Tuesday, August 05, 2014

One Last Time in Candlestick

San Francisco's Park and Rec opened up Candlestick one last time for fans on Sunday, August 3rd.  A tour of the locker rooms used by the Giants and 49ers was offered, and there were a variety of carnival-type rides available as well, and food trucks galore.  In addition, the field was open for autographs with some minor Giants and 49er celebrities (Bill Laskey, not sure 49ers, Dennis Brown?, though I did see Dave Dravecky getting interviewed, wish I could see that video), as well as the 49er's Gold Rush girls.  Lou Seal was there and so was the 49er Miner.  No Crazy Crab for one last performance, unfortunately.  People could try to kick a field goal, and there was a section of seats, which can be bought with autographs from Giants and 49er greats, up front where people could get selfies of themselves in seats one last time.

ogc thoughts

My wife was very thoughtful to get tickets for the family.  But teenagers being what they are, they grumbled until they got out of it, so it was my wife and I on a date to see Candlestick one last time.

Memories of The Stick

Since it it is being torn down, we thought it would be nice to see the place one last time before it's gone forever.  When we entered, they gave away pins that said "The Stick".  That evokes word association with another SF landmark, "The Rock," perhaps that was intentional since Alcatraz, or "The Rock", was a federal prison on an island.  I was happy as they will now go with my Croix de Candlesticks I have on my hat.  Then we got the "selfie" (well, there were a lot of kind volunteers taking pictures for people, but some took selfies) and went in.  Here are some of my Candlestick memories.

First Time at the Stick

I don't recall my first game there or any details, other than it was against Pittsburgh, a coincidence with the future, as we'll see.  Must not have had any exciting action or conclusion, I'm sure I would have remembered if any of the players I liked in the period did anything memorable.  My Dad took me there and I thought it would be the first of many, as I already loved baseball, but fate had other plans, as he passed away before my 16th birthday.

First and only football game at the Stick

This one was memorable for a number of reasons.  My uncle is a huge 49ers fan, he and his group of friends had shared tickets for probably 50-60 years before age caught up with them.  He happened to have an extra ticket and asked me to go with him.  As you'll see, it is easy for me to find the date, even though I don't remember the date:  it was 1984, the Niners were charging hard to win the Super Bowl again (which they did, Go Niners!), and it was against Pittsburgh.

But that is not why it was easy to find:  it was the only loss the Niners had in the season, they went 15-1 before winning each playoff game and then winning the Super Bowl.  I took that as an omen, being a superstitious sports fan, and never tried to make another football game, and perhaps my uncle might have thought the same, as he never asked me to another game.

My First Date at the Stick

I had met this girl at a picnic - our mutual friends arranged for each of us to be the third wheel - and when I finally got her number from my friend (long story), I asked her to go to a Giants game (I regularly got quarter season tickets) as our first date, which I realize now, I had no idea whether she was interested in sports or not.  Because it was clear during the game that she was kind of lost and I had to explain things to her.

The game was kind of a bummer too, with the Dodgers whumping us, scoring 7 runs in the first three innings, and soon it was the bottom of the ninth, and we were down 7-3.  And just like that, the Giants went on an offensive outburst, each hitter got on base, getting some sort of hit, and before you knew it, exciting finish to the game, the Giants won 8-7, not even one out recorded.  When the screaming started, she was wondering what was happening and I told her that we won the game!

As I was looking at her in the excitement, I thought about what it would be like to be with her forever.  And ultimately, I didn't need to wonder, we continued dating, got married, and we have two wonderful kids!  Still F-ing happy after all these years...

My First World Series Game at the Stick

After all those years of futility, my Giants finally made the World Series, and I made sure to get tickets.  I also went out and bought a handheld portable TV so that I could watch the game (and replays) while sitting in the stands.  I decided to ask my brother, even though he has never been a sports fan, and honestly, I didn't expect him to accept, but he surprised me (as he often does) and chose to go.  He reasoned, rightly, what are the odds of another Bay Area World Series game, so he had to go, but little did he know how rare it would be.

Yes, we went to the Earthquake game.   I drove us to my special park spot - long walk to the park, but it was the first ones just before the gate, as I figured out soon after buying quarter season tickets, that it don't matter how much walking you do before the game, but it did matter where you parked when you tried to leave when 50,000 of your closest friends wanted to leave too.  If you park close to the park, basically, you have to wait out for every aisle to let cars in, making your exit about as slow as can be.  But if you park close to the gate, with your car pointed at the gate, backed into the spot, you can drive straight out of the park, with very little waiting for other cars to take their turn in front of you, as I could find a small opening and dart in and then quickly out the gate, and on my way back home.   However, today, it didn't matter, ultimately.

