Monday is the last sporting event at Candlestick Park, at least scheduled. There is a very slim chance of one more, but saying very slim might be over optimistic.
The facebook page of this website posted one feature of the closing. I wasn’t the one who posted it and can’t tell you what it said. The person who said good bye has made a living of knocking things and I quit watching him several years ago. This person couldn’t even keep his job at a station that lives by knocking things. I know that isn’t the only station that lives by knocking and that is how close to getting political as you will see me get. That is except to say that ESPN hired this guy and is one of the reasons, several reasons, that I avoid ESPN unless they are broadcasting an event I want to see.
As I said I didn’t read what he said about the Candlestick Closing, but I’m guessing because of his reputation and the couple of comments on the post, that he wasn’t shedding a tear about the place closing. I also noticed the likes of the comments and am going to guess they were done by people that weren’t Giants or Niner fans.
As soon as I saw that post I decided I was going to write about my ten favorite Candlestick memories.
Here is my top ten list. Some events I attended, other I attended emotionally.
Some will be familiar to most, some not so familiar.
Some of the information is from memory, some I got help from the magic of the internet.
No. 10—My Life Is Over
December 23, 1972
That is Bay Area’s Sports version of Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
The morning game of the first round of the NFL playoffs ended the Raider season with the Immaculate Reception.
The afternoon game doesn’t have a name or the history, but it felt like life was over to one teen age boy.
The 49ers were hosting the Cowboys. Back in those days all home games were blacked out. It didn’t matter if they were sold out or an NFL playoff game or both. So this game wasn’t on TV.
I remember by dad thinking about heading to a friend in Sacramento where it was out of the blackout range, but because of plans that night we didn’t go and had to settle for listening to Lon Simmons on the radio.
What a horrible trip home that would have been.
We heard Vic Washington run the opening kickoff for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead.
They led 21-3 in the second quarter.
They led 28-13 with six minutes left.
It would be known as Roger Staubach’s first great rally with two touchdown passes in the last two minutes to pull it out 30-28.
In between the two touchdowns was the Preston Riley onside kick. Younger fans, mention the name Preston Riley to older Niner fans and watch for the reaction.
I thought my life was over.
The game would have long lasting implications.
It was the third straight season Dallas beat the 49ers in the playoffs and is the main reason I love to see the Cowboys lose today.
It is also another reason I think the same way about the Raiders.
Back then they always outdid the 49ers in everything.
The Raiders even outdid them losing a heartbreaking NFL playoff game.
No. 9 Near No Hitter
August 4th, 1974
The Giants met the Atlanta Braves in a doubleheader. For the younger fans, a doubleheader back was a routine part of the schedule, usually on a Sunday and you got to watch two games for the price of one.
I had seats down the left field line.
The Braves won the first game 4-2.
The second game starter for the Giants was Mike Caldwell. He was famous for being the man traded to the Giants for Willie McCovey.
Caldwell almost had more famous moment. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. The Giants led the game 4-0. With one out Hank Aaron, yes that Hank Aaron, hit a line double off the left field fence.
The Giants did win the game 5-2, part of a forgettable season in which they finished 30 games behind the Dodgers.
A generation later my son trumped me by going to Matt Cain’s no-hitter. His generation was good to the Giants. Not so good to the 49ers Super Bowl Record.
The attendance for the doubleheader was 11,003.
December 12th, 1977
I was coming home from my first Navy assignment. I was stationed on the USS La Salle whose home port was Bahrain Island in the Middle East. The flight home was exciting because I was going to be home for Christmas and had told my parents I wasn’t and was surprising them. A couple of friends were meeting me at SFO to bring me home.
As the plane was landing, it flew over Candlestick Park which was hosting a Monday Night Football game. It was lite up and look majestic from the air and was almost like a signal saying, “welcome home Joe”.
As far as the game itself, Dallas defeated the 49ers 42-35. It was surprising that the 49ers played it that close.
