Before you start moving onto which of the newly drafted football players will become the next Super Bowl MVP, you might want to send out save the date cards for a Saturday in July.
A battle between two former MVPs will help send off one of the country’s most history-laden stadiums into the abyss as the 49ers prepare to move into their new home for the upcoming season. While the thought was the regular-season finale win against Atlanta was the last time the 49ers would grace the grass at Candlestick, the city of San Francisco decided to give one more parting gift to the 49ers faithful.
For the first time since fighting it out in the 1980s for NFL supremacy, Joe Montana and Dan Marino will battle once more at the Stick in a flag football game of epic proportions. Montana and other former 49er greats such as Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark will compete against Marino and his all-star team on July 12 of Hewlett-Packard and San Francisco Park and Rec’s “Last Summer at the Stick” series.
Tickets are available on Ticketmaster, starting at $30.
Before wondering why should we care about a bunch of 40- and 50-year-old has-beens battling on the gridiron, realize that this game is more than just another rematch between Montana and Marino. It’s an opportunity to pay our final respects to a stadium that has seen some of sports’ greatest moments.
From “The Catch” and “The Catch: Part II” to Barry Bonds dancing on the dugout after the Giants clinched the West in 1997 to Colin Kaepernick setting the playoff quarterback rushing record against the Packers, Candlestick Park was the home to many great teams.
And don’t forget about the historic Bay Series earthquake in 1989 when it shook the stadium before Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and A’s. Candlestick has withstood many bad teams in its 54-year history and even the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake couldn’t take it down.
I have many memories of watching mostly Giants games at Candlestick, including the clincher in 1997. We sat in the centerfield deck as the Giants defeated the Padres to win the NL West, which sent the crowd into a frenzy as players danced and celebrated on the field and dugouts. It was the first time that Bonds showed a pleasant side.
One of my first autographs came during a summer game against the Cubs when my father had Sammy Sosa sign our die-hard Cubs certifications. This was before the steroid scandal and home run battle between Mark McGwire, when baseball felt pure.
I didn’t get to watch any NFL games until our family ventured to the Bay Area to watch the 49ers play Houston in an exhibition three months after Kaepernick was drafted. Alex Smith was booed at halftime and Kaepernick overshot his receivers. During that season, which was also Jim Harbaugh’s first as head coach, we saw Harvey Dahl and the Rams compete on a mild sunny Sunday afternoon but the show belonged to Frank Gore, who set the team’s all-time rushing record.
Until AT&T Park opened in 2000, the only home I knew of for my favorite baseball and football teams was Candlestick. The park attracted some of the most ghastly winds and you grew accustomed to trash blowing behind the catcher during the summer.
While the multisport facility had its flaws with the structure and location, it never failed to produce championship teams. The 49ers dominated the Stick, while the Giants couldn’t secure a title until it moved to China Basin.
In two months before we say goodbye to this outdated stadium, we can take advantage of one final treat to experience where the 49ers began its successful and rich tradition.
Can you think of anyone better than Montana to help send off Candlestick?
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.