by Arnold Woods
The San Francisco Seals were charter members of the Pacific Coast League formed in 1903. They initially played their home games at Recreation Park (also known as Central Park) at Market and 8th Street until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. After playing out the 1906 season at the Oakland Oaks’ stadium, they returned to San Francisco to play at a new Recreation Park at Valencia and 14th Street in 1907. After the 1913 season though, Seals’ owner, Cal Ewing went looking for a new field because of issues with his lease at Recreation Park.
In October 1913, Ewing found a spot at the foot of Lone Mountain for a new ballpark.1 While a new ballpark would take years to build these days, Ewing assured fans that the new stadium would open in time for the 1914 season. He also said that baseball was done with Recreation Park.
Living up to his word, Ewing opened his eponymously-named field for the 1914 season. Ewing spent $100,000 building the park and he left room for the addition of more seating if it proved necessary. The home opener occurred on May 16, 1914 with a record PCL crowd of 18,000 people.2 However, true to its location, the crowd was treated to a cold wind off Lone Mountain. Unfortunately, the Seals’ bats were silent for the entire game and they lost to the Oaks 3-0.
The Seals finished the 1914 season in 2nd place with a 115-96 record. Indeed, the Seals played 211 games that season. After the season was over, the major leaguers came to Ewing Field. Back in that era, the pay for professional baseball players was not great and the major league stars frequently spent their off-season on barnstorming tours to supplement their incomes. On November 3, 1914, the major league all-stars played a game at Ewing Field.3 Northern California’s own Bill James, recent hero for the 1914 champion Boston Braves team, pitched the National League stars to a 4-2 victory over the American League stars. It was the first game of a week’s worth of games in San Francisco and Oakland.
After the 1914 PCL season, Ewing entered into a deal to sell the Seals to some of the owners of the Los Angeles Angels. There was only one hitch. The prospective owners did not want to play at the frequently foggy Lone Mountain field.4 The deal was finalized in December 1914 with the new owners entering into a secondary deal with the Olympic Club, which had leased Recreation Park after the Seals left. Under that deal, the Olympic Club moved their activities to Ewing Field for two years and the Seals would return to Recreation Park where they would play until they opened Seals Stadium at Valencia and 16th Streets in 1931.
With the Seals leaving, the next competition at Ewing Field was, in fact, another baseball game. On February 14, 1915, a PCL all-star squad faced off against some major leaguers in a charity game that benefited an injured player.5 Thereafter, Ewing Field became the main soccer venue in the City. Baseball returned once again to Ewing Field in the fall of 1915 with several games that were part of the U.S. Amateur Baseball Championship.6 In addition to soccer, Ewing Field hosted a number of other sporting events in the ensuing years. This included rugby, boxing, and high school baseball games. There was even an attempt to have a performance of Aida at Ewing Field on September 30, 1916, but it was rained out.7
In the 1920s, the stadium became a prime location for high school and college football games, including the first East-West Shrine Game on December 26, 1925.8 However, with the opening of Kezar Stadium in May 1925 and a fire that destroyed portions of the grandstands and bleachers on June 5, 1926,9 Ewing Field’s days as a prime sporting venue were doomed. It lingered around hosting minor events until June 1938 when the Heyman Brothers purchased the property for $150,000.10 They razed it and built housing in a new subdivision known as Ewing Terrace. Ewing Field’s heyday as the prime athletic venue in San Francisco may have only lasted a little over a decade, but it brought a diversity of competition to the west side. For a more detailed look at Ewing Field, read Angus MacFarlane’s article or listen to the Outside Lands Podcast about it.
1. “Seals’ New Baseball Park Located At Foot Of Lone Mountain,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 1913, p. 25.
2. “Record Crowd Of 18,000 Opens Ewing Field,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 17, 1914, p. 65.
3. “Bill James Wins Over Joe Bush in First of All-Star Games Here,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 1914, p. 5.
4. “Berry Brothers and Tom Stephens Here to Close Deal to Buy Seals,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 1914, p. 5.
5. “All-Coasters Beat Major Leaguers in the Swain Benefit Baseball Game,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 1915, p. 4.
6. “Cleveland Stages 8-Run Rally To Shut Out the Tacoma Tigers,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 1915, p. 48.
7. “Rain Stops Aida, Lloyds Lose $25,000 Weather Bet,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 1916, p. 29.
8. “West Takes Measure Of East Stars, 6-0,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 27, 1925, p. 1H.
9. “100 Blazes Rage At Once In S.F.,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1926, p. 1.
10. “Work on Ewing Subdivision to Start in Sept.,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 25, 1938, p. 10.