49ers to L.A.? Ken Korach, Samuel Johnson
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 04, 2008

THERE IS nothing that stirs the blood of 49ers fans more than a headline suggesting the Niners might move to Los Angeles, which was the motivation for still another story this week in a Bay Area newspaper.

Relax, Niner fans. That isn’t even on the 49ers radar, and it’s not likely to be for a number of reasons.

This week’s story revolved around a report in April that Ed Roski, a millionaire builder, has plans for an $800 million stadium to be built in the City of Industry, 25 miles east of Los Angeles. Roski said he is ready to start construction on the stadium as soon as he gets a commitment from an NFL team.

I doubt that it’s as simple as that. I’m sure Roski would not commit to financing the whole stadium just to get rent from it. He’d undoubtedly want the team to either pay for the stadium or let him buy in as a partner, perhaps with the right to buy a majority interest in the future. That’s exactly the kind of thing John York has resisted.

There is no overwhelming sentiment for an NFL team in the Los Angeles Basin. Fans there seem quite happy with the current situation, which enables them to see the best games on television with no worry about blackouts. Besides, they already have a professional team. It’s called USC.

The 49ers continue to work on their plan for a stadium in Santa Clara, which would be on the auxiliary parking lots for Great America (the county has already said that permission is not needed from Great America, if they provide parking for the amusement park elsewhere), which is on the other side of the street that runs in front of their practice facility.

As a backup plan, they have the Hunters Point/Bayview area. A proposal to allow Lennar Corporation to develop that area with a retail/housing mix was approved by San Francisco voters yesterday, as they rejected Chris Daly’s pie-in-the-sky proposal, which would have forced any developer to make 50 per cent of the housing “affordable.” No developer would do that because he wouldn’t be able to make a profit.

Lennar has a spot where a stadium could be built, right on the waterfront. (I was at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the plan was outlined). The development can go forward with or without a stadium, but the access roads that will have to be built for the entire project could also be used for any stadium that is built.

An area in Brisbane just off 101 has also been mentioned as a possible site, but that’s strictly on the back burner. A site I had mentioned, San Francisco-owned land on the other side of the freeway from the San Francisco International Airport, was looked at earlier but discarded, apparently because of the problem of re=locating the garter snakes, a protected species, that inhabit the area.

I’ve had a meeting with Lisa Lang, who heads up the stadium project for the 49ers, and her colleagues on the project, to go over the Santa Clara proposal. It’s a good one, though Santa Clara is not putting in as much money as the 49ers had hoped. There is no money coming from the city’s general fund, only money from a proposed tax on visitors to the hotels in the area. The hotels have agreed to that because they anticipate additional revenue if a stadium is built. The voters will have to approve the project in the November election.

The elephant in the room is the cost of the project, now estimated at more than $900 million. The 49ers can expect to get some help from the NFL. The G-3 program that has been in effect, allowed a team to collect up to $150 million in a 1-for-2 arrangement (the club would have to spend $300 million to get that $150 million.) It also has to be a public-private operation, which is why the Niners need Santa Clara’s participation. That program is out of money but it’s expected that NFL owners will re-fund that, or a similar program.

The 49ers would still have to pay the bulk of the cost, which means the Yorks would have to sign the biggest check in the history of the league, even bigger than the reported $500 million Dallas owner Jerry Jones is putting into a new stadium. Lang thinks the Yorks will sign that check. I’m not confident that they will, unless John York is successful in enticing investors on a limited partner basis.

The same problems exist, of course, for the Hunters Point site, with the additional problem of clearing the site of toxic waste. If everything went right at either site, which never happens, it would be at least 2012 before a new stadium was built. (There is a provision that the 49ers could stay at Candlestick until 2019.)

Meanwhile, the 49ers are doing whatever they can to ingratiate themselves with residents of Santa Clara – and investors in Silicon Valley – holding frequent public meetings. They’re not looking south.

There are other candidates – the Chargers, Vikings, even the Raiders – for that City of Industry site, but my guess is that no stadium gets built there and the status quo, however uncomfortable it is for California teams, will remain.

THE BEST: A’s announcer Ken Korach doesn’t have the national and even local reputation of Giants announcers, but he is better than any of them. Korach gives listeners all the information, frequently updating the score because he realizes that people tune in and out of broadcasts. He never assumes that listeners know everything, so he reminds them that a batter is righthanded or a pitcher lefthanded. He keeps the narrative flowing, giving statistical information while keeping the focus on the game.

Korach also knows his baseball history and often compares current events to past ones. He resurrects the old team nicknames for the past, such as Pale Hose for the Chicago White Sox, or Halos for the Anaheim Angels; I’ve accused him of sounding like an old Sporting News headline. He scans the Internet regularly – including this column! – to keep up with current events. That was particularly helpful when he was paired with Bill King, who paid no attention to the Internet or anything else that was developed in the last 50 years of the 20th century.

With many announcers – certainly with the Giants announcers – you can tell as soon as you tune in whether their team is winning or losing, just from the tone of their voices. Not with Korach, who plays it straight and shows as much excitement when he’s talking about a big play by the other team as he does for the A’s. Perhaps he learned from King who, hearing a complaint from an A’s player that he praised the other team as much as the A’s, told the player, “You don’t know it but you just paid me the biggest possible compliment.”

Unfortunately for Korach, he remains largely a secret to much of the Bay Area because the A’s have such a weak radio network, a collection of stations whose signals can hardly be heard 10 miles away. Hopefully, they’ll get on a stronger station by next season.


--The annoying use of children as public address announcers at baseball games. This probably sounded like a cute idea and maybe it would have been on a one-time basis, but now it’s just annoying. Send the kids back to school and use adults.

--The continuous shots into the stands during Giants telecasts. I can understand why the TV people don’t want to show too much of the Giants, especially when Barry Zito is pitching, but the purpose of those telecasts is supposed to be to show games, right? Sometimes it seems they’re more interested in showing family outings.

--The pandering to overdone patriotism with the playing of the National Anthem before every sporting event. This was started during World War II because baseball owners wanted to avert criticism for playing during the war – although President Franklin D. Roosevelt had asked them to – but there is no reason for it now. The repetitive playings just cheapen the Anthem. And now, many teams are also playing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. This was a reaction to the 9/11 tragedy, but it isn’t needed now. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is the only song that should be played at that time. Never forget the Samuel Johnson dictum: Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

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