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"New" Team Has Long History02/14/2008 11:54 PM ET
By Brett McGinness
When the first fans pass through the turnstiles at 2nd and Evans in 2009, they'll be part of establishing a new tradition of Pacific Coast League baseball in northern Nevada. However, the franchise's own history stretches back more tan a century, to the origins of the PCL. The team's 105-year journey stretches from "South of the Slot" in San Francisco to the "Old Pueblo" of Tucson, playing as the home team in four different cities along the way.
Players have worn four different team names on their jerseys, winning the PCL championship 18 times, and have moved out to make way for a major league team not once, but twice. The team's history begins just a short distance from Reno, in pre-earthquake San Francisco...
San Francisco Seals- 1903-1957
San Francisco icon Lefty O'Doul played his first professional games as a member of the Seals before heading to the bigs as a pitcher. When his arm gave out five years later, he headed back to the Seals to remake himself into a slugging outfielder, and climbed back to the major league ranks for another seven seasons. Upon retirement, he returned to his hometown to manage the Seals for fifteen seasons.
Among other famous Seals, all three DiMaggio brothers- Joe, Dom, and Vince- all played for the club before heading for the bigs. In a taste of things to come, Joe strung together a 61-game hitting streak in 1933. He nearly matched the streak as a major leaguer in 1941, hitting in 56 straight games. The Seals are also famous for attempting to ban peanuts in the ballpark-albeit for just one day in February, 1950. The team's number-crunching owner, Paul Fagan, found that the profits on peanut sales were swallowed up by the cost of cleaning up the shells, and declared that the team would stop selling them for the upcoming season. The ensuing uproar from baseball fans forced Fagan to relent, and in an act of contrition, he gave away free bags of peanuts to the first 18,000 fans on Opening Day.
The franchise's half-century run in San Francisco ended when the New York Giants moved to the City by the Bay in 1958; the team began play in Phoenix the same year.
Phoenix Giants- 1958-1959
The team made quite an impression during its short stay, claiming their 15th PCL title in 1959. Future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey played for the minor-league Giants in 1958. He had amassed 29 homers and 92 RBI's in the first half of the 1959 season before being called up to San Francisco in late July. Nevertheless, he claimed both offensive titles that year, since no other PCL player amassed as many home runs or RBI's that season.
Tacoma Giants- 1960-1965
Oddly enough, the "new" seats at the ballpark were salvaged from the recently-demolished Seals Stadium, reuniting the team and... well, its old furniture. Some of the original seats still remain at Tacoma's ballpark to this day.
As before, the team gave its first championship to the city in its second year of play. The team finished with a record of 97-57 and, without a league playoff that season, claimed the title.
Following the 1965 season, the team headed south to Arizona; the Cubs affiliate in Salt Lake City moved to Tacoma to fill the void.
Phoenix Giants/Firebirds- 1966-1996
The team played ball under the desert sun for the next 31 years, but brought only one more championship to the city, in 1977. Nevertheless, this incarnation of the team showed its fair share of talent, featuring players like Bobby Bonds, Will Clark, and Matt Williams.
But with the expansion Diamondbacks beginning play in 1998, the franchise would once again need to search for a new home. Team owner and Arizona businessman Martin Stone wanted to keep his team in the state, and proposed a franchise trade with Tucson Toros owner Rick Holtzman. Under the arrangement, Stone took control of the Toros before the 1997 season, while Holtzman ran the Firebirds' final season in Phoenix before moving the team to Fresno for the 1998 season.
Tucson Toros/Sidewinders- 1997-present
The following season brought a new identity and a new affiliation for Tucson. The Toros became the farm club of the new Arizona Diamondbacks, just two hours up the road. To strengthen ties with the parent club, the team adopted a new ophidian moniker: Sidewinders.
The young talent in Tucson paid early dividends for the parent club when the Diamondbacks won the World Series title in 2001. Nearly every member of the championship team had spent time with the Sidewinders on their way to victory.
In 2006, the Sidewinders won the Pacific Coast League title, then went on to defeat the Toledo Mudhens in a first-of-its-kind one-game playoff between the PCL champs and the top team in the International League.
The franchise displayed talent off the field as well, becoming the first baseball team to offer an all-you-can-eat game ticket. The innovation has been picked up by numerous minor league teams, and is now growing popular with major league ballclubs as well.
Reno- 2009 and beyond
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.