Dallas would go onto win the Super Bowl XII.
The 49ers were coming off a season when they started 6-1 and ended 8-6. They fired Monte Clark as head coach and had hired Joe Thomas as General Manager, who was supposed to bring the 49ers to the promise land.
Not close. They started 0-5…ended 5-9.
No. 7—Not What Was Expected
November 27th, 1978
I was at my second Navy assignment in Norfolk, Virginia.
They didn’t broadcast many 49ers games in Norfolk, Virginia.
There was good reason. The 49ers weren’t very good.
For some reason they scheduled them for a Monday Night game. It compares to this Monday Night game with Atlanta. This Monday’s game does have some sense to it since it is a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game.
This Monday Night game planning made no sense. The game was against Pittsburgh, who had on its way to being named the team of the decade.
The 49ers would have their decade, but where they were, what was about to happen with them seemed like a fantasy.
The planning seemed worse as it got closer.
The Steelers were 10-2; the 49ers were 1-11.
That means I was the only person in the country looking forward to that game.
The reason is it would be my first Niner game at Candlestick in two years.
It almost felt like being home without being home, even though the game didn’t start until 9 pm. I never did get used to the Eastern Time Zone for sports. No Sunday Morning NFL and you had to stay up to midnight to watch Monday Night football.
Anyway the broadcast was beginning and Howard Cosell came on and said (Howard Cosell voice),”We are at a city that is in shock”. I hadn’t seen the news all day so I had no idea what he was talking about. Jonestown had happen three weeks or so earlier and that was the first thing that came to mind, but the city couldn’t be in shock about that still could it?
Well it turned out that was the day of the Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk was assassinated.
I watched the whole game, which wasn’t a surprise. Either was the result. The Steelers won 24-7.
No. 6—The Rainout
September 16th, 1989
This was the biggest Giant game I had ever gone to. The Giants were hosting the San Diego Padres. There was two weeks to go in the regular season and the Giants had a five game lead in the NL West.
Add to it Will Clark was battling Tony Gwynn for the NL Batting Title. It was the kind of game you dream about as a kid to go to see the Giants play.
It wasn’t a pretty Saturday. As we drove down it was pouring. They kept saying on KNBR over and over and over again, there will be a game.
We made it to the park and what I remember is it some stopped raining. Game time was 1 pm and at about 2:30 it appeared that the worse had past and I was getting excited again.
Then all of a sudden the lights went on. My first thought was play ball. Then the announcement, not what time the game would start, but that the game was postponed.
The Giants did go onto win the NL West.
Clark didn’t win the batting title.
No. 5—Double The Fun
June 22, 1986
The Giants swept a doubleheader from Houston and completed a four game sweep and they took over first place in the NL West.
This one I was at. According to the boxscore along with 47,030 others.
The second game ended on a line drive double play to first basemen Mike Aldrete. At Candlestick the visitors had to walk down the Right Field Line to get to the dressing room. My seat was in the upper deck down the right field line. The section was waving to the Astros as they walked down the line. I was yelling, “I hope you had a great weekend in San Francisco”.
The scoreboard had the headline FIRST PLACE.
The year before was the only 100 loss season for the only time in Giant history.
Roger Craig was the manager and they were making an amazing turnaround.
The turnaround wouldn’t happen in 1986. The Astros would win the NL West. But some of the best times for the Giants at Candlestick Park were coming soon.
No. 4—The Catch No. 2
January 3rd, 1998
One of my best friends is a Packer fan. At a time we had a deal, when the Niners played the Packers whoever was the home team had home house advantage.
The Packers were at Candlestick for this playoff game and so the party was at my house.
When the Niners played the Packers in the 90’s it usually wasn’t good news for the Niners.
You know this game. Young-Owens, :03 left for a 30-27 win.
What I remember most about that game was holding my daughter, who wasn’t quite one year old. Every time I held her it seemed like the 49ers would do something good. I was noticing that and commenting on it as the game went on.
