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After 53 years, Candlestick Park is bye-bye baby!

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I have my memories of going to frigid, windy Candlestick Park as a reporter and as a fan.

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The Stick can be best described in four words: Great memories, bad venue.

The real pain of course is accessing the locker rooms for football. Upon exiting the press box elevator, media and coaches have to walk down the stairs in sec. 16 to enter the field and then walk around the field to reach the locker rooms. The one benefit is gaining field access for the last moments of the game.

I'll never forget being on the sidelines in the south end zone on January 3, 1999 for the 49ers NFC Wild Card game vs. the Green Bay Packers. The lead went back and forth in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. But the sound was deafening. When The Stick is filled to the gills, it rumbles and shakes like no other building and it's exhilarating. Future Hall of Famer Brett Favre threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman that glided through the air and the 49ers defense was helpless to stop the play.

Somehow, the 49ers made it happen in the final seconds. Just like Joe Montana to Dwight Clark and later with Alex Smith to Vernon Davis, the team on 3rd and 3 had a chance to win it on a touchdown. I'll never forget watching Steve Young drop back to pass, nearly lose his balance but regain in time to step up in the pocket and fire a perfect strike to Terrell Owens before he was crunched by two Packers. Miraculously he hung onto the ball and Candlestick erupted like a volcano. It was arguably the greatest sports moment I can remember in my 15 plus years of coverage.

The old ballpark never had the creature comforts for fans or media. The old baseball press box was converted into "luxury suites" back in 1987 to accommodate the 49ers. The odd partitions and the sliding windows only served to block the view for reporters and the windows were almost always closed to prevent papers and other items from blowing around.

Candlestick really was a windswept stadium. I recall when the warning track dirt would create a mini sandstorm and not only blind those in the stands but the player in the batter's box. In the mid 90's the Giants replaced the foul territory of the warning track with a rubberized surface to combat the winds.

As a baseball stadium for the Giants, reporters certainly got a workout. Media either got M lot passes which were just outside the gate to the players parking lot, or C lot passes which was behind center field. I remember having to walk from C lot around to the players parking lot just to access the elevator to the mezzanine level. From there it was another walk up the ramp to the walkway where the luxury suites were next to the press box. The TV booths were also on this level.

Postgame, we'd all walk back on the mezzanine level down the right field line and take the elevators to the ground floor where the clubhouses were adjacent to one another. Now the 49ers use the Giants clubhouse as their locker room while the road team still uses the same facilities that visiting baseball teams utilized.

Unlike AT&T Park, if you ventured out to Candlestick, you were there to see the game and only the game. No local bars or restaurants in the neighborhood and even the Giants Stadium Club restaurant didn't have any windows like swanky stadium restaurants of today. Giants owner Horace Stoneham felt that you went to see the Giants, not sit in a restaurant. My dad once paid the $ 5.00 cover charge so my brother and I could have dinner there. As I recall the food wasn't great but it was better than the concession stands.

Giants games nowadays have all sorts of food options. Back then it was hamburgers, hot dogs, beer, hot chocolate (a big seller obviously) and the Harry M. Stevens favorite: polish sausage. This was really bad for you polish too, the kind that you eat and by the time you come home you paid a visit to pray to the porcelain god. Even though we knew it was bad for the digestive system, we always wanted one.

The other fond memory is the final regular season baseball game at The Stick. The Giants got annihilated by the rival Dodgers 9-4 on an unusually warm day with temperature in the 80's. But the final ceremony where each player who attended was announced and made their way to the field was a real tear jerker. At the end of the ceremony, then CHP commissioner Dwight "Spike" Helmick's had a helicopter take home plate to AT&T Park and fans saw the flight on the jumbotron.

Why will I miss the place? It was a pain to drive there, the traffic on city streets and Highway 101 is as bad as the stadium and the game day experience is a hassle.

But yes I'll miss Candlestick, probably because I don't have to go there anymore.



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