Memories of the ‘Stick

By Steve Lee | December 26, 2013 | Last Monday the albatross known to many locals as Candlestick Park likely hosted its last event. It ...

By Steve Lee | December 26, 2013 |

Last Monday the albatross known to many locals as Candlestick Park likely hosted its last event. It seems a shame to tear it down even though it is an eyesore that is unfit for just about anything but trap shooting. The facility has truly seen and been part of history.

Willie Mays says goodbye to the 'Stick.
This fact largely escaped me until my daughter, a die-hard sports fan since she was a toddler, informed me that she has never been to Candlestick Park. I took a few minutes to think back over the years and I realized she was right. Realization: I’m not a very good parent.

Understand, I’ve taken my daughter to Giants spring training, too many trips to AT&T Park to count, she was even at Game Two of the 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers thanks to a great mom who understood the importance of the event, but she’s never weathered a wind-swept game at the Stick. Much like the “Croix De Candlestick,” the badges the ushers would pass out to patrons who were crazy enough to fight the cold, wind, fog and gulls on the extra-innings games, the badge of courage was truly earned and not easily attained. I proudly saved the ones I earned over the years.

Growing up in central California, the nearest MLB team was the hated Dodgers. I knew that stadium well and I considered it a cathedral, with those baby blue walls, grass so massive, green and perfect, and Vin Scully, the only Dodger worth mentioning. But as a kid, I dreamed of Candlestick; the place where Willie Mays roamed centerfield with the grace and speed of a gazelle, the seeming effortless play afield with that patented “basket catch” that I practiced for hours in my yard, yet never to came close to mastering; the place where “Stretch” McCovey swung his wide shoulders and that lumbering bat at timid pitchers; Juan Marichal with that high unmistakable leg kick. God, I loved those guys growing up. The team with all that talent, yet one that could never quite win the pennant…year after year after year. After the collapse of 2002, I resigned myself to the fact that I would likely die before the Giants won a World Series. Yee of little faith, I know.

I recall as a 12 year old, my parents planning the family vacation to San Francisco. I knew then, it was planned for me. My parents didn’t care about San Francisco. This was heaven, a chance to see the Giants, Willie Mays and Candlestick Park! Mays played unspectacularly. I pleaded afterward with my dad to wait for Mays at the stop sign at the exit of the Stick so that I could get an autograph. Three hours later, here comes Mays and I was adamant and determined, he would have to run over me to get by me without signing. The top of my shoes had tire tracks of black rubber from his tires. Dad wasn’t happy. I was devastated.

It took years, but later I returned to the Stick. It wasn’t easy to watch when the best player was Mike Ivey. There were some thin years, the Johnnie Lemaster and Darrell Evans years stick out, but they were still “My Giants.”

Then came Will Clark and Robbie Thompson. What a great time to enjoy the Stick. Humm Baby! Pride was back and the sweetest swing I’d even seen belonged to my mancrush, “Will the Thrill.” No one was ever as clutch as Will. He owned the Stick and Nolan Ryan. I recall a sweep of the 1st place Astros and ragging on their ace Mike Scott so much that he gave me the finger. Mission accomplished.

During that period I even got engaged at the Stick. I hired a bi-plane to fly a trailer asking my girl to marry me. Back then, we attended just about every Saturday home game. She said “yes” and we’re still strong over 25 years later.

I fondly recall the 1998 season. We bought a box with friends near the left field foul pole for a game against the Cards. This was the year that McGwire* broke Roger Maris’s single year HR record. During batting practice McGwire hit a screaming rocket right at our box. It might have killed someone had the plexiglass slider been open. People in the box screamed and scattered like a grenade had just been tossed in the box. Of course the family saw numerous Barry Bonds bombs in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but my daughter and I had issues supporting a “cheater.”
Who can forget this?

Let’s not forget football. I was there to see Montana lead the Niners to numerous victories, OJ’s last 100-yard game against the Bears in 1978, and I was there when Steve Young made that incredible rumbling,’ bumbling,’ stumbling,’ TD run against the Vikings a few years later that is still seen occasionally on ESPN.

…and let’s not forget, the Stick is the place where the Beatles played their last public concert. That alone should make the place an historic landmark.

Long live the ‘Stick. – Sorry baby, dad should have taken you to see this historic venue.

Post a Comment Default Comments


Elk Grove News said...

Steve - Good job lopping that * on McGwire instead of Maris!

Anonymous said...

Great story Steve.........

The Mad Hatter said...

If Candlestick wasn't such a damn cold place, how many more homers would Willie Mays have hit!

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