A SABR Tour of Candlestick Park

Recently, I had the great pleasure of taking a tour of Candlestick Park, one of the ‘homes’ of my youth. It was done through my SABR group, the Lefty O’Doul chapter. SABR is Society for American Baseball Research, a group devoted to baseball—both to baseball’s history and to its statistics. I happen to enjoy both the history and the statistics very much. The San Francisco Giants haven’t played baseball at Candlestick since 1999, and now, there was no sign that the Giants had ever played there. I was there in 1999 for the last baseball game though the Giants lost handily to the Dodgers. I was there with my childhood friends to watch the game reflecting back on our childhoods spent here. We had all gotten older, and we were all looking forward to a new era at the Giants beautiful new ballpark. I went to very few 49ers games there, I have strong memories of the great 49ers teams of the 1980’s with coach Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Clark, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice; however, most of the games I watched were on television. My primary memories at Candlestick Park were those of baseball: of good games and bad games, of good players and bad players, and of time spent with friends and family.

 

My tour of Candlestick Park brought back many memories for me. I remembered as a kid that I would go to Candlestick Park with my two best friends, brothers, on the Van Ness Ballpark Express bus. Their mother, who was dating my father at the time, would drop us off at the bus stop near a little neighborhood store. We’d buy some food and catch the bus, which would go down Van Ness Street, get on the freeway and head out to the ballpark.

 

I remembered going to Game 3 of the 1987 NLCS with my friend John Maschino, and watching the Giants get a nice lead only to have it dissolve into an Atlee Hammaker meltdown. I remembered that in 1989 I sat with my two best friends, Lincoln and John, in the upper deck in either Section 34 or 36 watching the Giants win their first pennant since 1962. Will Clark hit an eighth inning bases loaded two RBI single off Cubs reliever Mitch Williams to score the winning runs, and Steve Bedrosian held off the Cubs in the top of the ninth inning to win the game, and send the Giants to the World Series.

I remembered re-meeting one of my dear high school friends, Nick, and spending the whole game with him catching up, talking, and seeing very little of the actual game. I remembered going to the last game of the 1992 season with Nick, and just absolutely sobbing as I lay flat against the concrete bleacher stairs thinking that this might be the last time that I see the Giants play baseball in San Francisco.

 

I remembered bringing a date to the Giants game, and losing the car in the parking lot, and being so embarrassed that I never called the girl, even though we had a nice time. I did finally find the car, and drive her home. This was before they had car keys that made the car beep, so you couldn’t lose your car.

 

I remembered being at Candlestick Park in the early 1990’s with my brother-in-law, Michael, who was visiting from New Jersey, and trying to get a Giants promotional give away (a postcard set of different Giants teams from 1958 to 1992). I had missed out on it the night before due to a family dinner. I talked to a woman in the promotions office and told how big a fan I was, and that I could name every player on the 1978 Giants team. She said to go ahead, and that she would give me two of the sets. I’m not sure who was more amazed or stunned that I knew every player, the woman or my brother-in-law, Michael. I really wasn’t surprised at my knowledge since it was one of my favorite teams. I can still recite the statistics and jersey numbers of some of my favorite players on that team, too. It is really amazing the stuff that you remember.

 

I remembered going to Giants games with my maternal grandmother, and having wonderful seats behind home plate. I also remembered going to games with my paternal grandparents. It is a way to have a connection across generations, along with connections with family members.

 

What was it about Candlestick Park that I found so special? It was a horrible place to watch baseball—so cold and miserable that multiple layers of clothes and lots of liquor couldn’t make the place any better. It was there that I grew up going to baseball games, and I found comfort and solace there. It was where I learned to be a baseball fan, and a Giants fan, and that I learned to stick with my team no matter how good or bad they were. I could watch a doubleheader there, and get thoroughly lost in eighteen innings of baseball. It was there that there was so much less commercialism in baseball than there is now. It was more about the beauty of the game than it was about how many commercials they could fit in between half innings. It was at Candlestick Park, that as a youth, I unknowingly met a Giants executive who could sense my passion and devotion for the Giants and got me an autographed ball of the 1978 team. It was that kindness from a stranger, which prompted me to want to be kind to others whether I knew them or not.

 

The tour of Candlestick Park was great! My favorite part of the tour was running around on the field, and looking up at the majesty of the stands. The stadium was still configured to be a football stadium. I went to the approximate location of home plate just to stand for no particular reason. The woman who led the tour, Amanda, an employee of the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department was fantastic. She was very knowledgeable about the stadium, and it’s history. Candlestick Park was the last live location of a Beatles Concert in 1965, and it was the sight of a Papal mass by Pope John Paul II. Amanda also mentioned that there is an evening tour. I asked Amanda if we would be able to bring a football around, and she replied that we could bring baseball gloves and a ball, which had even greater appeal to this group.

 

Prior to our tour of Candlestick Park, the Lefty O’Doul chapter of SABR got together at a wonderful restaurant, the Old Clamhouse on Bayshore Boulevard in San Francisco to have lunch, and to celebrate the 117th birthday of Lefty O’Doul with a birthday cake. I have no doubt that Lefty would have loved the lunch, and the tour of Candlestick Park.

 

And, now, Spring Training has almost concluded, and we will start getting into the regular season very soon. I am looking forward to March 31st and the Opening of the Giants season. Baseball is a special gift every day of the season; one never knows what will happen in each game. I am so looking forward to the exciting gift of the 2014 season. I think that if the Giants are healthy that they’ll have a good year. I am excited about the acquisition of Tim Hudson and Michael Morse, and I think that they’ll fit in well with this team.

 

As a baseball fan, a Giants fan, and as an autograph collector, I work on specific autograph projects trying to get autographs of past Giants players. One of my current projects is getting a ball signed by every Giants NLCS MVP. I already have Jeffrey Leonard, Will Clark, Benito Santiago, and Cody Ross on the ball, and I still need to get Marco Scutaro’s autograph on the ball. Well, one of my other projects started in 1980 when I was fifteen years. I bought a 1979 San Francisco Giants Media Guide, and I started getting it signed by every player in it. The first autograph I was able to get was Willie McCovey signing at a hotel card show in 1980. This project has been done off and on sporadically throughout my life, through the mail along with the help of the internet, and with some baseball friends. Getting autographs of baseball stars and semi-stars was the easy part, but it was much tougher getting autographs of ballplayers who never made it to the majors or who only had ‘a cup of coffee’ in the majors. Now, thirty-four years later since this project first started, I am about to get the final autograph I need to complete this project, Hector Cruz, a part time outfielder who played for the Reds, Cards, Giants, and Cubs. I had heard that after playing baseball he was a mailman in Chicago. I was surfing Facebook recently looking at a group that I belong to—Gamer Babes (SF). We get together for different Giants-related events, such as watching games and going to the Giants Fanfest. I came across an event– a birthday party/benefit in San Mateo for the Brian Stow Foundation, the YESS Foundation and Family House being thrown to celebrate the birthday of former Giants pitcher Mike LaCoss. I looked at the preliminary list of celebrity guests, and I was thrilled to see former Giants manager Roger Craig, former Giants pitchers Fred Breining and Dave Dravecky—along with former Giants outfielder Hector Cruz. I still cannot believe that I will be completing this project with the final autograph. I plan on taking pictures of the event. I plan on eventually turning this project into a book.

 
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