Lurie's related headache is that whatever Giant fans there are in the Bay Area are not willing to help pay for the construction of a more pleasant place in which to watch their team. Twice in San Francisco, once in nearby Santa Clara County and most recently in San Jose, Lurie has succeeded in having a referendum placed on the ballot asking citizens to vote for bond issues to finance a new stadium. Each time the measure was voted down. "In baseball, it's three strikes and you're out," says Giant first baseman Will Clark. "He's given them four strikes."
San Francisco isn't out—yet. With the city facing a loss of $30 million in Giant-related revenues, not to mention its big league status, Mayor Frank Jordan has enlisted Steinberg's aid in assembling potential buyers. The chamber of commerce has organized a drive for season-ticket pledges. And last week San Francisco supervisor Angela Alioto—whose father, Joseph, a former mayor of the city, represented Al Davis in his suit against the NFL, the result of which allowed Davis to defy the league and move the Raiders from Oakland to L.A.—released plans for a privately financed ballpark at the railroad yards downtown. She declared that the stadium would be built for a major league team, even if that team were not the Giants. The money for the new park could come from 27 unions in the area whose leaders have agreed to free up as much as $200 million in pension funds for a new facility. Alioto's stadium plan, however, was developed before Lurie agreed to sell the Giants to the Tampa Bay group, and the unions said last week that they will not contribute toward the stadium if there is no team.
Because the owners will, among other business, be reviewing the proposed sale of two other teams, the Astros and the Tigers, at their quarterly meeting in St. Louis beginning on Sept. 9, it is doubtful if they will have time to complete discussions about the Giants' move. The longer approval takes, the more time San Francisco has to drum up a counteroffer. If financing for a new stadium has been secured and sound local investors have been lined up to buy the team, baseball's ownership would probably block Lurie from peddling the Giants elsewhere. Says Alioto, "We have not fought hard enough to keep this team."
But while San Francisco politicians may see this as a fight worth waging, are they in sync with their constituents? A poll in June found that 35% of the populace deemed keeping the Giants "very important," while 40% said it was "not important." In another poll last week, 48% of the respondents said they believe Jordan has spent too much time on the Giants. A call-in campaign to Vincent petered out in a few days. Grass-roots protests are not on the rise.
Steinberg has said that he doesn't want his six-year-old son to grow up without a team. But as Giant outfielder Cory Snyder points out, "They've got kids in St. Petersburg, too." And, apparently, a greater interest in major league baseball.