Cover the Bases Interview with Dan Fost

by on March 29, 2010

We are excited to present a conversation with Dan Fost on this edition of Cover the Bases.  It turns out that Dan is a freelance writer with a common interest in the technology scene.  He covers topics such as content delivery devices that corresponds with the direction that we see Baseballisms.com headed, so the pre-podcast recording conversation was very stimulating as well!

We have been communicating with Dan for many months in anticipation of the release of his first baseball book Giants Past & Present which is part of a series published by MVP Books. The book finally arrived on his doorstep earlier this month and we are grateful that he could spend some time to discuss it.

Upon moving to San Francisco in 1989, Dan was struck by the storied aspects of the franchise and was immediately immersed in a World Series, and then four years later in one of the all-time great pennant races, when the Giants lost to the Dodgers on the last day of the season.  The 1993 team won 103 games on the year but lost the NL West to the Braves by one game.

This beautiful coffee table book is set up in a Giants Past & Present format with each chapter examining and comparing the owners, the managers, key players for each position, even the details of the ballparks.  All of this is surrounded by over 200 stunning photographs.

With a franchise as storied as the Giants, but with two very distinct eras as an east coast and west coast team, we were curious as to whether fans actually make any sort of distinction.  Dan is encouraged that ownership under Peter Magowan really embraces the team’s heritage and includes all of the New York Giants players in all-time stats, and displays the team pennants at the ballpark.  The fans in the area were slow to embrace all of the players who arrived in 1957 epitomized by the great quote Dan sent in an email:

“This is the damnedest town,” wrote Frank Conniff, covering a visit to San Francisco by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. “They cheer Khrushchev and boo Willie Mays.”

We have done Cover the Bases podcasts discussing various players from the Giants past, including this great episode with Judith Testa about her biography of Sal Maglie, so we felt we should turn the tables and let Dan tell us about some players that he feels deserves some attention.


John Montgomery Ward


Buck Ewing is a player who Dan believes does not get discussed enough when the conversation turns to “best of all time”, but Buck’s legacy should be that he is one of the best catchers to ever play the game.

John Montgomery Ward was a versatile player who helped the Giants to Championships in 1888 and 1889.  He also put his skills as a lawyer to use by organizing the players and negotiating for better rights and conditions, to the point he started his own league with players who defected from the ’89 Champions.

Dan points to a book by Frank DeFord called The Old Ball Game, about John McGraw and Christy Mathewson as an intriguing character study, particularly the dichotomies of McGraw. Dan also uses McGraw’s records as another example that the Giants have been a franchise that can rival the storied Cubs and for many years the Red Sox as never reaching the ultimate goal and always succumbing to heartbreak.

Part of the way that we like to look at a team’s history is to mentally visit the ballparks in which they played.  The Polo Grounds in New York, built below Coogan’s Bluff seemed to be a wonderful place to watch a game.  Similar to the viewing perches outside of Wrigley Field, Coogan’s Bluff allowed for an easy line of site to the action.  Dan recounts how on the day when the Giants had to replay the Cubs to resolve the “Merkle’s Boner” transgressions .. over 200,000 fans showed up and had to be turned away.  Forty thousand approximately ended up on Coogan’s Bluff trying to get a view.

In a nod the baseball tradition of a “Knothole Gang“, the new home of the Giants AT&T Park contains a fenced area for fans to watch the game.

Dan has season’s tickets in an upper deck section of AT&T behind home plate, and gets to take in the glory of the views of the Bay, McCovey’s Cove and the entire ballpark.  From an engineering standpoint they figured out how to situate the park so that he is comfortable in his seat while winds are swirling around the concourse.

Set between the homes in New York and the beautiful retro style ballpark they are in today, the Giants played their games in Candlestick Park.  It did not take long for the conditions of Candlestick to have an impact on players who complained about the weather, and historically it made it hard for the team to entice key free agents to play for the Giants.  By attempting to develop a new park via ballot measure, ownership had to attempt to attract fans to the games each season while simultaneously having to complain about the stadium to get financing support.

