A fond farewell for Giants' Magowan

A fond farewell for Magowan

WASHINGTON -- Moments before his final executive council meeting Wednesday as managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants, Peter Magowan breathed a sigh of relief.

"Sixteen years are enough," said Magowan, who took over the title and power after the 1992 season, when the group he assembled purchased the team and saved it from a move to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

At the same meeting Wednesday, the council approved the transfer of power from Magowan to William H. Neukom, a member of the club's ownership group and current president of the American Bar Association. At least for the near term, Magowan has been replaced on the council by Indians owner and chief executive Larry Dolan, who has already been sitting in on those sessions.

On Thursday, Magowan will take his final bow during the meeting of the 30 top club executives, who are also expected to approve the transfer. The vote is mandated by Major League Baseball rules. And, like others who have departed before him, he should expect a standing ovation.

Magowan came in when the Giants had just finished a 72-90 season in 1992, and is leaving with the club on pace to lose 90 games for the second consecutive year. They haven't made the playoffs since 2003, and came closest to winning it all in 2002 when the Giants lost a seven-game World Series to the Angels.

At 66, Magowan will remain a member of the ownership group, but his duties will certainly curtail.

"Losing the last few years wasn't the deciding factor, although it didn't help," Magowan said regarding why he made the decision. "I have 10 grandchildren now. I had one four years ago. I'd like to spend some more time with them. I have a beautiful home up in Napa, [Calif.]. It got so that I wanted to spend more time up there than at the ballpark. And that wasn't a good thing for the fans."

The change at the top may signal a different direction, but Magowan said the club is "in good shape."

"Our new [television] contract with Comcast is terrific and it puts us in a good position," Magowan said. "Our Minor League teams have had the second-best record in baseball over the last two seasons. Only the Yankees have done better. So there are good players coming. Our attendance at AT&T Park is down a little, but we're still going to draw 2.8 million.

"That will break our record of 3 million every year for eight years in a row since the ballpark opened in 2000, but we expected that. It was built in. We knew this wouldn't be like 2007. We didn't have the All-Star Game. We didn't have a home series against the Yankees. We didn't have the home run chase. We didn't have Barry Bonds."

The latter may have been the most formidable obstacle.

After he took over the team, Magowan made it his first priority to sign Bonds to a then-record six-year, $43.75 million contract. That began a tumultuous decade-and-a-half relationship between Magowan and the left-handed slugger, who last season passed Hank Aaron for first place on the all-time home run list.

After the 2007 season, Bonds was not asked back for 2008. He remains an unretired free agent with 762 homers, and he is under the shroud of indictment by the federal government -- accused of lying about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. His case is scheduled to go to trial in a San Francisco court on March 2, 2009.

Last Saturday, Bonds returned to the ballpark at McCovey Cove for the first time since he played his final game there Sept. 25, 2007. He was invited to attend a 50th anniversary celebration involving the greatest outfielders to play for the Giants during their San Francisco era.

Bonds, who showed up unannounced, publicly thanked Magowan for inviting him.

"He said nice things about me, he said nice things about everybody," Magowan said. "He was very gracious. I sat with him for a few innings and we had a nice talk."

But Magowan doesn't regret what was perhaps his final and toughest decision -- not bringing Bonds back to play another season in San Francisco.

"It was time," Magowan said. "We don't think it was a mistake. We needed to get through that and move on."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.