The niners and the Atlanta Falcons close out Candlestick Park on Monday night. The niners will be heavily favored, of course and rightfully so. I tell you, Candlestick Park is much more well known for baseball than football. Football, both teams deal with the conditions. Baseball, the conditions are typically suited for the home team. Not so with Candlestick.
Part of my personal journey with sports was accomplished at Candlestick Park. My first major league game on the West Coast was a Giants-Dodgers game in April at the ‘Stick. Giants won, of course. There were hot dog wrappers swirling around the place, it was cold and conditions were brutal for fans, players and officials. I started to follow that team, because they were a big deal. The Giants had Will Clark, Jeffrey Leonard and Matt “The Tank” Williams. Of course, that was 1988, and I lived in Central California. Another big deal were the Oakland A’s, starring the Bash Brothers of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. It set the scene for one of the most memorable sports series in the last 50 years, due to an outside event.
In 1989, the Giants had finally made it back to the World Series for the first time since 1962. They announced that World Series tickets were going on sale. I was working the mid shift, so I actually had a chance to dial-in and buy tickets. I was on it: At 9:03 AM, I had reached a Ticketmaster agent and they had captured two tickets for me. I gave him my MasterCard number without hesitation; the agent said they had lost the tickets. I was pissed … until Game 3 actually happened. Of course, that was the earthquake game. That was a blessing; it’s one of the few sporting events I’m glad I didn’t attend:
Of course, there are many things I loved about Candlestick Park: Stomping your feet to keep the blood flowing through them in April night games; kids pushing cars that had been alarmed and listening to the alarms go off; garlic fries, getting liquored up there just to keep warm, having Andruw Jones smash batting practice homers into the bleachers and watching fans fight over them; Crazy Crab’s line “I hope the Dodgers sweep you” and Tommy Lasorda’s awesome “You hate yourselves because you love me!” to fans raining boos down on him. My friend Don and I getting smashed before, during and after an A’s game there where the A’s got totaled by the resurgent Giants in an interleague game, and reeking of garlic and liquor on the ride home. Watching Bitter Barroid Bonds watch Mark McGwire smash home runs at a then-record breaking pace. And a memorable game where Bonds smashed an opposite-field, walk-off home run on a 95 mph pitch from Billy Wagner.
The niners also played there. My memories of the niners games I went to are mostly of fans eating cheese and drinking wine during tailgates; most niners games were during the daytime where conditions were far less harsh. I also distinctly remember Harris Barton getting injured in a preseason game, standing and applauding the guy while the alleged niners fans had no idea who the player was and what he meant to their franchise.
That’s why the niners will always be the niners as long as there are niners, small “n”. But Giants fans who braved those many frosty nights, with winds whipping off the bay, you have my respect as a fan.