Tuesday, April 12, 2005

 

April 12th, 1960

Candlestick Park Born


Candlestick Park (alias: 3-Com Park or Monster Park) was born on April 12th when the Giants played a game against the Cardinals. Vice-President Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch and declared it "the finest ballpark in America." This isn't quite in the same order of "I am not a crook" so far as Nixonian lies go, but it’s still up there. The park had problems from the start; in the third inning the umpires noticed that the foul poles rather than being in their traditional spot were one hundred percent in fair territory and complained. The response of Giants' manager Bill Rigney was not recorded although one imagines it ran towards "What do you want me to do about it? Pick them up and move them?"

The foul poles however were hardly the only flaw with the new park. If Opening Day was Candlestick's birth, it was conceived when George Christopher, the Mayor, took Giants' owner Horace Stoneham around Candlestick Point on a sunny morning, and told him that the site would soon be the home of the Giants' park. When
Stoneham did not know, but Christopher did was that although Candlestick Point looked lovely on that morning, it tended to be cold, foggy and above all windy, among the worst parts of San Francisco insofar as weather was concerned.

The stadium's chief architect, John Bolles, gave the stadium a unique boomerang shape in the hope of reducing wind. Unfortunately, Bolles' unique shape proved as ineffective as the unique shape used by plague doctors centuries earlier. The stories about the stadium's wind are legion: during the 1961 All-Star game, the Giants' Stu Miller was literally blown off the mound, which earned him a balk. During a 1963 batting practice session, Casey Stengel watched the wind pick up the batting cage and relocate it sixty feet to the pitcher's mound. The stadium was also notorious for its chill; despite being in "sunny
California", night games at Candlestick often required clothing more suitable to a day in New England. To their credit, the Giants at least realized this and would award the Croix de Candlestick to fans who stayed through entire extra-inning evening games. The stadium was enclosed in the winter of 1971-1972 to provide more seating for the stadium's new tenant--the 49ers--ideally, reducing the winds. Although the new seating was a success, it only succeeded in altering the wind patterns to swirl inside of the stadium bowl. Candlestick does deserve credit however for surviving the 1989 Earthquake with virtually no damage. At the time, it was holding a full house in anticipation of Game 3 of the World Series and a collapse would have been tragic.

After the 1999 season, the Giants moved to the infinitely superior SBC Park leaving Candlestick to concerts (it is the site of the last proper Beatles concert in 1966) and the sport it always seemed built for, football.





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