SAN FRANCISCO -- I will enter Candlestick Park for the last of literally hundreds of times Monday.
Good riddance, you cold, miserable, sterile dump.
I will always love you.
Like so many natives of the Bay Area, I grew up at Candlestick Park. I attended countless San Francisco Giants games there from the time I was toddler to now as a married man. I covered my first professional sports events there as a cub reporter. One of the highlights of my career has been covering the 49ers this season. In the final days of Candlestick, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Here are my five most memorable moments at Candlestick, in chronological order:
The no-no: It was Aug. 24, 1975, and Ed Halicki, a 6-foot-7 journeyman starter, pitched the last Giants no-hitter at Candlestick Park. It was the second game of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader. I was 7 years old, and I was there with my parents. We often went to games, just the three of us. Sunday was my dad's day off, and doubleheaders were a bargain. We loved doubleheaders. I honestly don't recall a lot of details of this game, but I do remember my dad stressing to me how special a no-hitter was and not to take seeing it for granted. He was right. I've never seen one since. Neither did either of my parents during the rest of their lives.
The All-Star Game: Early in 1984, the Giants held a lottery for the right to buy tickets for MLB's All-Star Game on July 10. My mother sent in one postcard. It hit. We won. I felt like the Willy Wonka kid. An All-Star Game? Never thought it was possible. There was one potential sticking point: Our tickets indicated they had an "obstructed view." What? No big deal. My dad and I went. It was an awesome day. About that obstruction? Yeah, they weren't kidding. We sat right behind home plate, but at the very last row on the top deck. There was a pole right in front of my dad's seat. He didn't mind. He just turned his head and smiled for three hours.
The wallet: OK, I don't remember the exact date. I think it was in 1990. It was definitely around the Fourth of July. It was fireworks night. I went with a large group of friends and again sat on the top deck. We were in left-center field, Section 56. The stadium was full. My friends wanted to get down to the parking lot before the game ended so we could watch the fireworks and beat the traffic. Solid plan. We journeyed down to the truck before I realized I didn't have my wallet. I remembered it dropping out of my pants at my seat earlier in the night. So back I went. The game ended and 60,000 people were coming down the ramps and stairs. One was going up. Got back to the seats, and there it was: wallet found.
The title game: It was Jan. 20, 1991. It was my first big assignment as a young reporter. I was the fifth guy of a five-person reporting team as the 49ers played host to the New York Giants. I was thrilled to be there. I enjoy my job to this day, but I don't think covering a single game can bring me the joy that game did. My dad was a lifetime New York Giants fan. He died exactly four months earlier. To see his team qualify for the Super Bowl while doing my dream job … well, that's an unbeatable memory.
Waiting in the rain: The Candlestick field was called "The Quagmire." I can attests that is not an unearned moniker. It was prior to the NFC title game against Dallas in 1993. The weather was awful all week. My editor assigned me to go to the stadium on Tuesday and meet with the grounds crew and do a story on the game-day preparations. I asked for details. He said not to worry; there would be plenty of people there. I arrived to an empty Candlestick Park in a driving rainstorm. Finally, I saw someone who told me to go wait in the Giants' dugout and the head groundskeeper would come talk to me. I sat in that dugout for five hours. The rain never let up. In the meantime, the grounds crew worked relentlessly on the field. It was cool. For about five minutes. These were the days before cell phones and other distractions. I waited and waited. Finally, my interview took place. The heads groundskeeper told me this: The field was wet.
Goodbye, Candlestick. You might not be missed, but you'll be forever cherished.