Sunday, July 19, 2009 Updated: July 20, 4:48 PM ET
Burns dies at 58
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sue Burns knew everybody at the ballpark -- players, coaches, scouts, ushers and security guards -- and they all knew her, a friendly fixture dressed in orange with her front-row seat.
Burns, a part owner of the San Francisco Giants and devoted philanthropist who was close with home run king Barry Bonds, died on Sunday. She was 58.
Barry Bonds hugs Sue Burns after hitting career home run No. 755 on Aug. 4, 2007.
Burns died of complications from lung cancer, former managing partner Peter Magowan said. She was diagnosed with the disease July 10 and missed Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter for the Giants that night -- a rare absence from the ballpark. Burns attended a game against San Diego the previous day.
Magowan said in a phone interview that Burns had recently complained of sciatic pain in her legs and an MRI soon after revealed the cancer had spread throughout her body.
"All of baseball mourns the passing of Sue Burns," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "She and her late husband, Harmon, along with Peter Magowan and the other Giants' investors saved baseball in San Francisco in 1992. Sue was a great baseball fan and loved her Giants. She was a wonderful person who was beloved for all of her good works in the community. She will be missed."
Giants players and coaches had their annual picnic with Burns at her suburban Atherton home on July 8. Always in orange, she was easy to spot in the lower-box seats near San Francisco's dugout.
"She was there every day," manager Bruce Bochy said in Pittsburgh, where the Giants played the Pirates. "She loved her boys. She was proud of them."
Former Giants manager and current Reds skipper Dusty Baker said he spoke to Burns only a few days ago. Baker's wife, Melissa, and son, Darren, had planned to visit Burns on Sunday night, Baker said.
He was shocked to hear the news in a call from Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.
"I have a pain in my heart," Baker said from Cincinnati after his team beat Milwaukee 5-3. "What a great person. She and Harmon were as kind and conscientious people as I've ever seen. They were always thoughtful. They were owners but didn't seem like owners. They made everybody feel like family. They genuinely had love for people, the players and their families. It made for a wonderful situation."
Burns often followed the team on the road and regularly went to spring training in Arizona. The Giants estimated that she attended at least 1,000 games over the last decade.
"We all have heavy hearts," Bochy said. "Sue was such a beautiful lady who gave us her unwavering support all the time. These were her kids. We're going to miss her, her smile, coming down by the dugout before the game. Our thoughts are with her family, her daughters Tori and Trina."
San Francisco held a pregame prayer for Burns before Sunday's game.
"The whole thing's been unreal how fast all this happened," Bochy said. "It's a hard day for all of us."
The Giants didn't detail Burns' stake in the team but said she was the club's largest shareholder. However, she was never the controlling owner of the franchise.
"She embodied the spirit of the organization," team president Larry Baer said. "She was an unbelievable rock of the organization. She embraced all parts of the organization -- players, the front-office staff, concession workers, ushers, security. All of those people were in Sue's gigantic, wonderful web of Giants relationships. She felt she lived a very special and blessed life with her family and friends. There was a fullness and richness we all strive to achieve."
Bill Neukom took over as controlling owner in October 2008 from Magowan, who headed the group that bought the team following the 1992 season.
"The Giants are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague Sue Burns," Neukom said in a statement. "Sue was a remarkable mother, grandmother and friend whose loving and nurturing spirit touched everyone in the Giants family. Her unwavering loyalty to her beloved orange and black could be felt throughout the entire organization."
Burns' husband, Harmon, an original investor in the franchise, died of heart failure in 2006 at age 61. His wife replaced him on the Giants' executive committee, Magowan said.
"I think she went to more games than any other partner," Magowan said. "She had a great love of the Giants and baseball. She will be missed very much. The good news of her passing as quickly as she did is she wasn't uncomfortable."
The Burns family was largely responsible for keeping the Giants in the Bay Area in 1992 rather than relocating to Florida. Bonds arrived the following year and went on to become baseball's career home run leader when he broke Hank Aaron's record in August 2007.
The couple also were integral in building the team's 10-year-old waterfront ballpark at China Basin.
"The times I met her, she was the most enthusiastic Giants fan in history," Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff said by phone Sunday. "She'll be deeply missed. I really think their commitment to Giants ownership was a great deal based on her enthusiasm for the baseball team. She was the epitome of a Giants fan."
Burns was born Aug. 9, 1950, in Anchorage, Alaska. A former math teacher who met her husband while they both worked at the Pentagon, is survived by two daughters, Tori Burns and Trina Dean, son-in-law Rob Dean, and two granddaughters, Madison and Mackenzie.
"It's unbelievable to think she's gone, really," All-Star pitcher Matt Cain said. "I don't think we'll realize that until we get back home and we don't see her, and it's sad to hear that. All of our thoughts and prayers and everything are with her family. Hopefully, they can get through this time."
Funeral arrangements were pending.