TheBaseballPage.com

Candlestick Park

Candlestick Park (also commonly referred to as Candlestick or The Stick) is an outdoor sports and entertainment stadium located in San Francisco, California in the Bayview Heights area. The stadium was originally built as the home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, who played there from 1960 until moving into Pacific Bell Park (since renamed AT&T Park) in 2000. Currently it is the home field of the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, who moved in for the 1971 season. Candlestick Park is set to be replaced by a new 49ers Stadium in 2015.

 

The stadium is situated at Candlestick Point on the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. Due to its location next to the bay, strong winds often swirl down into the stadium, creating unusual playing conditions. At the time of its construction in the late 1950s, the stadium site was the cheapest plot of land available in the city that was suitable for a sports stadium.

 

The surface of the field is natural bluegrass, but for nine seasons the stadium had artificial turf, from 1970 to 1978. A "sliding pit" configuration, with dirt cut-outs only around the bases, was installed in 1971, primarily to keep the dust down from the breezy conditions. Following the 1978 football season, the artificial turf was removed. Natural grass was re-installed before the 1979 baseball season.

 

Park history

Baseball configuration, 1960 When the New York Giants arrived in San Francisco in 1958, they played their home games at the old Seals Stadium at 16th and Bryant Streets. Giants owner Horace Stoneham wanted the city to build a ballpark, San Francisco mayor George Christopher could get the financing for abandoned land of Sunset Scavenger at Candlestick Point. Ground was broken in 1958 for the new home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, who had moved west from New York following the end of the 1957 season. The Giants selected the name of Candlestick Park after a name-the-park contest on March 3, 1959. Prior to that, its construction site had been shown on maps as the generic Bay View Stadium. It was the first modern baseball stadium, as it was the first to be built entirely of reinforced concrete. Then Vice-President Richard Nixon threw out the first baseball on the opening day of Candlestick Park on April 12, 1960, and the Oakland Raiders played their 1961 American Football League season at Candlestick.

 

The Beatles played their last live commercial concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. The stadium was enclosed during the winter of 1971–72 for the 49ers, with stands built around the outfield. The result was that the wind speed dropped marginally, but often swirled around throughout the stadium, and the view of the Bay was lost.

 

The stadium hosted two MLB All-Star Games (1961 and 1984), one National League Division Series (1997), three National League Championship Series (1971, 1987 and 1989), two World Series (1962 and 1989), and six NFC Championship games, the most notable being in January 1982 when Dwight Clark caught a game-winning touchdown pass from Joe Montana to lead the 49ers to their first Super Bowl (see "The Catch"). Candlestick Park was also home to dozens of commercial shoots as well as the location for the climatic scene in both the 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror and the 1973 Richard Rush comedy Freebie and the Bean.

 

On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake (measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale) struck San Francisco, minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was to begin at Candlestick. Remarkably, no one within the stadium was injured, although minor structural damage was incurred to the stadium. Al Michaels and Tim McCarver, who called the game for ABC, later credited the stadium's design for saving thousands of lives. The World Series between the Giants and Oakland Athletics was subsequently delayed for 10 days, in part to give engineers time to check the stadium's (and that of nearby Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) overall structural soundness. During this time, the 49ers moved their game against the New England Patriots on October 22 to Stanford Stadium.

 

In 2000, the Giants moved to the new Pacific Bell Park (now called AT&T Park) in the South Beach neighborhood, leaving the 49ers as the sole professional sports team to use Candlestick. The final baseball game was played on Sept. 30, 1999, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 9–4.

Currently, Candlestick Park is the only NFL stadium that began as a baseball-only facility and underwent extensive reconstruction to accommodate football, as evidenced by the stadium's unusual oblong design that leaves many seats on what was the right-field side of the stadium behind the eastern grandstand of the stadium during football games.

 

Reputation

"I came, I saw, I survived."

As a baseball field, the stadium was best known for the windy conditions, damp air and dew from fog, and chilly temperatures. The wind often made life difficult for outfielders trying to catch fly balls, as well as for fans, while the damp grass further complicated play for outfielders that had to play in cold, wet shoes. Architect John Bolles designed the park with a boomerang-shaped concrete baffle in the upper tier to protect the park from wind. Unfortunately, it never worked. For Candlestick's first 10 seasons, the wind blew in from left-center and out toward right-center. When the park was expanded to accommodate the 49ers in 1971, it was thought fully enclosing the park would cut down on the wind. Instead, the wind swirled from all directions, and was as strong and cold as before.

