top of page
  • Shauna Rush


Updated: Jan 25, 2021

This article was originally published on September 11th, 2019.

Whenever the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers play, baseball fans from across the U.S. turn their eyes and ears to the Bay Area or Southern California.

Not many rivalries in the sport of baseball can generate as much discussion and hatred between opposing fans like Giants vs Dodgers.

The sort of hatred that lead to Jackie Robinson choosing to retire rather than be traded to the Giants, may have passed but the rivalry remains one of the most heated.

New York Origins

For more than a half-century, the Giants and Dodgers rivalry graced the Empire State, with the Dodgers residing in Brooklyn and the Giants Manhattan.

Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) of the Los Angeles Times explained the stark differences between the two franchises during the time they called the state of New York home:

"Before Red Sox-Yankees, there was Dodgers-Giants -- two teams ripe for rivalry because, while they played in the same league and same city, they couldn't have represented neighborhoods that were more different. The Giants were from glitzy, urbane Manhattan while the Dodgers -- the lovable bums -- were from gritty, blue-collar Brooklyn."

The Dodgers originated from the amateur team the Brooklyn Atlantics who with the help of the editor of the New York Herald, would join the newly formed American Association as a professional team in 1883. After turning professional the Atlantics would choose to go by the new nickname the Grays.

In 1888 season, the Brooklyn Grays underwent a name change to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, a nickname that resulted from several team members getting married around the same time. They would go on to change their name a further three times. Becoming the Brooklyn Superbas in 1899 and Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers in 1911. The name referring to pedestrians avoiding Brooklyn's new electrical powered streetcar tracks that bordered the team's Eastern Park on two sides. By 1913 they had decided to shorten the name to the now-famous Dodgers.

Back to 1883, John B. Day and Jim Mutrie, who owned the American Association’s New York Metropolitans, decided to create a new team for the National League. They would settle on calling the team the New York Gothams.

By 1885 the Gothams developed a new nickname "Giants" after owner and manager Jim Mutrie used to refer to his players as his "Giants" after wins, and thus the nickname stuck.

New York Competition

The teams would play each other for the first time April 18, 1884, in an exhibition game won by the Gothams, 8-0.

Brooklyn would go on to win the first competitive game between the two sides, the game finishing 12-10. However, the first competitive meeting was also the 1889 "World Series," the National League champions New York would go on to beat the American Association champions Brooklyn, 6 games to 3 in the series.

Game 1 of the series may have also witnessed the first-ever seventh-inning stretch.  As The Sporting News reported, "Somebody cried, 'Stretch for luck!' And instantly the vast throng on the grandstand rose gradually and then settled down."

After Brooklyn joined the National League in 1890, the teams began meeting each other more regularly. It was not long until the first dispute between the two teams. In a game that Brooklyn won 12-6 in June 1890 passions were ignited when Brooklyn third-base coach Darby O'Brien pretended to be a base runner and broke for home, drawing a throw, allowing the actual runner to make it safely to third base.

When the city of Brooklyn become one of the five boroughs of the newly formed New York City. Many Brooklynites continued to see themselves as residents of their own city, baseball became a source of pride for the borough's residents. This loyal support could regularly be seen, as they frequently led the league in attendance, despite seeing limited success,

Many Dodgers fans would see the Giants, who were located in Manhattan, to represent the wealthy and elite. While making their Dodgers synonymous with the underdogs of the working class. The cultural differences between the respective supporters fueled much of the passion in the stands during the inter-city games.

There were a number of famous moments that happened between the New York rivals. However, one that is perhaps most famous is the "Shot Heard 'Round the World." A game-winning home run by New York Giants outfielder and third baseman Bobby Thomson off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds in New York City on October 3, 1951, to win the National League pennant.

California Switch

On-field struggles for the Giants in the 1940's and 1950's saw the team's attendances drop dramatically. At their peak, the Giants had seen more than 1.5 million fans pack into the Polo Grounds each season. However, by 1957 that number had dropped to just 654,000.

Faced with declining revenue, more and more New Yorkers moving to the outer boroughs, city officials looking to claim the land for public housing and a crumbling park that hadn't been renovated in decades, owner Horace Stoneham began to look elsewhere, out of "sheer economic necessity," as team executive Charles "Chub" Feeney put it.

