McCovey Cove

Historical Essay

by Abigail Johnston / Potrero Hill Archives Project


Port walk along then China Basin, now known as McCovey Cove, c. 1930s.

Photo: Potrero Hill Archives Project

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Similar view, July 4, 2010, with the 3rd Street Bridge raised.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

Before Giants fans strolled the Portwalk adjacent to AT&T Park, stevedores and switch locomotives plied the same stretch of pier to move cargo between freighters moored in the China Basin channel and the warehouse located where the ballpark stands today. Pavement set with plaques commemorating the feats of Giants stars has replaced the train tracks, and the stadium’s right field wall mimics the warehouse’s arched windows. On game days, in what is now known as McCovey Cove, ferries deliver fans to the park and kayakers vie for splash hits where a drydock, perhaps on its way to being scrapped, temporarily floated.

Beyond the Third Street Bridge in both photos hunkers the China Basin Building, built in 1925 by Del Monte Cannery. By 1974, the building had been painted a rich blue. That same year, it was a distribution point of a massive food giveaway conducted by the Hearst family in response to ransom demands of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the kidnappers of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. Today the building houses corporate offices, and life science and technology firms that value its proximity to UCSF’s new Mission Bay campus. That a ballpark could be built at a site so key to the economic vitality of an earlier San Francisco reminds us of just how outmoded The Port had become by the late 20th century, left in the wake of the container ship.

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McCovey Cove when it was still China Basin, 1996.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

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Look across water at site of Giant's Ballpark in 1996, several years before construction began.

Photo: Chris Carlsson


The mouth of Mission Creek, now "McCovey Cove," before the ballpark was built and replaced these warehouses.

Photo: Chris Carlsson


The ballpark also displaced tugboat docking. The mouth of Mission Creek was christened "McCovey Cove" after the legendary Giants first baseman, and to market the home runs expected to "splash down" in it.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

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A statue of Willie McCovey at the mouth of the cove that now has his name, at least as designated by the Giants, who not only have the ballpark on the north shore, but a huge development plan for the southern acres adjacent to this small park.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

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