 

During the first All Star Game of 1961 (one of two played in the park—the other was in 1984), Giants pitcher Stu Miller was blown off balance by a gust of wind and was charged with a balk. Two years later, wind picked up the entire batting cage and dropped it 60 feet (18 m) away on the pitcher’s mound while the New York Mets were taking batting practice.

 

The stadium also had the reputation as the coldest park in the major leagues. It was initially built with a radiant heating system of hot water pipes buried in the concrete under most of the Lower Box seats. However, the system was not strong enough to heat through the concrete. Both the city and the Giants balked at the cost of upgrading the system so it would work properly (e.g., to removing the seats and concrete, embedding larger pipes, and replacing the concrete and seats). As a result, the Giants played more day games than any Major League Baseball team except the Chicago Cubs, whose ballpark, Wrigley Field, did not have lights installed until 1988. Many locals, including Giants' broadcaster Lon Simmons, were surprised at the decision to build the park right on the bay, in one of the coldest areas of the city.

 

The Giants eventually played on the reputation to bolster fan support with promotions such as awarding the Croix de Candlestick pin to fans who stayed for the duration of extra-inning night games. Among many less-than-flattering fan nicknames for the park were "North Pole," "Candlestink," "Candleshit," "Cave of the Winds," and "Windlestick." Older fans called it "The Dump" in honor of the former use of the land. Ironically, the Giants played their last game at Candlestick under blue skies with no fog and a game time temperature of a very non-Candlestick-like 82 degrees.

Giants owner Horace Stoneham visited the site during the day in 1959—not knowing about the cold, windy and foggy conditions that overtake it at night. By 1963, he commissioned a study to find a way to improve the park. The study revealed that conditions would have been significantly improved had the park been built a few hundred yards farther to the east.

 

The winds are intense in the immediate area of the park, but relatively benign a few hundred yards to the north or east. This is because of a hill immediately adjacent to the park. This hill, in turn, is the first topographical obstacle met by the prevailing winds arriving from the Pacific Ocean seven miles to the west. Arriving at Candlestick from the Pacific, these winds travel through what is known as the Alemany Gap before reaching the hill. The combination of ocean winds free-flowing to Candlestick, then swirling over the adjacent hill created the cold and windy conditions that were the bane of the Giants' 40-year stay on Candlestick Point. These same winds, of course, attract wind-surfers in droves to the wind-whipped San Francisco Bay coves south of Candlestick. It is indeed the wind and not the ambient air temperature that provides Candlestick's famed chill. The Giants' subsequent home, AT&T Park, is just one degree warmer, but is far less windy, creating a "warmer" (relatively speaking) effect. While the wind is a summer condition (hot inland, cool oceanside), winter weather is right in line with the rest of sea level Northern California (mild with occasional rain).

 

Attorney Melvin Belli filed a claim against the Giants in 1960 because his six-seat box, which cost him almost $1,600, was unbearably cold. Belli won in court, claiming that the "radiant heating system" advertised was a failure.

 

Other design flaws and irregularities

Candlestick was an object of scorn from baseball purists for reasons other than weather. Although originally built for baseball, foul territory was quite roomy. According to Simmons, nearly every seat was too far from the field. While the Giants dugout and clubhouse were connected by a tunnel under the stands, the visitors dugout and clubhouse were not. The entrance to the visitors clubhouse was located beyond the right field foul pole. Whenever visiting players, managers and/or coaches were ejected from a game, they had to walk down the right field foul line to the clubhouse—usually accompanied by a torrent of jeers, boos and catcalls from Giants fans. This feature was a carryover from the fourth and final incarnation of the Polo Grounds, the New York Giants home stadium in Harlem. At the Polo Grounds, the clubhouses for both teams were located beyond center field. Like the visitors dugout at Candlestick, both Polo Grounds dugouts had no attached facilities other than restrooms and drinking fountains.

