completely uninterrupted circuit of the park at that concourse level. Both levels of the concourse, inside the stadium, feature not only concession stands of all sorts, but other attractions as well.
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