Darrell Moody: Fond, and not so fond, memories of Candlestick

I grew up in the Bay Area, so like many others, I’m sorry to see Candlestick Park go.

When I think of Candlestick Park, it brings back many pleasant childhood memories.

I grew up in Concord, and because of my dad’s interest in sports, turned into a big fan of the Giants and 49ers.

My folks divorced when I was young, so I saw my father in San Francisco twice a month, and having the opportunity to go to places like Candlestick and Kezar Stadium were plentiful.

I remember my first trip to Candlestick like it was yesterday. Candlestick at the time wasn’t enclosed . There were no permanent seats in the right field bleachers, just bench-type seating you would find in a high school stadium. It was 1961. I was 7 years old. Back in the day, teams used to play one or two Sunday doubleheaders every month. It made for a long, but fun day. Many times my dad and I would get there after the first game started, and stay until the second game was over. We would also bring our gloves and a ball, so if I got antsy, we would get up and play catch for a while.

I also was lucky that my aunt and uncle, who lived in San Francisco and owned a car repair shop, had season tickets right behind the plate; about three rows up from the photographer’s well. My aunt would always save me a couple of games a year where I could bring a friend from school. I wasn’t driving yet, so it was hop on the Greyhound bus, transfer at the TransBay terminal and then take a city bus out to the park. It was an experience to be sure. It was so much easier when I got my license and could just drive over.

My favorite Candlestick experience should have been the seventh game of the 1962 World Series against the Yankees. My dad had tickets, but my mom refused to let me go. Are you kidding me mom?

It was probably one of the best games in World Series history, and two feet either way, and Willie McCovey is a hero. Instead, he’s known as the guy who lined out to Bobby Richardson for the final out of a 1-0 game. I was forced to listen to it on my transistor radio instead. As a result, I didn’t talk to my mom for a week. I loved my mom to death, but she couldn’t quite grasp the concept that things like the World Series, the Olympics and the Super Bowl come along once in a great while for many franchises, and you go when you have the opportunity.

So I have to go back to July 18, 1970. I was fortunate enough to get my aunt’s tickets for the game against the Montreal Expos. Willie Mays was zeroing in on his 3,000th hit, needing just one to get there. The Giants were offering a free ticket to upcoming games whenever he reached the magical mark.

When he stepped up to the plate, you could see some fans start to creep toward the doors that led to the in-stadium ticket booths. Mays walked in a five-run first, and when he came up in the second, I went up to the door. Moments later I was headed to the ticket booth to get my two free tickets, as Mays’ groundball rolled into left field.

My No. 2 highlight at Candlestick was the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants. I was working at a newspaper in the Bay Area when the earthquake hit. The job of our reporting crew on hand was interview as many people as we could.

Though it was a serious moment, and deadly for some, I had to laugh because it was evident who lived in California and who didn’t. Californians were used to earthquakes. Locals ambled slowly out of the park. The out-of-town fans ran like it was a 100-meter sprint. Some sportswriters from out of town didn’t come back when the series resumed.

Me? I got 3-4 interviews done, and that’s when it got dicey. They wanted everybody out of the stadium, though personally I think it would have been pretty safe. Our beat writer went to the tents in the parking lot where Giants’ front-office folks were having a party. He knew owner Bob Lurie’s wife, and asked if our group could use one of the vacant tables to write our stories. She agreed, and we trooped in and started writing. This was obviously before the advent of email, so we needed phones to send our files back to the office. I snuck back into the stadium and managed to end my file before security personnel politely ushered me out of the stadium.

We finally arrived back in Walnut Creek about 2 a.m., and I saw my wife and family for the first time in nearly two days, later that evening after my work shift was over.

My dad had season tickets for the 49ers from their first season at the ‘Stick until his death, but most of my football memories of Candlestick were when I was reporting on the games and not as a fan.

One of my fondest memories of the 49ers was when the team blanked the Chicago Bears, 23-0, back in the 1984 NFC title game. The Bears trained for the game in Santa Rosa at the El Rancho Tropicana, the Raiders’ former summer home. I got an opportunity to write a feature story on Walter Payton that week, as he held court by the hotel swimming pool.

Two weeks later, the 49ers knocked off Dan Marino and he Miami Dolphins, 38-16, in the Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium which I was also lucky enough to cover.

My next memory wasn’t pleasant if you are a 49ers fan It was 1990, and the 49ers were going for a three-peat. Then disaster struck. With a 13-12 lead against the New York Giants, and needing to just run out the clock, Roger Craig fumbled the ball. I was so sure that the 49ers were going to win and that I would get to go to Florida for the Super Bowl, that I was standing by the elevator. Moments later, the Giants kicked a field goal and won 15-13.

There are some more memories, but I’ve already taken enough of your time so I’ll sign off.

I was remiss last week in wishing everybody a good holiday season, so I’ll take the opportunity now.


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