The Croix de Candlestick became a badge of honor dreamed up by Patrick Gallagher for those who have made it completely through an extra inning night game at the park.

It should not be overlooked that the Giants teams of the Sixties had some great ballplayers who called Candlestick home, so at least there was some good baseball to be seen.  Willie McCovey stated to Dan during the preparation for this book, that after lining out to Bobby Richardson to end the 1962 World Series he was not that upset, because the entire team felt that they were so loaded with talent that they would continue to return to the World Series throughout the decade.

We also have to look at the 1989 World Series as another defining moment in the history of Candlestick Park, and we get Dan’s eyewitness account of being in the city during that time.  The conversation of baseball’s ability to heal a community during challenging times such as the World Wars and more recently after the 9/11 attacks, must also include San Francisco and Oakland after the Loma Prieta earthquake prior to Game 3.

Dan Fost’s web site is at GiantsPastandPresent.com or if you are a member of Facebook you can visit his page at Facebook.com/GiantsBook.

We have to extend our sincerest thanks to Dan for appearing on Cover the Bases to talk about his book Giants Past & Present. Please let us know in the comment section what you think about this beautifully done history of the Giants franchise, as well as any other suggestions you might have for future editions of the podcast.

If you like hearing about the baseball books we profile on Cover the Bases, it might be time for you to pick up a Kindle from Amazon, so that you can take all the best Baseball Books with you no matter which stadiums you visit.

Let us know in the comments what you think about the Cover the Bases podcast. We would love to hear from you. Send a Tweet to @baseballisms with a quick message, send us an email or visit our Upload page with a video message. We look forward to continuing to grow a community of fans interested in Wisdom from the Diamond!

  • http://waiting4cubs.com/ waiting4cubs

    I enjoyed the podcast with Dan Frost. It's true that few think of the Giants in terms of heartbreaks, like the Cubs. You're not missing anything, believe me. Most Cub fans would rather not have this distinction.

    I have to disagree on one thing. I read Frank Deford's THE OLD BALL GAME and thought it a starry-eyed whitewash of McGraw, and even Mathewson to some extent. The subtitle is particularly off: “How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball.” Baloney. McGraw reveled in the old, pre-modern era thuggish play of his beloved Baltimore Orioles of the 1890's. He had to be dragged into the twentieth century kicking and screaming (literally). Time after time he challenged the efforts of the National League, both the head office and the other teams, to modernize the game — even refusing to play in the 1904 World Series because he didn't recognize the American League's legitimacy, and viewed(along with owner John T. Brush) the potential rivalry of the Highlanders, who played not far from the Polo Grounds at Hilltop Park, as potentially bad for business. His childish tantrums are legendary. He was also linked to gamblers and probably committed perjury during the investigation into the 1909 Black Sox scandal. Not to mention the length of rope from a lynching that he carried in his pocket as a “rabbit's foot.”

    McGraw was certainly an interesting player and manager, and a key figure in baseball for many years. But no one does him or baseball any justice painting him as a one-dimensional, somewhat lovable “character.” And all that lovey dovey stuff about him and is wife is dubious. One theory has it that he had it in for Hal Chase (a truly despicable character) because Hal stole a girl he, McGraw, was interested in.

  • http://befluid.com joemagennis

    Thanks for your great comments! .. McGraw and Mathewson certainly must have been an odd couple, considering McGraw's persona versus Mathewson's college educated superstar qualities. Stay in touch – looking forward to hearing more about your forthcoming book!

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  • http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.blogspot.com/ mike.BTB

    I can't get enough of this stuff!

  • http://befluid.com joemagennis

    Thanks Mike! As we get into the off season & no actual games to watch, I've got some good interviews lined up. Appreciate your commenting, it's great motivation.

    Joe

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