The first time I ever set foot in Candlestick Park was in 1989, to see the Giants face off against the Chicago Cubs in what was the first baseball game that I ever attended. Rick “Big Daddy” Reuschel started for the Giants, and I vividly remember him clubbing a single at one point, to the delight of the fans around me. With our section chanting “Big Daddy! Big Daddy!”, Reuschel then inexplicably got thrown out trying to steal (!) on (I think) an errant pitch in the dirt. Yeah. The Giants lost the game 3-2.
The last time I ever set foot in Candlestick Park was in 1999, to see the Giants face the Diamondbacks in the season’s final month. The Diamondbacks had obliterated the Giants the night before to clinch the National League West, rendering this particular game meaningless. The Giants still lost, 7-3. As I death-marched out of the stadium with the rest of the beleaguered fans, all I could think of was that the opening of the new downtown ballpark the following season couldn’t come fast enough.
In 1991, I went to go see the Giants face the Dodgers at the ‘Stick, and we had seats in the right field family section, right above my favoritist player of all time, one Darryl Strawberry. I wasn’t rooting for the Dodgers, exactly (I’d never sink that low), but I was certainly rooting for Strawman to hit a home run or something. He went 0-3 and got replaced in the seventh inning by Mitch Webster. The Giants won the game, however. They wouldn’t win another game with my little self in attendance until 1997.
On the way back home from that game, my Dad and I were driving Eastbound on the lower portion of the Bay Bridge heading back to Sacramento when some asshole (apparently trying to get away from the cops) rear-ended our van, slammed into another car next to us, flipped over and skidded on the hood of his car across the entire lower level. Traffic on the Bridge was halted due to the accident and we had to stick around for two hours waiting for the cops. For whatever reason, in my eight-year-old brain, I blamed Mitch Webster.
Another time, I was at a game at Candlestick in 1998. It was an Interleague game between the Giants and A’s, and the Giants were in the process of losing this exceedingly dull contest, 5-1. Around the seventh inning, with surly Giants fans already grinding their teeth at the reality of a loss to their cross-bay rivals, the Candlestick winds started working their magic. We were sitting in the bleachers, and gusts of wind started blowing the dirt up from the warning track and into our eyes. You literally couldn’t see a damn thing that was going on. This lasted for at least two innings. Some loud A’s fan in the first row started jumping around, yelling, “You see! This never happens at the Coliseum!” Fair enough, jackass.
One night a few years ago, I drove down to a late-September game at AT&T Park and, like an idiot, forgot to bring a jacket. Figuring it was either dish out cash or freeze my balls off, I ended up purchasing a Giants sweatshirt at the Dugout Store for a cool $50. It was the cheapest sweatshirt or jacket in the store, but it probably saved me from dying of pneumonia in the upper deck. The Giants proceeded to lose to the Dodgers in the ninth inning on a wild pitch. This was still better than sitting through a game at Candlestick Park.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, my memories of Candlestick, officially deceased this past Monday (barring an unlikely 49er home playoff game), aren’t particularly rosy. It was cold, boring, generally unpleasant, and, if I remember right, kind of a bitch to get to. It didn’t help that, right when I was morphing into an irredeemable baseball fanatic in 1995 and 1996, the Giants were terrible. In retrospect, charging fans actual money to watch that ’96 team in that park should have been some sort of crime.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who have fond memories of Candlestick. My dad recalls the famous Mike Ivie grand slam game in ’78 as one of the greatest games he’s ever been to. The Dave Dravecky game in 1989 was one of the greatest moments in baseball history, to be sure. I’m sure those who were at the Brian Johnson game in 1997, or anybody who went to the pennant-clincher against the Cubs in 1989, get a little misty-eyed at the thought of the ‘Stick getting the dynamite. I imagine I would too, if I had attended those games.
There were great memories. Mike Krukow’s win in the 1987 NLCS. The exploits of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal, to name a few great Giants players. I’ll never forget Barry Bonds hitting a titanic home run off of Chan Ho Park and then doing a pirouette out of the batters box (suck it, Dodgers).
I went to a game there in 1998 and saw Bonds hit two home runs off of Curt Schilling. I was at one of the three games in 1995 where Mike Benjamin suddenly became possessed with the ghost of Joe Dimaggio. So not all my memories there are of sad, sucky losses (though the Giants did lose both of those aforementioned games).
Here’s the bottom line, though. In my life (i.e. beginning the year Blade Runner came out), during the Candlestick era, the Giants won one pennant and really only made one playoff series when I was actually paying attention to things (in 1997). Since the team left, and started playing games at China Basin, they’ve won three pennants, two World Championships, and they’ve made the playoffs five times.
That might not be fair to the Candlestick years, but I’m hardly the only person who couldn’t care less if the park went up in flames tomorrow. Rob Neyer, in his book of baseball blunders, essentially blamed Candlestick for the franchise nearly relocating three times after the start of the 1970’s. Every player who played any kind of extended time there hated the stadium. The broadcasters and journalists weren’t too far behind. Art Spander once called the park baseball’s answer to cryogenics.
Perhaps 49er fans feel more whimsy towards the park because the team won five Super Bowls (and came damn close to a sixth last year) during its tenure there. Fair enough. I never went to see a 49er game at the ‘Stick, so maybe I’m not the one to talk. However, as a Giants fan, during the semi-love-in surrounding the park’s final game on Monday, I was all too happy to extend the middle finger and turn on my 2010 World Series Bluray.
Goodbye, Candlestick Park. See you in a cold, windy pocket of Hell.