Haight Baseball

When America's pastime had a place next to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Baseball in the Haight-Ashbury
When America's pastime had a place next to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Affordable housing is going up on the old McDonald’s site on Haight and Stanyan Streets, and I do mean up.

The Stanyan Park Hotel on the corner of Waller Street has long been the prominent gateway building of this area, but it’s beginning to be a little overshadowed.

Stanyan and Waller Streets, 2024. New affordable housing is under construction across from the Stanyan Park Hotel (1904).

The elegant small hotel was constructed in 1904 as the Park View, and has been called Hotel Golden Gate (1907-1919), Hotel Roamer (1925-1930), Fremont House, and the Stadium Hotel (in reference to Kezar Stadium across the street), before getting its latest name in 1982.

One might think it was the first building on that corner—the Haight-Ashbury was built up rapidly between the late 1880s and 1910—but then there’s this 1894 photo:

View from Mount Sutro over the semi-rural Haight-Ashbury in 1894. (Isaiah West Taber photograph, OpenSFHistory / wnp27.3026)

We are looking northeast over the Haight-Ashbury, which still has most of its old dairy grazing land open. That strip of trees running from left to right represents the Golden Gate Park panhandle and... Hark! What is that in the lower left corner?

baseball park
Detail of the 1894 photo with some helpful street names plopped on top. Stanyan and Waller Streets meet halfway up the left edge of this view.

Baseball park! See that striped conical tower at the left edge of the photo above the grandstands? That was almost in the same place as the domed tower of the Stanyan Park Hotel.

Haight Street Grounds was the most commonly used, if inaccurate, name for this park. (The field wasn’t on Haight Street.) Another name was the California League Grounds, as the park was built to host games for that semi-pro organization.

Let’s zoom in for more orientation. That’s Waller Street behind the bleachers on the third base side. The house set back from the street where my red arrow is pointing below is still around today behind a gate. The three-story apartment building in front or just to the side is not. (Perhaps a fire claimed it at some point?

baseball park
The ad on the 3rd base line wall is a reminder that Sassafras Sour purifies the blood.

I’ve put a white box around a corner building which still stands at Waller and Shrader Streets, but has lost its “witch’s cap” over the corner bay:

Somewhere behind those trees on the northeast corner of Waller and Shrader Streets is an 1890s building missing its witch's cap.

Haight Street Grounds’ first game was a nail-biter. On April 3, 1887, the Haverlys defeated the Pioneers 5-4 in extra innings. An estimated 10,000 fans showed up.

baseball game
Another Haverlys and Pioneers game at Haight Street Grounds in the fall of 1887. (J. A. Todd photo, OpenSFHistory / wnp33.00518)

In the late 19th century, if you had a horse, carriage, buggy, or other promenading conveyance, the panhandle was your formal entryway into Golden Gate Park. Beginning in 1883, the Market Street Cable railway increased accessibility to the 1,017 acres of verdure by establishing lines of “commodious” cable cars ending at Stanyan Street.

cable cars
Five cable cars in play at Haight and Stanyan Streets about 1900. (OpenSFHistory / wnp13.234)

Suddenly, Haight and Stanyan became the doorway in and out of Golden Gate Park, and so Haight and Waller wasn’t a bad place for a baseball park. 

Detail of an auction broadsheet with an artistic birds-eye view of the Haight-Ashbury in 1893. Haight Street Grounds is at right beside Golden Gate Park. Check out that inaccurate diamond layout! (David Rumsey Map Collection/5795.002)

If you were going to head to the park on a weekend, you might as well take in a baseball game. And if you were doing either, why not have a drink?

Here’s the 1889 Sanborn fire insurance map showing the ballpark and its adjoining businesses: all saloons, including one under the grandstands of the park itself, right at the corner, run by Irish immigrant Henry P. Heagerty.

Detail of 1889 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Stanyan Street between Frederick and Waller Streets. (Library of Congress)

You can learn lots more about the Haight Street Grounds history—visit by the King of Hawaii! Early Cal-Stanford Big Games! New York Giants exhibition!—in this well-done 2016 article by Amanda Gonzalez or in this 2014 Outside Lands San Francisco podcast, both of which rely almost entirely on the work of friend and baseball historian Angus Macfarlane (F.O.W.).

A bad economy in the early 1890s killed the Haight Street Grounds. The last game was in March 1895. The leased land was auctioned off and mostly developed for residences, with a notable exception.

Heagerty kept his corner saloon going. He just had it re-established on the corner inside a new hotel he commissioned the architectural firm of Martens & Coffey to design for him.

Hotel Golden Gate, now the Stanyan Park, on the corner of Stanyan and Waller Streets, about 1910. (OpenSFHistory / wnp33.03324)

Maybe it is time to do a stay-cation and sleep above a part of San Francisco baseball history?

(Ahem, San Francisco Story received no sponsorship from Stanyan Park Hotel for this message.)

Woody Beer and Coffee Fund

Barnaby passed on a drink, but enjoyed sitting outside Java Beach with us.

Thanks to Woody Beverage Fund contributors like Mike P. (F.O.W.), I had a nice sit outside Java Beach on Judah Street with Denise S. (F.O.W.) and Barnaby the dog (F.O.D.). Denise had a cappuccino, Barnaby abstained, and I got all wild and crazy and tried a butterscotch latte. Not bad, but I wonder if I have crossed some terrible, terrible line...

Is it your turn? When are you free?