by Todd Hawley
In those days, the Seals were about the only game in town and the players were treated like movie stars.
June 9, 2000
On May 24 I attended the unveiling of a statue in Seals Plaza honoring the old San Francisco Seals. Obviously, after all the work I've done on my Seals' site and my big interest in the old PCL, this was an event I didn't want to miss. I managed to get there half an hour early and before some of the people had arrived. They had a rope strung around the area, but I noticed several non-official people milling around and thought "what the hell" and walked in anyway.
Among several ex-Seals players, I saw Don Klein, the Seals' announcer in the early 1950s and introduced myself. He was pleased I had done a site about the Seals and told me about a man he knew who does reproductions of old Seals' yearbooks. I gave Don one of my business cards and he called me later that evening and gave me information about his acquaintance. We spoke for several minutes and then he walked over to talk with a few former players. It was about then that an usher walked over to me and asked me to move behind the rope, which I did, and waited for the ceremony to begin.
One thing I found disappointing in a way was the small crowd. Outside of the seated members there were only about a hundred of us. Among the crowd were 17 ex-Seals and also a Bay Area resident named Charlie Silvera who played for the old Portland Beavers. Lefty O'Doul's cousin Tom was also there, and I got to chat with him briefly after the ceremony.
The event finally started around 15 minutes late, with Larry Baer making a short speech about the Seals. He spoke of the Seals' history and how they paved the way for the Giants' eventual arrival in San Francisco. I later told him about my site and he seemed genuinely appreciative that someone had taken the time to do one. (One thing I need to do someday is shorten the URL. A number of people there asked me what it was and I finally had to tell them, "Just do a web search on it!")
After Larry's opening remarks, Con Dempsey, a Seals pitcher in the late 1940s-early 1950s was invited to speak. He talked about what a beautiful park Seals Stadium was and what a pleasure it had been to play for the Seals. He mentioned how the PCL in those days was like playing in a major league. Then Dino Restelli, another former Seal, delivered a long and eloquent speech about his days as a Seal and how popular the Seals players were in San Francisco. In those days, he said, the Seals were about the "only game in town" and the players were treated "like movie stars." Don Klein also spoke and joked about his first season broadcasting games (1949), when the team went from second place the year before all the way down to eighth place. He joked about how fans begged the team owners during the first month to get rid of him, because he was a jinx!
Then it was time to unveil the statue. Larry asked all the former players to circle around the statue as it was uncovered. They eventually did and there was applause as it was revealed. And like the Willie Mays statue in front of the park, it also is beautiful. The statue is of a seal balancing a baseball, which was the Seals' most popular logo during their history. Incidentally, a San Francisco baseball history museum is being planned which will be near the ballpark. I definitely look forward to seeing that when it is finished.
As I mentioned in my piece about the Willie Mays statue, the Giants seem very committed in their new ballpark to remembering the history of San Francisco baseball. The Seals Plaza statue is a wonderful example of that.
In his sixth year with the Knoxville Sox, Todd led all Sally League relief pitchers in fewest balks per nine innings. Visit his San Francisco Seals site, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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