Goodbye Candlestick

Yes, I know it’s time for Candlestick to go.  There are newer stadiums with way more amenities and without arctic gusts of wind.  But so much sentiment has been built at Candlestick over the years.  For this reason ATT&T Park, even though it’s better in pretty much every way, feels as corporate as its name when compared to Candlestick.

To me, “The Stick” is like childhood: not always perfect, but when it’s gone, it feels like the most beautiful thing.  These are the five most memorable moments I experienced at Candlestick.  Please share some of yours below in the comments section below.

5) The High Wire Act. Between the games of a double header in 1977, the Giants put a tight rope connecting the top of each foul pole, and “The Walking Wallenda” tight-roped over the field while wearing a microphone.  They really did that?  If I hadn’t just googled it and found a picture, I might have thought I was just dreaming. Talk about some big time creativity in the marketing department.

4) “The Catch II”.  The original “Catch” is, of course, a historic moment that ushered in the beginning of the Bill Walsh and Joe Montana dynasty and even changed the power structure in the NFL.  “The Catch II”, a watered-down version between Steve Young and Terrell Owens, does not have the same significance, and I wonder if pretty soon it will no longer even be mentioned or referred to by this name.  But on that day, it felt like a football play for the ages.  We were sitting by a group of Packer fans who were rubbing salt in the wounds of all surrounding 49er fans  after it appeared that the Packers had won. But their voices just got quieter and quieter as Steve Young marched the 49ers down the field with less than two minutes remaining.  I will never forget seeing Steve Young running around the field after the win with a pack of media following him as if he were the Pied Piper. It was dusk and the spotlight on Young as he joyously jogged around stood out like a giant flashlight.

3) The World Series Earthquake.  After rooting for the woeful Giants during the late 70’s and early 80’s, I wondered if the Giants would ever make a World Series.  So when they did, I treated it like a once in a lifetime event and came home from college for the game.  When my friend dropped me off at the airport, I told him, “Even if the Giants lose, I’m just excited I will see a World Series game”.  Well, the Giants got swept, and I never even saw a game.  I was in the stadium when the earthquake hit and it felt like a ride at Disney Land as the stadium shook back and forth.  But when it kept shaking and I remember wondering how much all this concrete could take.  All the power had gone out in the stadium but there was still enough light to make things feel relatively normal. We all just stood around wondering what was going on, and when the game would start.  Boog Powell got up from his seat and yelled that he never wanted to come back to California (I only noticed him because he was that big, and I was walking by the home plate area).  Of course, in those days, there were no smartphones to use to find out what happened.  After a few minutes, some guy with a transistor radio to his ear yelled out, “The Bay Bridge collapsed!” That’s when we knew something big had happened, and began to experience fear.

2) After the final Giants game played at Candlestick in 1999, Giants players from across the years took the positions they had played in their era, as the field personnel picked up home plate, and a helicopter took it to ATT&T Park.  It was awesome to see many of the old left fielders standing side by side in their old  positin: Jeffrey Leonard, Terry Whitield, Kevin Mitchell, and current player Barry Bonds standing next to each other and talking.  (For the record, Jeffrey Leonard towered over everyone).  At shortstop there stood Jonnie LeMaster, Jose Uribe, Chris Spier and others.  It reminds me how fans can really get to know baseball players.  Perhaps it’s the 81 homes games a year.  Or maybe it’s the long games with time to fill where broadcasters have time to tell the audience about the players and funny stories from the clubhouse. Seeing all the different Giants talking with each other at their old positions together– players that I had followed throughout my life –was a moving touch to the last baseball game at Candlestick.

1) During the summer of 1989, I went to a Giants Reds week-night game. It was bone- chilling cold, as only Candlestick could be.  By the 9th inning, there were only about 2,000 fans left in the stands.   And the game went extra innings.  When the top of the 15th inning started, there were only about 500 of us left.  We all moved down to sit by the field, and it felt like being at an amateur game.  My friend yelled something at a Reds player in the on deck circle–and the player responded directly to him with some words of his own.  Then after the Reds scored two runs, about half of the remaining people left.  But we were in college and it was summer, so we stayed for the bottom of the 15th.  It was around 12:30 am on a Tuesday night and freezing.  But the Giants pieced together a few singles and scored a run, and then they put runners on 2nd and 3rd , and up stepped Brett Butler.  He proceeded to line a single to center, and the winning runs motored around.  The approximately 250  remaining fans were going crazy! I turned to the person sitting behind me to high five him, and I ended up getting hugged by a fellow Giants fan who looked and smelled a homeless guy. He was a homeless man, and I held on to that guy like my life depended on it.  To me that’s what Candlestick was about.  It brought people together in a spirit of camaraderie.  The Stick was an adventure every time.

The likely final game in Candlestick last Monday was a nostalgic night.  I’m glad I got to see it with my dad, brother, and Albert Lee.  But we were also brutally reminded of why The Stick is closing as we were going to our seats when the game was starting.  In the narrow breezeway there was a rush of excited fans trying to get by an area where there was also a beer line.  There was not enough room for everyone and shoving and chaos ensued.  Angry fans were pushing in every direction–and for a split second I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t move and the force of the pack was overpowering.  If it had gotten any worse there could have been some serious problems.  When the crowd finally loosened, besides seeing a few people having what looked like panic attacks, the last game turned out to be a great 49ers victory and lived up to all expectations.

So good bye Candlestick.  In 20 years, perhaps ATT&T Park will build up sentiment and win my heart. But for now it’s only been around for 13 years.  The Stick has been here my whole life.

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