Monday, December 23, 2013

Candlestick Memories

Candlestick Park opened for business on April 12, 1960, exactly one week after I was born.  Since it's been the home of my two favorite sports teams, it should come as no surprise that I've got a lot of memories of the place.  A few of them come to mind:

- 1968, my first Giants game.  A night game in July, against the St. Louis Cardinals.  At that time, the park had not yet been enclosed, and as any Giants fan knows, there were few things in life colder than a night game in the middle of summer at Candlestick Park.

- 1971, seeing Hank Aaron hit a home run in person.

- 1973, watching a good but not great Giants team defeat the New York Mets in August, when shortstop Bud Harrelson couldn't handle a pop fly that got caught up in the wind.

- 1975, my first 49ers game, seeing a horrible team drop a game to the Houston Oilers, and watching Billy "White Shoes" Johnson almost break one on a punt return for a touchdown.  

- 1978, when grass once again reigned supreme, a classic Giants-Dodgers matchup that saw the Giants triumph in extra innings.

- 1981, 1987 and 1988 - Opening day games, back in the days when they opened up the parking lot at 10:00 a.m. for a 7:00 p.m. start.  In '87, it was a miracle that no one was killed.  Mike Krukow started the game, and it was the one and only time that I've seen two women in a fistfight.  And trust me, it was vicious.

- 1989, my favorite in-person memory: the Dave Dravecky Comeback Game.  Just 8 months earlier, Dravecky had undergone 8 hours of surgery for a cancerous tumor in his upper arm.  By sheer luck the tickets we'd bought months earlier turned out to be for the game that he would return.  Amazingly, after 6 innings Dravecky had a no-hitter going, and he left following the 7th inning having allowed just one hit.  The Giants prevailed 4-3, and it was one of the more emotional sports events of my lifetime.  In his next start, Dravecky's fragile arm shattered during a pitch, the last of his career.  Two years later, the arm was amputated.

- 2000, the last time I attended a 49ers game, watching Kurt Warner perform surgery on the 49ers overmatched secondary.

And of course, countless moments watching on television.  My favorite baseball moment?  Will Clark's game-winning hit in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, 1989.  Favorite football moment?  Of course, The Catch.  Both called by the great Vin Scully.

As Dwight Clark put it, Candlestick was a dump.  But it was our dump.

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