San Jose Municipal Stadium – San Jose Giants
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Over 70 Years and Still Going Strong
From 1885 to 1915, San Jose was represented off and on by a baseball club. During this time the clubs included the Bears, Brewers, Prunepickers, Athletics, and Dukes, playing in a variety of semi-professional leagues.
1942 brought some stability to professional baseball in San Jose with the opening of San Jose Municipal Stadium. Since then, San Jose has fielded a team almost every year. Over that period of time, the moniker changed quite a few times. Most commonly, the team playing at Muni has been the Bees, Red Sox or most recently, the Giants (1988-present). Since 1942, San Jose has played in the Single-A California League, with the exception of a two-year spell in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League as the San Jose Missions in 1977-78. During this time the Missions were affiliated with the Oakland Athletics.
The stadium is now over 70 years old and much of the main structure has remained unchanged. However, the organization continues to make improvements to the venue which include the new entryway, a resealed main bowl of seating and an awning down the first base line.
Food & Beverage 4
All of your typical ballpark fare can be found in the walkway underneath the stands behind home plate. Here you can find hot dogs and cold drinks, soft pretzels and hard candy. Nachos, peanuts, ice cream, and beer are also available for the standard ballpark rate. Five dollars will get you a hot dog or two churros. Choose wisely.
Along the third base side of the stadium are less traditional ballpark options. A barbecue place (Turkey Mike’s BBQ) with amusement park style queues is set up to offer tri-tip sandwiches and burgers. Right next door are two different booths to purchase alcoholic mixed drinks, particularly popular on this hot day, starting at $8. Pint-sized pours of local craft brew (Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas) are also available on this third base side promenade for $8.50. Other premium options included imports Modelo and Heineken.
Between Turkey Mike’s and the children’s play area are a few additional stands that offer quality or unique fare. First up is the Gordon Biersch stand serving a variety of items but most notably their famed garlic fries. Next door is a Sutter Home stand serving their wine and brick oven pizzas. Finally is the Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream Co., serving your choice of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and cake batter flavors.
Bringing food into the game is also an option if you choose to avoid the prices and lines. Picnic benches are available along each baseline for your enjoyment.
The seating is set up into two main seating sections. The main seating bowl behind home plate has reserved seating and lower box options. The sets of bleachers down each foul line are general admission and do not come with chair backs. For evening games, the sun sets behind home plate, heading toward first base. It makes for a beautiful setting when sitting in the left field corner.
The original walkway is behind the stands, enclosed by the outside wall. This is a unique, not in a good way, experience. It can get a little tight in there so I prefer to hit the concession stands that aren’t enclosed. Besides, San Jose summer nights are too nice to be encased in cement.
Though the stadium is old, their sound system is more than suitable. They play a few songs throughout the game but the music is not overly loud. The scoreboard is just to the right of centerfield and has up to the at-bat stats for each player.
One of my favorite things about San Jose Muni is how good they are at displaying their accomplishments and how closely they’re tied with their parent club. Everywhere you look there are references to their 11 California League championships as well as a wall with the names of the former Giants to make it to the big leagues. Additionally, they honor the retired numbers of the San Francisco Giants.
San Jose Municipal Stadium is located two miles southeast of downtown. The blocks between are largely residential and less than thrilling. Its immediate neighborhood is industrial with most workers punching their time cards during the weekdays. Weekends and holidays can be eerily quiet when the Giants are out of town as well.
The Giants do share some sporting neighbors, however. The San Jose Sharks practice one block away at Sharks Ice and the San Jose State Spartans play their home football games at Spartan Stadium just two blocks away. They also share the neighborhood with the animals at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo across Senter Road in Kelley Park.
Because of the largely industrial neighborhood, there aren’t many options for grabbing a bite or a drink nearby and then walking to the game. Stanley’s Sports Bar is a good close option that provides both but is a largely Sharks crowd since it’s attached to their practice facility. However, you plan on driving, downtown bars and restaurants are just a ten-minute drive away.
Though pretty tepid audibly, the fans were certainly engaged with the action on the field. Having the field so close to you does that. I’d estimate that three-quarters of the seats were filled.
Because of the low ticket prices and small nature of the facility, there were many families there. Kids had plenty of room to move around, play catch and visit with friends which made for a fan-friendly environment. Perhaps the coolest opportunity for them happens when a pitcher warms up in the bullpen. Bullpens are right next to either side’s bleacher, outside the field of play, and pitchers are within arm’s reach of the fans. You can feel the breeze come by as the ball snaps into the catcher’s mitt.
There is a close relationship between San Jose residents and the San Francisco Giants. It is not uncommon for fans to make the train trip up to the city to catch their favorite former San Jose Giants play.
Driving to Municipal Stadium is a breeze as exits from 280 and 101 are just a few blocks away. Parking is available from the Giants for $10 but street parking is also easy to find, in part because people working in the neighborhood aren’t around on nights or weekends.
The walkway behind home plate can be pretty tight and hard to navigate and only has one restroom per gender. Additional portable toilets are available behind the stands on the first base side and at the end of the left field bleachers, near the visitors’ bullpen.
I can’t give the stadium a higher score because of the lack of public transportation in the area. There is one city bus line that runs down Senter Road but if you live outside city limits in the expansive Bay Area, forget it. The nearest train station is a couple miles away.
Return on Investment 4
Municipal Stadium offers an $11 ($8 for children) general admission ticket that allows you to sit in the bleachers down either baseline. The reserved seats get you a chair back behind the lower box seats and start at $13.
I’ve been told that many nights are designated for certain industries or businesses and allow for free tickets. Not knowing about this I headed for the box office only to be offered free tickets from a representative from Orchard Supply Hardware. This was a general admission ticket but could be upgraded for an additional few bucks.
Concession prices are what you expect but if you pay attention you can get in for free or cheap. It’s worthwhile considering how close to the action you can get.
There is plenty of San Jose and San Francisco Giant history around this ballpark to enjoy. San Jose Municipal Stadium has a deep history in the Bay Area and the people there are proud of it. Particularly cool are the old painted pennants from minor league franchises gone by, along with the aforementioned walkway (Reno Padres or San Jose Bees anyone?)
All of the logos and insignias throughout the stadium are painted on rather than the usual cookie-cutter signs. Murals of former Giants and other ballplayers are particularly pleasing to the eye as well as the San Francisco retired numbers outside the team store.
The current standings and lineups are displayed at the entrance to the stadium. Also displayed is the “Beer Batter” and In-N-Out “Double-Double Batter.” On a related note, there are tons of displays honoring past years for San Jose baseball. One of these displays is for the final standings of the 1898 California State League. Some of the funny team names were, “San Jose Prunepickers”, “Oakland Dudes”, “Santa Cruz Beachcombers” and the very puzzling “San Francisco Athletics.”
All of this historical value and fun activities for the younger fans make this a very pleasant place to watch baseball.
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