My friend and his son didn’t really buy into the good luck at first, but as the game went on the son started trying to block me from holding her.
Needless to say I was holding her during that last drive.
Somehow she survived the excitement of the winning score.
Yes that is the daughter who did so well in Cross Country this year.
No. 3—The Catch
January 10th, 1982
The NFL Network has many Top Ten shows.
The No. 1 of the greatest NFL players of all time is Jerry Rice.
The No. 1 of the greatest San Francisco 49er is Joe Montana.
Both are probably right.
I mention that because the catch is the best sports moment in Candlestick History, but not No. 1 on my list.
I ranked it here because I watched it like most of you did, on television at a friend’s house.
I spent most of the game, having a hard believing that the 49ers were playing in it. The last three years they had gone 2-14, 2-14 and 6-10.
Few remembered what happened right after the catch. The Cowboys completed a 40 yard pass play and were a first down away from field goal range with :40 left. It instantly hit my mind that if the Cowboys made a field goal the final score would be same as the game that is the No. 10 moment on this list.
The football gods couldn’t be that cruel could they?
No. 2—Beating The Rams
October 25th, 1981
The reason this beats the catch is because I was at this game.
For some reason that can’t be explained, the tickets for this game were bought before the season started. Most of the time, you could get to Candlestick minutes before a game and buy tickets.
This is the year the 49ers started its Decade of the 80’s run. After a 2-2 start they weren’t the same team. As each game went past the game got bigger and bigger.
They went into the game 5-2 and a four game winning streak, including a 45-14 slaughter of America’s team Dallas. Remember they were 10-38 the past three seasons.
The game was for first place and sold out. It was game No. 2 of a sellout streak that is still going today.
The tickets were behind in the upper deck behind the goal post on the opposite end zone where the catch would happen two months later.
The whole fourth quarter was played at that end. The Rams missed three field goals in the quarter and the Niners after taking a 14-0 lead in the first, won 20-17.
Back then the 49ers never beat the Rams.
Heck 10-38, they rarely beat anybody.
That might have been as excited as I have ever been leaving Candlestick Park.
No. 1—Game 3
October 17, 1989
No I wasn’t at Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. Not the scheduled one or the make-up game that came nearly two weeks later.
Stood is the key word.
Candlestick Park has been ripped over the years, but at the moment it needed to come through it did.
The biggest earthquake to hit this area since 1906 struck when Candlestick Park was the center of the sports world. It was less than thirty minutes before Game 3 and 60,000 fans were getting ready.
Then it struck and with all the destruction in the area that went with it, like the Bay Bridge, the symbol of the World Series, the park came through.
Just think of what a disaster it would have been had the park not stand tall.
There are so many memories to keep it to ten.
My son can’t believe that the Catch Three didn’t make the list.
How about Willie McCovey’s line drive out in the 1962 World Series, something I have no memory of all.
Or the 35-7 rally in 1980 that was the biggest NFL comeback of all time.
Juan Marichal’s bat to John Roseboro’s head.
The 16 inning pitching duel between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn that a Willie Mays homer won 1-0.
Another thing that could have made the list was a general category. That being games where I froze with barely 10,000 other fans at a night baseball game.
One game that I remember, not sure when it was, I have never been so cold in my life. It was an extra inning game against the Braves. I was thinking of the winter I spent in Norfolk, Virginia when I got my first experience of wind chill.
The list of memories is a long one.
Yes I know Candlestick Park is not a modern stadium and probably shouldn’t have been built there in the first place, especially for baseball. But as a Giants and 49er fan since childhood and spending plenty of time at the place, it will always have fond memories for me.
Candlestick Park was ripped for things that weren’t its fault, like where it was built to it getting to old for modern sports.
But for one sports fan that grew up rooting for the teams that called Candlestick Park its home, it has more good memories than bad.
It may have been a dump to most people, but it was our dump.
April 12th, 1960-December 23rd, 2013