Not -so -Welcome to Candlestick anymore, as demolition is in progress 4-20-15. Gates are closed for good, now, as guards make sure nobody gets in for one final closeup. But, perhaps, getting too close might hurt more. Can probably see all we want from afar
Candlestick Park - I Went To Say Goodbye To An Old Friend
I went to visit an old friend the other day. It had been more than 10 years since I'd seen him, yet he was looking as good I remembered him, except for a few parts missing. No signs of any cancer, yet his days are numbered.
They say my friend had a 'cold heart' unlike the 'new kid' uptown where
the sun shines all the time, or so they say...
Something called to me from within to go visit my friend this day, telling me
there wouldn't be many more. I took a crowded freeway Monday,
April 20 , suddenly deciding to get off busy #280 at the old Silver Ave exit in
an effort to not only save time while recreating the old bus route I took as a kid .
At least I would catch the tail end of that bus route. It looked like nothing had changed on the last leg to Candlestick... the bumpy roads amidst blocks of small, multi-colored matchbox homes abutting one another.
Then, suddenly, there it was, right before my eyes. An empty but still inviting ballpark
with the SUN BEAMING DOWN ON IT, surprisingly(?). It was a vision to behold, nothing like all the bad stuff you hear about in the media. This is the park they're
getting rid of in favor of the shiny, new one downtown, now already
in its fourteenth year.
While the security guard wouldn't let me get too close the park, as the large ORANGE cranes
took GIANT bites out of my friend, I was still able to go all the way around the stadium
to see all that was being done to my friend. I don't know if it was better to see him go bit by bit, as sanctioned by the neighbors rather than one big explosion which would upset a lot. But, who could be upset more, as it was to slowly lose a friend. Maybe fast would have been better.
And there was Paul McCartney
looking down from a large billboard left over from last August when he celebrated the 50th year
since the Beatles' last concert at Candlestick Park .
Candlestick becoming a distant memory
In the bright sunlight my friend looked very good, from the various vantage points
I visited around the park .Perhaps it was a good thing they would't let me get any closer
to see the actual blood and guts. Why destroy a beautiful last image/memory any further.
As I gazed out at my friend he didn't look quite as big as he did as when I was a kid.
Seeing my old friend again, for the first time in years.began to trigger old memories like
seeing the players leaving the clubhouse after the game, going to their cars. There was
'Sad' Sam Jones, relief pitcher extroadinaire - at least for a year or two - getting into his
'59 Caddy El Dorado with the big fins. So what if he didn't sign his autograph. It was Sam Jones! Then, it was the second game of the 1962 World Series - the first and only the Giants would appear in
during their first decades in San Francisco. My neighbor was nice enough to make this little kid (me) to that game, which I'll never forget and some of the events of that day. There were many
other games I attended at Candlestick,,most of which have become a blur. I don't remember the cold
weather everyone complained about. The Giants were winners in the early 1960s. I did collect every Giants baseball card that year except Willie Mays (see sample below).
Remembering a simpler time, the 'black and white days' of the early 1960s. Can you name these Giants greats?
Remembering a great team of stars no cold weather could interfere with. I can remember
the names like yesterday without looking it up. Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, the
Alou brothers Felipe and Matty, Hiller, Haller, Davenport, Miller, Pierce, Sanford, Bailey.
I think Perry came a little later. For a minute I forgot what day it was as a day dream
was taking over me. But it wasn't a dream.More like a reverie. There was Candlestick Park
once more. I would have probably stayed a Giants fan for life if the team hadn't run into
hard times in the late Sixties and Seventies, hiring less than stellar managers and players
as the Dodgers were beating our butts. After Alvin Dark, who managed Giants to the world series was fired, ten years of Herman Franks as manager was enough for
me. I switched allegiance to the new team across the Bay in Oakland. 1968. Of course
I lived in Oakland so I couldn't be called a traitor.
As I came out of my day dream I became sad. Thinking in modern, marketing terms - as we all
seem to do these days - I wondered if Candlestick had been built right on the water where
the parking lot was and the parking switched to where the stadium was would the Giants
have attracted bigger crowds back then? Would that have even made a difference
or were attendance numbers such a big thing in the Sixties? Maybe it was yet people
weren't so hung up on attendance as I recall. An owner could still make money with a half
empty stadium when costs were much less. Stadiums cost perhaps one-twentieth of what they do today. And ticket prices were rediculous. $1 for a bleacher seat, $3 for a good first deck 'box seat'
in the early 1960s, as I recall.
Up in smoke, once distinguished, 50s-stylish curved upper deck now in ruin
I wondered if the sun was shining so brightly at the new shiny downtown park they rave about so much, where the Giants announcers always proclaim a 'beautiful day' or 'beautiful night'
even if the temp is 58 - and it can get cold at the new park, too.
