53 years ago, on April 12, 1960, Candlestick Park opened. The stadium was built to be the home of the San Francisco Giants. The San Francisco 49ers first home was Kezar Stadium, where the team played from 1946 to 1970. Kezar was torn down after the 1989 earthquake and rebuilt as a smaller venue. It still remains as holy ground to fans of my parents generation. Kezar has a lot of history. I encourage fans to visit the stadium along Golden Gate Park in the Haight-Ashbury.
I consider myself part of the Candlestick generation. Honestly, it will be difficult to see the site of countless memories torn apart with hydraulic hammers and shears. I virtually grew up with Candlestick. I can think back to when Candlestick was renamed 3Com Park and how nobody cared for the name. I remember when the Giants played their last game over 13 years ago.
My parents were Bay Area Natives and shared 49ers season tickets since 1970-something. I grew up going to the games. In fact, I do not remember my first football game. My dad has a picture of me sitting on my mom's lap at Candlestick. In the photo, I am sun burned and have a reverse-farmer tan on one forearm. It was the result of vigorously waving a 49ers "No. 1" foam finger all game. It makes me laugh to this day, because that was Candlestick growing up. It could be hotter than hell or so windy and cold, it would chap your face.
When the sun set and temperatures dropped, fog would engulf the stadium. I remember the amount of stuff we had to bring to games. We were often bundled up like Eskimos and we carried loads of blankets up the stairs. It was an effort. As I look back, I truly appreciate and am somewhat amazed my parents went to almost every game with young children in tow.
As I got older, the games began to take meaning. I have experienced some great moments and some heart breaking losses at Candlestick. One great memory is when Steve Young ran for 49 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. It was one of the most exciting plays. It made my heart leap. In the book 100 things 49ers fans should know & do before they die, by Daniel Brown -- number 31 details this crazy run. Joe Montana was hurt and Young barely managed to trip across the endzone. He broke through at least five Vikings on that play and by all accounts, he should have gone down several times. Needless to say, that crazy run won the game. It stood as the longest run by a 49ers quarterback, until last year, when Colin Kaepernick ran for 50 yards.
I also experienced my first broken heart at Candlestick. In a game where the 49ers were ahead and destined for the Super Bowl, Roger Craig fumbled the ball in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants. I took the loss hard. I cried with my dad in disbelief after the game. Joe Montana broke his hand in that game. Later Craig said, "There's never one play where you win or lose." That stuck with me. No matter how significant one play seems, there are many variables that affect the outcome of a game. I still believe it to be true.
By way of background, when major league sports started up on the West Coast, my parents supported Bay Area teams. They were Bay Area sports fanatics, and that included supporting the players who came out of nearby universities. As an example, my mom liked John Elway because he played for Stanford.
The 1989 World Series, however, was played by the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, in what became known as the "Battle of the Bay". Our loyalty was to San Francisco first, and the Bay Area second. At that time, it was not a popular choice. The A's had the "Bash Brothers", i.e. Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire. They were power home run hitters and greatly favored to win. Nevertheless, I stood my ground and rooted for my team and my favorite players, Will Clark and Matt Williams. It was a great time.
As you can imagine, when my mom was given two tickets to Game 3 and two tickets to Game 6 of the 1989 World Series, we were ecstatic. The plan was to split up the tickets. My mom would take my sister to game three and my dad and I would go to game six. My mom and sister were at Candlestick Park the day of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. I was just a kid, but it brings back a lot of emotion.
I was laying on my stomach watching TV, waiting for Game 3 of the World Series to start. Giants were down two games, but now they were playing in Candlestick. It was our home. I remember the excitement and fruitlessly trying to spot my mom and sister on TV.
And, in a blink of an eye, minutes before the game, the ground slowly rolled beneath my body. I felt every movement, as if I were on a boat -- except I wasn't on water. Then, furniture fell over and the kitchen light fixture swung violently. My father screamed at me to get underneath the door frame. I remember letting out a nervous laugh and my father immediately reprimanding me. He reminded me people were dying in that very moment. Naturally, my mind focused on my mom and my sister. I didn't even have to say a word. My dad said, "Don't worry, that old girl will keep 'em safe." And, she did.
While there were some minor injuries reported at Candlestick, the design of the stadium was credited for saving lives. With over 60 thousand in attendance and because many people went home early to watch the World Series, there were less people on the roads that day. The Bay Bridge suffered a terrible blow when a 50 foot section of the bridge buckled and sent the upper deck crashing into the lower deck. In an instant, over 40 people were killed. If it were not for teams playing, the location and timing of the World Series, the number dead would have grown exponentially.
I have always been grateful to Candlestick for keeping my loved ones safe that day. My mom and sister returned to Candlestick to watch Game 3. The A's swept the Giants, so I never got to go.
I am in love with my memories at Candlestick. The inevitable destruction of Candlestick will tear down a little bit of my heart. I recognize this Candlestick Farewell will probably cause many fans to tear the place apart tonight. However, my hope is the frenzy for souvenirs will be tempered with a measure of dignity.