We got to our seats, upper deck (I normally had lower reserve seats, straight walk from car, down center lane, into gate, straight up escalator, through the doors, and then I sit down, very efficient), right side of this huge windowed area, I'm guessing that is where the media sat.  I set up my portable handheld radio, got myself comfy, and we waited for the game to start.

Then suddenly, it hit, and the entire stadium shook for what seemed to be a long time.  A few light fixtures overhead broke loose and dangled, but the stadium looked OK.  I stood up like an idiot and gave out a loud war yell, like we had triumphed over the earthquake, because the place was still standing.

Soon, it hit us how severe the earthquake was.  I think we were told to stay where we were.  Players were all hanging out on the field with their families.  Some fans came in and said that the parking lot liquified, as the earthquake hit, a Porsche rolled on a wave of asphalt and rose above the large truck next to it.  Others talked about damage in certain parts of the park.

I used my handheld TV to watch the news and see what was happening.  I saw the freeway collapse in Oakland and my blood froze.   I drove that part of the freeway frequently, headed to SF, and knew that at that time of day, it would be bumper to bumper there; I thought of all the carnage that would be there and my heart sunk.  Heck, if it wasn't for the World Series, I (me, myself, and I) probably would have been on that part of the highway at that time, but I wanted to get there early and get there before the crowds.

I also thought about my family's safety at that point.  We lived on what I thought was landfill and if the earthquake did that to the freeway, what did it to my home, my family?  With no cellphones back then, my brother and I could only wait and worry (he was also worried about his girlfriend, who lived in the area; and I was wondering and worried about the girl I had my first date with not that long ago).

Many people eventually left once we were allowed to leave the stadium.  The news were filled with stories of the death and destruction happening across the Bay Area, particularly the freeway collapse and the fires and damage in the SF Marina, and eventually the damage to the Bay Bridge (oddly enough, I had a dream before that of something similar happening, and I thought then, what a crazy dream, that will never happen...), and so people wanted to get to their loved ones.

My brother and I decided to wait out the traffic.  I don't recall exactly why, besides not wanting to fight the traffic getting out and then home.  Perhaps we figured that whatever had happened, has happened, and our rushing to get home would not change anything.  If we would wait and head home without the added stress of fighting our way back home, we felt that would be better.

It was a kind of eerie ride back home.  It was dark and pretty empty.  We first went to his girlfriend's house and we very happy to see that nothing much happened.  Then we got home and found that despite all my Mom's knickknacks that she had all over the house, not even one of them fell down and broke, there was shaking but no damage.  I called my eventual wife and she also did not have any problems.

I ended up seeing that game with my brother, then the second game with my younger brother.  I had promised game 5 to my Uncle, but the earthquake screwed up the rotation order and the baseball commissioner stupidly allowed the A's to restart their two ace starters and we had no chance, so there was never a game 5, so I didn't get to take my Uncle to the World Series.  I blame he commish for me not being able to do that, I knew the Giants didn't have a great chance of winning the World Series, but I thought that we had some good chance of winning either game 3 or 4, which would force a game 5 and then I could bring my Uncle.   But facing their aces back to back to back to back like that, we got swept.  There would be no Will Clark heroics to save the day.

My First Tour of the Locker Rooms

We got to go through the locker rooms.  We were promised a view of Willie Mays, Will Clark, and another Giant whose name escapes me in the locker room area, but there was no mention nor any name plate for them, so that was disappointing.  Equally disappointing was hardly any Giants related memories in the locker rooms, they could have put up some name plates, pictures or something.  At least there were equal representation out on the field as we exited the locker rooms.

I did get a picture of Kaepernick's name plate, then in the hallway leading out to the field, I got a picture with a plaque commemorating Bill Walsh and naming the field in his honor.

Out on the field, I got a picture of Dave Dravecky getting interviewed.  I understand the lack of celebrity for a free event, but you would have thought the Giants would have at least allow some of their ambassadors out to sign autographs, like JT Snow or Rich Aurilia, somebody from their Wall of Fame at least.

They had a field goal kicking opportunity there, so that was nice.  I probably would have tried that if the singer singing in there wasn't so loud and distracting.  A batting practice area would have been nice too, in one corner.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience but I felt that it could have been more.  Still, I got to go back one more time to a place with a lot of memories for me.  I saw my old seat area that I would straightline from car to seat.  I saw where I sat for the World Series.  Especially, I saw the seat area where I had my first date with my eventual wife.  Despite all the football stuff (which I understand), I could picture in my mind's eye the playing field.  All things in life has it's time and Candlestick's is nearly over, with just a Paul McCartney concert as a final coda (wish I could see that one).  Good bye old friend!

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