Candlestick Park: A Farewell

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The San Francisco Giants moved from Candlestick Park in 2000. The 49ers played their last game there in 2013. And Paul McCartney, in a tip of the cap to the Beatles final show in 1966, played the last performance at the Stick in 2014. Candlestick has been gone now for nearly six years.

A Great Many Happenings

Since Candlestick opened in April of 1960, two years after the Giants moved to San Francisco, a great many feats of the diamond occurred within the boundaries of its’ windswept confines. It played host to game three of the 1989 World Series when Mother Nature had other ideas than to watch a baseball game. It saw Will Clark’s walk-off single in game five of the NLCS and game seven of the 1962 World Series that was decided by inches. The Stick hosted the 1961 All-Star game in which an unsuspecting Stu Miller was blown off the mound by a gust of wind, resulting in an abnormal balk. And let’s not forget the 1997 Brian Johnson walk-off home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And while these recollections are of great importance to Giants fans, they do not begin to approach what Candlestick actually meant. These events happened and are forever recorded in the record books. They will not be forgotten. They will always be remembered as long as humans continue to love this great game and chronicle its happenings. What will be forgotten are the intricacies of the experience of Candlestick Park.

A Proper Mourning

The best things about the Stick were what will surely slide from our memories as we age.  The blustery, foggy, cold ballpark is a ghost on a point in San Francisco Bay. But once the huddled masses wrapped themselves in blankets, drank watery hot chocolate, and corrected their posture on stiff, orange, plastic seats. The fans walked down long, dark tunnels that smelled of damp piers along the Embarcadero and emerged to the cliche expanse of green. They would balance hot dogs and fries and nachos on cardboard trays only to have beer rain down on them from above as a careless fan leaped to their feet in celebration.

The cold, the chill-you-to-the-bone wind that would blow trash about the park was reminiscent of leaves on a forest floor and somehow nearly as beautiful. And there was a reward, a badge of honor for those fans that endured the most frostbitten of games at the Stick: the extra innings night games. To these loyal rooters came the blossoms of their endurance. And what were these beautiful flowers that were gifted their way? They were of the ‘Croix de Candlestick’ variety. A small, orange pin that had a snow-capped SF monogram.  And underneath the monogram was the Latin slogan “Veni, vidi, vixi”, which means, “I came, I saw, I survived.”

Fare Thee Well, Candlestick Park

Then there was the seemingly infinite walk back to the parking lot, descending on long sloping ramps. Your feet were inexplicably tired from sitting for the last three hours. Finally, you reached your car. You got in, the family piled in, you started the engine. Then you fought your way into the line of cars and waited. You turned off your engine. The car in front of you moved two inches. You started your engine and moved two inches. Then you waited five minutes and turned your engine off again. Followed by some guy who cut in line. You honked, cursed, and made a hand gesture. He honked, cursed, and made a hand gesture back, but he won, having managed to sneak in. Finally, after what seemed like twenty years, you make it out of the lot. You gave the line cutter one last finger and you’re off.

Mourning a lost love one can take years, sometimes decades, or even a lifetime. You love them for all their imperfections as well as their perfections. More times than not it isn’t the big moments that you miss. It is the little things like a dark, dreary tunnel, or a chainlink home run fence. And even though they are gone, and time has moved on as it must, their presence is still in your heart.

Fare thee well, Candlestick Park, you have been loved and still are.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Will Clark, Stu Miller, Brian Johnson