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Determination by the Bay : Baseball: In three months, San Francisco mobilized forces to save its team from moving to St. Petersburg, Fla.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Only three months ago, things looked bleak for San Francisco baseball fans. Their Giants appeared headed for an air-conditioned dome in Florida, and nobody had a clue as to how to stop them.

As columnist Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle put it, the city’s chances of keeping the team seemed “thinner than a 19-cent hamburger.”

But on Tuesday, all of that seemed as distant as a foghorn’s moan. National League owners, it was announced, had rejected a bid from a St. Petersburg, Fla., group to buy the team from owner Bob Lurie. The Giants, it seemed, would be around to play another day.

“We are so used to disappointment, it’s hard to believe we’ve got a victory,” said Barbara Bagot-Lopez, a longtime fan who founded a grass-roots group to help save the team. “The people were determined not to let the Giants get away, and finally, their work has paid off.”

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There are many hurdles still to clear. For starters, Lurie must accept the offer of a local investment group. Lawsuits are lurking, and, if the team is to succeed financially, a new stadium must be built.

But in San Francisco’s bars, buses and office towers Tuesday, there was little negative talk.

“I always felt that no matter how far we had to come, the people of this city would rise to the occasion,” said Mayor Frank Jordan. Speaking at a news conference, Jordan stood before a banner that had read, “Save Our Giants,” but had been changed to “Saved Our Giants,” given the day’s developments.

For Jordan, Tuesday’s events held a certain poignancy. When Lurie made his deal with the St. Petersburg group Aug. 6, many predicted that the mayor’s political career--which is barely 10 months old--was all but over.

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Jordan responded with vigor. He quickly made saving the team his top priority and has even worn his black and orange Giant cap around town.

Although he has little influence with baseball’s hierarchy, Jordan recruited the man who became an important anchor of the local investment group, real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein. Jordan also pushed the city to indemnify the investors from the flurry of lawsuits expected to be filed by St. Petersburg.

“Everyone told Jordan he would look foolish for fighting for the Giants, that he was tilting at windmills,” said Ed Moose, a San Francisco restaurateur who has served in several campaigns to build a new stadium. “But he just kept plugging away.”

Still, Jordan is a political rookie whose track record on other issues is spotty at best. Thus, support from other quarters was critical to the movement to save the team.

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While Jordan played cheerleader, fan groups such as the Giants Alliance organized rallies and drives to deluge baseball’s owners and acting commissioner with postcards bearing pleas for help.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which had not played an active role in the issue, also got into the game, launching a push that secured a flurry of new pledges for season tickets.

The local newspapers made the story a high priority after Jordan formally courted their publishers and asked for help.

The most important contribution came from the investors, a group of business titans whose credentials and relentless maneuvering yielded an offer that, although lower than the Florida group’s, proved credible.

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“San Francisco has a history of civic-minded people coming together in a time of need, and that’s what has happened with the Giants,” said Angela Alioto, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “Whether it’s a museum or library or symphony, people here step up to the plate when they are needed. It’s a great tradition of our city.”

Still ahead is a new stadium, which has been an insurmountable problem for Lurie. A 48-member committee is in place to tackle that issue, and Jordan predicted the project would require a joint public-private approach to succeed.

Times staff writer Phil Hager contributed to this story from San Francisco.


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