Stoneham had seen the attendance boom that accompanied the Boston Braves' recent move to Milwaukee, and he envisioned similar riches for his team in the Midwest. He looked at setting up the team in Minneapolis. But up and moving a Major League franchise was a tough sell; there were all kinds of scheduling logistics to consider. Moving in tandem with another club would help balance things out.

Unlike their East River rivals, the Dodgers were in good financial health, they were actually the only NL team that actually made money from 1952 to 1956.

However, Walter O'Malley who had acquired majority ownership of the Dodgers in 1950 wasn't satisfied, he needed to upgrade the team from their Ebbets Field home. His preferred plan was to build a 55,000-seat domed stadium at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, in Brooklyn, that featured, among other things, a movie theater and a fully automated ticketing system.

The Dodgers were unable to secure land in Brooklyn and had to start looking outside of the borough. A number of entities tried to entice the team to Queens, but this idea never really took off.

Another idea came about from the city of Los Angeles and willing to offer hundreds of acres of downtown land. O'Malley bought the Minor League L.A. Stars in 1956.

As part of the move to California, O’Malley thought it was best not to go it alone. So, he talked Giants owner Horace Stoneham into making the move with him, placing the Giants in San Francisco.

On May 28, 1957, MLB owners unanimously voted to allow both teams to up and leave the Big Apple for California. Meaning the Dodgers-Giants rivalry was alive and well on the other side of the country.

September 24, 1957 saw the Dodgers play their last game in Brooklyn. The organist for the day chose to play “Auld Lang Syne,” as the fans filed out of Ebbets Field for the last time.

California Success

Both teams have seen plenty of success out west, from perfect games to record-setters to undefined.

Fans packed Seals Stadium in San Francisco for the first day of Major League Baseball on the West Coast. On April 15, 1958, in a historic opener, San Francisco shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-0. The Dodgers played their first game in Los Angeles on April 18th, defeating the Giants 6-5 before 78,672 fans at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

In the middle of the 1965 pennant race, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal knocked down two Dodgers batters. In response, Dodgers catcher John Roseboro clipped Marichal's ear on a return throws to the pitcher. Marichal would turn around and hit Roseboro over the head with his bat. The event would incite a bench-clearing brawl, which would take 14 minutes to clear. 

Los Angeles would go on to clinch the 1965 pennant, partially thanks in part to Marichal's suspension, on the second-to-last day of the season.

West Coast Highlights In 1982, the two rivals engaged in another season-ending three-game series, this time as part of the regular-season schedule. Both teams entered the series tied for second in the NL West, with each trailing the Atlanta Braves by one game. The Dodgers won the first two games to eliminate the Giants from the playoffs, but the Giants returned the favor on the final day of the season. Joe Morgan hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to give San Francisco a 5-3 victory, which eliminated the Dodgers from playoff contention and gave the Atlanta Braves the division by one game. The 1991 season proved to be almost a mirror image of the 1982 race. This time, the Giants took two of three from the Dodgers, eliminating them from the playoffs on the second-to-last day of the regular season behind a two-hit shutout from Trevor Wilson. The Dodgers won the final game of the regular season, 2-0, but the Braves would once again win the NL West title by one game. In 1993, the final season before the wild-card format was implemented, the Giants won 103 games but failed to make it to the postseason. The Giants had won the first three contests during a season-ending four-game series in Los Angeles, but they were once again chasing the Braves entering the final day of the season. The Dodgers put an end to the Giants' playoff hopes with a 12-1 victory, as catcher Mike Piazza went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI, while Kevin Gross twirled a complete game on the mound. The 2004 season ended with the two teams squaring off in a three-game series in Los Angeles and the Dodgers holding a three-game lead in the division. Steve Finley's walk-off grand slam gave the Dodgers a 7-3 victory in the second game after they trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, clinching the NL West title for them. The Giants were still alive in the wild-card race heading into the final game of the year, and ace Jason Schmidt threw six shutout innings in a 10-0 rout, but a Houston Astros victory officially eliminated the Giants from the postseason. The Future The rivalry is set to continue to evolve over the coming years. Both teams are pulling in revenue at incredible levels, and while the Dodgers' ownership has shown a complete willingness to spend it, the Giants’ ownership group has been more reluctant. The economics of baseball ensure that both teams will see a roster turnover. However, that does not mean the rivalry cannot remain heated. As the rivalry truly lives in the stands, and bars, among the diehards.


bottom of page