SAN FRANCISCO -- Peter Magowan was the Giants' well-heeled owner, while Jeff Kent's heels usually stayed dirty during his 17-year Major League career. There was, however, an event when their baseball passion intersected. It evoked the spirit that propelled them toward the recognition they earned Monday, when they were inducted
SAN FRANCISCO -- Peter Magowan was the Giants' well-heeled owner, while Jeff Kent's heels usually stayed dirty during his 17-year Major League career. There was, however, an event when their baseball passion intersected. It evoked the spirit that propelled them toward the recognition they earned Monday, when they were inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF).
As the Giants' managing general partner from 1993-2008, Magowan often traveled with the team. On one East Coast excursion, he watched Kent slide headfirst into third base, where rain had turned the dirt around the bag into the consistency of chewing gum. "My chest hit first, I stuck and my head hit the ground," Kent said before the BASHOF induction ceremony at a downtown hotel. "My head hit the base and knocked my neck over, and I remember feeling something like a shot down my spine."
After Kent was carried from the field on a stretcher, a concerned Magowan rushed to the clubhouse to check on his second baseman.
"That was the first time I ever had an owner talk to me," Kent said. "It was a pretty neat experience."
While Magowan's visit demonstrated his regard and respect for his players, Kent displayed his characteristic toughness.
"Oh, I'll be back tomorrow," Magowan recalled Kent saying. "He was as hard-nosed and competitive a player as I remember, and he had as much will to win as anybody."
Also, the man could hit. Kent batted .290 lifetime, including .297 during his six seasons with the Giants (1997-2002). With San Francisco, he made three of his five All-Star teams and won the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player Award. While playing for six teams, Kent amassed 377 home runs, including a Major League-record 351 as a second baseman.
"I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame," Magowan said -- referring to Cooperstown, not BASHOF. "After World War II, who has a better record than Jeff Kent?"
Two years ago, Kent left a legacy more meaningful than that of an ex-baseball star. A student-athlete at the University of California-Berkeley from 1987-89, Kent launched the Jeff Kent Women Driven Scholarship Endowment, which provides a full scholarship annually to one female athlete playing soccer, softball, tennis, track or cross country who has a GPA of at least 2.8 and an interest in community service or mentoring, as well as demonstrated financial need.
"I was proud that I could leave some kind of trail," Kent said. "This was a comfortable place for me to be in. Even though I didn't live here or was rooted here, I'm glad I was able to make roots here, if you will, and have an impact in the community."
Magowan's impact will remain as eternal as the Giants franchise. Following the 1992 season, when the Giants appeared destined to move to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, he directed the efforts that kept the franchise in San Francisco and prompted the construction of AT&T Park.
The group of powerful San Franciscans and northern Californians hoping to block the Giants' move decided that Magowan, then the chairman and CEO of the Safeway supermarket chain, ought to lead the local bid. It helped that he loved baseball and had served on the Giants' board of directors for the previous 11 years.
"Nobody really wanted to run it," he said. "They had other things to do or they felt they were simply not qualified. I enjoyed what I was doing [at Safeway]. But, if I was ever going to change careers, I was the right age. I was 50, and I wouldn't have to move out of the Bay Area to do it."
In the end, the Giants didn't have to leave, either.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.