Built as a WPA project in 1942, Municipal Stadium -- home of the San Jose Giants (High Class A; California League) -- is a beautiful old ballpark in a suburban setting.
FAST FACTSYear Opened: 1942
Capacity: 4,200 (2,900 in 1942)
Dimensions: 341L, 383LC, 391C, 395RC, 340R
Surface: Baby Bermuda Grass
Owner: City of San Jose
Online Ticket Sales: Yes
Ticket Prices (2012): Box, $16; Reserved, $13; General Admission, $10; Kids/Seniors, $6
League: High Class A California League
Parent: San Francisco Giants
Address: 588 E. Alma Av., San Jose, CA 95112
Directions: Municipal Stadium is south of downtown San Jose, near San Jose State University. Take 101 S from downtown San Jose, and just south of I-280/680 take the Story exit going west. After several lights, take a left on Senter and the park will be on your immediate right. Turn right onto Alma Avenue and then left into the parking lot.
Parking: $8 right behind the fences off Alma Avenue. Yes, they have a large screen to protect your car, but it's not foolproof, because this reviewer’s car was in left, directly behind where Pablo Sandoval's homer left the yard (no damage, but I really wanted to find that ball!). There is also parking across from the first base side on Alma Avenue.
Written By: John Moist (June 2012)
You know you're in California when you're at Municipal Stadium: There are palm trees behind the outfield fence, and redwoods and other large trees all along the first-base side. The grandstand is reinforced concrete with recently repainted Art Deco trim (in Giants colors, natch; see below for a close-up photo) and extends from first to third, with standalone grandstands along the left-field and right-filed lines. All the seats are very close to the action.
The small press box is perched atop the grandstand behind home.
Several different San Jose teams (California League unless noted) have played at Municipal Stadium over the years: Owls ('42), Red Sox ('47-'55), JoSox ('56-'57), Pirates ('58), Bees ('62-'76), Missions (a PCL team, as the Sacramento Solons relocated here '77-'78), Missions ('79-'81), Expos ('82), Bees ('83-'87), Giants ('88-present). San Jose teams have won several league championships over the years, including 2007, and the team set their record for attendance that year with over 182,000 fans. Players who have called Municipal Stadium home have included George Brett, Joe Nathan, Shawn Estes and the late Rod Beck. The San Jose State Spartans have also played their games at the park since 1970.
In November 2007, the City of San Jose approved a lease extension through 2013.
Those who follow the business side of baseball are probably aware that the owners of the Oakland Athletics would like to move the team to San Jose and build a new park across the street from the Shark Tank. While it's anyone's guess if this will come to pass, there has been discussion that the San Jose Giants might stay in town even if the A's move in. Because San Jose is a large city already full of fans of both Giants teams, many feel the San Jose Giants could co-exist with a potential San Jose Athletics team.
Municipal Stadium has an unusually large selection of food options for a small Class A ballpark: Turkey Mike’s (hot dogs, grilled chicken), BBQ Bullpen, a Mexican food stand, sodas, snow cones, ice cream and more.
Beer (In addition to the usual suspects)
You'll find Sierra Nevada (Pale Ale and Summer Ale); Gordon Biersch (Bay Area brewer, whose stand includes trademark garlic fries, as sold at AT&T Park); and Lagunitas IPA, a Northern California favorite. Lagunitas has installed signs with their logo in the men’s room reminding you that “No matter how fine the ale, you are only renting it!” A more unique ad slogan would be hard to find.
The Clubhouse team store is behind the third-base grandstand. It has all the usual cool stuff, including sponge fingers, water bottles and seat cushions, but there is a heavy concentration of goodies for younger fans. Also, San Jose has “classic” uniforms and hats, based on the parent team, and many fans were wearing the gear.
San Jose has a long and honorable history in California baseball, and Municipal Stadium may have more signage and information on local baseball history than any other Cal League park (as shown above). t seems that half the wall space in the concourse and on the back of the 3B/LF grandstand is devoted to informing fans of all ages of the park’s long history, as well as identifying current Cal League teams, and the other teams in the Giants’ system. There are lots of signs welcoming you to the park, celebrating Gigante, a Bigfoot-looking mascot, and minor-league ball in general. One of the best is a painting of a ‘40s-era blue and grey team bus carrying ballplayers on the road, with the wording, “For every player it starts with a dream…The dream ends in one place--The Show.”
For the Kids
As in the case at most minor league games, there is plenty for the kids to do, and there were a lot of kids at the game. The large "Family Fun Zone" includes a pitching machine cage, batting cage, and several interactive games involving yelling and jumping.
Before and After the Game
San Jose is a modern city with many freeways and suburbs, and there are many places to stay or eat before or after the game. Santa Clara Avenue, downtown near the Shark Tank, has many restaurants and a brewpub. However, there is not a whole lot right around the ballpark.
For those of us who relish hard-to-find old ballparks, there is a real treasure about 20 minutes northwest of Municipal Stadium. It's Washington Park (shown above), a covered, wood ballpark built in 1935 as a WPA project. In its only pro season, it was home to the California League Santa Clara Padres in 1979. Located at Monroe Street and Manchester Drive in Santa Clara, it's been used for almost 80 years for high school and other local leagues.
In San Jose, you can visit Great America amusement park; Winchester Mystery House (continuously expanded by the widow of the inventor of the Winchester rifle, in hopes of keeping away ghosts of its victims); and HP Pavilion, home of the NHL Sharks. Santa Cruz and Monterrey are a beautiful drive to the southwest, along one of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast.
If you are looking to attend a Major League game, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics are both about an hour north, traffic permitting, on either side of the San Francisco Bay. Minor-league parks within a two-hour drive are Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), and California League Class A parks in Stockton and Modesto.
This is one of the finest parks in the California League to enjoy a ballgame, especially if you like older parks. The park is small, cozy, and usually packed. The park has an exceptional selection of good food and beers, it's very fan friendly, especially for kids, and the team really goes out of its way to promote the long local baseball history.
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