 

As with the radiant heating system in the grandstands, the heating systems in the dugouts were wholly inadequate. Players who had played for the Giants and for other National League teams complained that the visitors dugout was colder than the Giants dugout. This was due to two reasons: First, because the Giants dugout included a tunnel to the clubhouse, heat from the clubhouse flowed into the dugout. The second reason was due to the placement of the dugouts. The Giants dugout was located on the third base side which was on the west side of the stadium. This shielded the Giants dugout from most of the west winds that blew in from the Pacific Ocean. The visitors dugout was located on the first base (south) side of the field. Furthermore, the south grandstand was angled so that the visitors dugout faced towards the northwest. This meant that the visitors dugout faced directly into the prevailing winds.

 

Name changes

Candlestick Park was named for Candlestick Point, a point of land jutting into San Francisco Bay. Candlestick Point, in turn, was named for the indigenous "candlestick bird" (Long-billed Curlew), once common to the point.

 

The rights to the stadium name were licensed to 3Com Corporation from September 1995 until 2002, for $900,000 a year. During that time, the park became known as 3Com Park at Candlestick Point, or, simply, 3Com Park. In 2002, the naming rights deal expired, and the park then became officially known as San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point. On Sept. 28, 2004, a new naming rights deal was signed with Monster Cable, a maker of cables for electronic equipment, and the stadium was renamed Monster Park. However, just over a month later, a measure passed in the November 2 election stipulated that the stadium name revert back to Candlestick permanently after the contract with Monster expired in 2008.

Despite these name changes, many fans still called the stadium Candlestick Park. Some even mocked the 3Com sponsorship, calling it "dot com park."

The City and County of San Francisco had trouble finding a new naming sponsor due in part to the downturn in the economy, but also because the stadium's tenure as 3Com Park was tenuous at best. Many local fans were annoyed with the change and continued referring to the park by its original name, regardless of the official name. The Giants reportedly continued to call the stadium "Candlestick Park" in media guides, because the naming rights were initiated by the 49ers. Freeway signs in the vicinity were changed to read "Monster Park" as part of an overall signage upgrade to national standards on California highways, but as of 2008, those signs have been changed back to Candlestick Park.

 

The name change also ended up being confusing for the intended branding purposes, as without the "Cable" qualifier in the official name, many erroneously thought the stadium was named for the Monster.com employment website or Monster Energy Drink, not the cable vendor.

On August 10, 2007, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the playing field would be renamed Bill Walsh Field in honor of the former Stanford and 49ers coach, who died on July 30 that year, pending the approval of the city government. However the stadium will retain its current name as is contractually obligated.

 

Commentators still use this name occasionally, most recently when Jerry Rice's jersey was retired.

 

On September 18, 2009, Sports Illustrated's Peter King used the mock-combination name "Candle3Monsterstick" in reference to the many name changes the stadium has gone through.

 

Pregame, 2006

Plans were underway to construct a new 68,000-seat stadium at Candlestick Point. However, on November 8, 2006, the 49ers announced that they would abandon their search for a location in San Francisco and begin to actively pursue the idea of building a stadium in Santa Clara, California. As a result, San Francisco withdrew its bid for the 2016 Olympics on November 13, 2006, as its centerpiece stadium was lost. However, 49ers ownership continued to press forward; as a result of Santa Clara's approval of Measure J, construction of the new stadium was approved, and is slated to begin in 2012. It is unknown what will happen to Candlestick Park, although it will most likely be demolished once the 49ers move into the new stadium in 2014.

 

The Beatles' final concert

The Beatles gave their final full concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. Songs performed at the show were "Rock And Roll Music," "She's A Woman," "If I Needed Someone," "Day Tripper," "Baby's In Black," "I Feel Fine," "Yesterday," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Nowhere Man," "Paperback Writer," and "Long Tall Sally." A rough recording of most of the concert was left unreleased, although the audio has leaked on to the internet. The recording cuts off during the last minute of the concert, interrupting "Long Tall Sally." The only known film of the concert was captured by a 15-year-old fan and featured in a documentary called The Unseen Beatles.

More From Around the Web

This day in baseball history

December 25

  • 2004

    The Kansas City Royals sign free agent pitcher Jose Lima. ...

  • 2003

    The Cleveland Indians sign free agent second baseman Ron Bel ...

  • 2002

    Pete Rose admits that he bet on baseball, "Four or five time ...

More Baseball History
 
Tagged:
1962 World Series, 1989 World Series, Ball Parks of Yesterday, Baseball History, Candlestick Park, San Francisco Giants

Comments

Login or register to post comments

Share US

Share |

Today's Poll

Will Red Sox Repeat in 2014: