True fan Neukom eager to run Giants
Incoming managing general partner endured Candlestick fog
SAN FRANCISCO -- People who keep score at baseball games are invariably passionate about the sport, and those who have endured night games at Candlestick Park possess a zeal few ordinary fans can match.Giants fans, meet your new managing general partner, who will chart the club's course for the foreseeable future after Peter Magowan's retirement becomes official Oct. 1. William H. Neukom, who welcomes being called Bill, dressed like the lawyer he is for Friday's introductory news conference. He wore a gray pinstriped suit and a bow tie, an uncommon sartorial touch. "I tend to wear them most of the time," he said. Neukom left no doubt about the soul beneath the suit. "It's always been black and orange," he said of his baseball allegiance. To that end, Neukom, 66, sounded intent on re-establishing the Giants' success. "I've always devoted my whole self to job one," Neukom said. "Job one, for me, beginning Oct. 1, is to try to be a good manager of this enterprise." Based on preliminary indications, the Giants under Neukom probably won't be operated much differently than under Magowan. "I have real confidence that Bill cares," Magowan said. "He's going to try to do the right things for our fans, which is to win." Said Neukom, "Baseball is this nation's pastime and is a family sport. We want to make sure that the Giants lead both leagues in terms of quality experience that our fans have when they come to this ballpark to see baseball played the way it should be played." Neukom's resume reveals a pattern of achievement. He graduated from Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School and is currently president of the American Bar Association, a term that will end Aug. 12. Currently a partner in the Seattle office of the international law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, Neukom served as the executive vice president of law and corporate affairs for Microsoft. Asked what strategies he learned at Microsoft that he can implement while leading the Giants, Neukom cited positive reinforcement and teamwork -- "the willingness to share or deflect credit," he said. Through all this, Neukom said that the notion of entering the baseball world always intrigued him. As somebody who grew up with the game in San Mateo, Calif., this isn't surprising. He lived next door to Charlie Graham Jr., the general manager of the San Francisco Seals. When the Seals vacated Seals Stadium for the Giants in 1958, Neukom's father bought him shares of the National Exhibition Company, the official name of the group led by Horace Stoneham that owned the Giants. One of Neukom's most vivid recollections of bygone Giants games was a classic against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 1960s when excessive fog delayed play. As Neukom recalled, the fog shrouded everything except the top of the cap worn by Frank Howard, the Dodgers' 6-foot-7 left fielder. "I think I've earned my Croix de Candlestick," Neukom said. While attending Dartmouth, Neukom was fortunate enough to get tickets for one of the games of the Giants-Yankees 1962 World Series played at Yankee Stadium. Hank Sauer, the former slugger who proceeded to work for the Giants, sat directly behind him. Back in the era when players needed offseason jobs to remain financially afloat, Neukom bought a Louisville Slugger at a San Mateo sporting goods store from Giants left-hander Mike McCormick. Most of the time when Neukom attends a game, he keeps score. "You're so much more attentive," he said. Neukom lost his shares in the Giants when Bob Lurie purchased the team in 1976. But Neukom contacted Magowan in 1995 and joined the ownership group. Neukom increased his interest by becoming a general partner in 2003. Although Neukom's ownership in the Giants makes him an elite fan, he proclaimed his appreciation for the "Knothole Gang" that watches games for free through the right-field arches. Becoming the man in charge of maintaining such pleasures, he said, is "a humbling experience." Added Neukom, "There's obviously more to be done and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.