One more Giants game at Candlestick Park for old-time sake? Sales of Candlestick Park seats for $649? Please. Get real.
I can get sentimental about baseball. I still rue taking the fungo bat to my 1975 Giants team-autographed baseball. I can watch the same old black and white baseball clips of Mantle, Thompson, and Ruth over and over again. Of all the major American sports, baseball perhaps evokes the most sentiment from its legions. So we should all be weeping at the thought of Candlestick Park crumpling into a heap, right?
Count me out. And if anyone can provide a good argument for crying over turning Candlestick Park into a sandpile, I have yet to hear one. In fact, I will be smiling as Candlestick Park is destroyed.
So why would a Giants fan cheer the demolition of Candlestick Park? Honestly, the place was a horrendous baseball venue. Cold, windy, cavernous, extremely uncomfortable and poorly accessible, Candlestick Park repelled fans. In fact, from 1972-1977, the Giants did not draw over 1 million fans once, with attendance hitting the nadir of 519,987 fans (an average of 6,420 fan per game) in 1974. In fact, during the 40 years the Giants called Candlestick home, the annual attendance mark only exceeded 2 million 3 times. Each of those years attendance was well below the 3 million that is achieved with ease at AT&T Park year over year. With a baseball seating capacity in the mid-50,000′s, Candlestick Park normally had far more empty seats than full.
Of most significance, Candlestick Park’s poor attendance was nearly responsible for the relocation of the Giants on two occasions. The move to Tampa Bay in the 1990′s almost came to fruition, were it not for the construction of the new downtown ballpark. In the 1970′s, Horace Stoneham was near a deal to move the Giants to Toronto because of poor attendance. Bob Lurie purchased the Giants and saved them from the move. Candlestick, the ballpark that nearly lost our team to Florida and Toronto, deserves no sympathy from Giants fans.
From a personal experience, I can’t recall one good baseball memory of attending a game at Candlestick, aside from being in the presence of my favorite team. I went to countless games at the ‘Stick (a non-affectionate nickname, refers more to “stick in my eye”) as a budding young Giants fan beginning in the late 1960′s. And what are my memories of the place? The first thing that comes to mind is the horrendous congestion and excuse for a parking lot. Getting to the lot and entering was like crossing the river Styx. Exiting was like trying to escape hell. The dirty lots on the side of the hill were worse. The parking and traffic logistics made a crowd of 8,000 feel like 40,000.
I also remember having my new Giants helmet ripped off as we left a Giants/Pirates game in 1971. I recall dirt in my soft drinks, eating frozen carnation deserts in arctic, howling winds, dollar bills flying from hot dog vendors, and down jackets at day games in July. And I can’t forget that alcohol-driven fights in the stands were common, a rarity at AT&T Park. I remember Jack Clark colliding with Larry Herndon in the ninth inning as Joe Altobelli’s playoff contending team’s season took a turn in that treacherous windswept, hyperboreal ninth inning when the Dodgers’ Lee Lacy hit a flyball to right-center. And of course there was the earthquake…and we won’t get into that memory.
The Giants made light of the misery with the Croix de Candlestick and the Crazy Crab, but my jaws were too busy chattering for laughter. When the Giants left for Pacific Bell Park (now, as we all know, AT&T Park), it was as if they were sprung from Sing Sing. Two World Championships lay ahead of them in a 14-year period at AT&T, something that 40 years at Candlestick could never bring. Fans, new and old, have since flocked to AT&T which maintains the feel of a true baseball park as opposed to an incarceration center designed for multi-sport use in the center of weather anti-matter.
Let’s face it Giants fans. There are few good memories of Candlestick Park, and any that allude to being good are tainted by the wind, fog, cold, concrete, astroturf (for awhile), blowing garbage and misplayed pop-ups. Candlestick Park was built to pad the pocketbooks of city politicians without consideration for the fans. There is no reason to be sentimental about the place. Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Perry and so many greats played at Candlestick. But when that monster crumbles into heaps of concrete, dust and metal, I will fondly and with great sentiment overlay those greats in my memory onto the field…at AT&T Park.