It was time to leave my old friend, now, and get back to work and reality, but I thought
that, yes, it would be interesting to go by the new stadium, which was just off the freeway
on my way home. I do remember going to my first game at AT&T , then called Pac Bell Park,
in the early 2000s. It was the coldest night I can ever remember going to a game, and that
included Candlestick. Maybe it was because I was no longer really into the Giants, but, no,
it was plenty cold that night. My friend Tom will vouch for that... and I remember the weather
more than I do the game, which wasn't the case at Candlestick for me.
Still looking good from this angel, er, angle
Looking out from Candlestick's warm climes on this day, it looked like the rest of San Francisco was overcast and cold. Driving back 101 I passed by King Street the not-so-new Kid in town and saw not a drop of sun.The temperature on building read '58,' which had to be a half dozen degrees lower than over at Candlestick. I began to get mad. Why are they hurting my friend. Why are they getting rid of him. This is a con job, I told myself. On this day it certainly was much warmer and more beautiful looking out at Candlestick than AT &T. Was it just a coincidence that on this day things were colder and gloomier downdown? I'll have to try this again another day soon, and see if the downtown location is really that much warmer and less windy. I'm going to do my own
In the Eighties and Nineties the Forty-Niners were football winners at Candlestick. Nobody complained about the cold weather then. Maybe the winters in San Francisco ARE warmer than the summers , as Mark Twain once reminded us, but how much could that be? If the Giants stop winning you can bet they'll come up with some excuse . The Giants have no KNOWN PED players currently on the team, which may explain part of their drop off this year, 2015. If they continue to lose, there will be some excuse. Can't build another ballpark already. We'll see.
One last gate remains open for demolition trucks to come and go - but not for fans anymore.
I am going to say one thing that a lot of today's younger fans and some older ones
might not like. There wasn't the political correctness on the Giants and any second guessing
about players back then. You saw what you got. A homerun was a homerun - and the M and M boys hit a lot of them, as did the rest of the Giants. No second guessing whether a player was 'legit' or 'enhanced.' Players drank more booze back then, were more overweight and even took some greenies to stay 'up' during long road trips. But, even the greenies didn't affect the outcomes of ball games.
We weren't overrun with media and political correctness back then,either. Players we rarely saw on TV were brought to life through the 'color' radio of Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges. Our imaginations took the place of 'in your face' social media. Maybe a little mystery was better than reading 140 character word-bites. The focus was more on the games, themselves. Besides, there were no 'designer' anabolic steroids or PEDs to speak of back then. It was a simple, more honest world that didn't call for drug testing. With long-term,multi-million dollar contracts today brought on by stronger players unions, the pressure is on players to produce. Now, it seems that players are even being rewarded for taking enhancements as we see PED indictments being overturned (Bonds) and players making more money the second drug offence around (Cruz, Peralta, etc). The Giants won there first three world series in sixty years with KNOWN PED users and key players (Torrez, Cabrera and Morse in 2010,2012, and 2014 respectively) and have seen 23 indicted players come through town since Bonds opened the flood gates in 1997. Today we're living in an era where a player like Bonds , basically, can control a team as we saw his presense directly or indirectly force out key NON-PLAYING members of the Giants family,e.g. Bill Newcomb, Stan Conte, Dusty Baker, Hank Greenwald and even some players like Brian Wilson. Interesting that with Bonds, the Giants still didn't win a world series. Only when 'team CHEMISTRY' got real good, if you will, did the Giants start winning.
Ironic orange 'monsters' destroying the old orange and black stadium, home of the OLD orange and black of another era, when the Giants played like GIANTS without aid of any special enhancements. Cold weather didn't matter. In fact, when they were winning nobody seemed to notice cold weather.
Sure, some players could be surly and avoid signing autographs back then. But, they certainly never charged money for them as they sometimes do today. Today, players are paid extra so that they will interact with fans, do interviews, etc. Wasn't the case back then. Players got one year contracts back then and that was it. And it wasn't a lot of money, where most players had to work during the off season.
Take down the lights, the party's over
It's a different world today where fans will come religiously out to the ballpark - with
smart phones in hand. It make take take half price Goldstar tickets or nightly promotions
or roided or suspect players to draw them -and they may be staring at those phones rather than watching the game. But, they're there and part of the, in Giants case, hundreds of straight 'sellouts.' Meanwhile Giants management does all the politically correct things,
from holding ring ceremonies to inviting back the former players . Meanwhile, good old Candlestick Park (before ballparks had corporate names) where REAL, honest baseball ruled, is quickly becoming a forgotten friend from a time when players were loyal
to their teams and teams were loyal to their players (and not just with multi-million dollar contracts).
A year from today Candlestick will be no more. If you grew up in THE era, you, too, may want to to say goodbye to a good, old friend, the likes of which you'll never see again , nor what's took place inside.
Yes, thank you for having us , Candlestick. You did the Giants and 49ers proud and most fans loved you, at least when their teams were winning.