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The ‘Stick, the Giants and the perfect seats

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POSTED April 8, 2009 4:20 a.m.
A photograph of Candlestick Park is thumb-tacked on the wall facing the desk of reporter Jason Campbell.

It’s an aerial shot of the old home of the San Francisco Giants, dated Sept. 30, 1999, marking the last official MLB game before the move to AT&T (formerly Pac Bell, formerly SBC) Park.

Since 1960, the orange and black had called the ‘Stick home. It was a place made famous by the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, and Juan Marichal, to name a few.

It was also infamous for its harsh and unforgiving weather conditions. Remember the Croix De Candlestick? It was a pin handed out only to the best and most diehard Giants fans. After an extra inning game, for example, they earned this badge by braving the elements and hanging on at the park for the entire game.

I attended my fair share of Giants game at the ‘Stick over the years, coming close to earning the Croix De Candlestick during a Sept. 13, 1989 game against the Cincinnati Reds.

In the 13-inning affair, San Francisco won 8-7. But at the time, I was living in Fresno and went to the game with several of my newspaper colleagues. But it was already past 10 p.m. and, since it was still in the middle of the week, we were scheduled to report to work the next morning, thus, leaving the game in middle of the 10th inning.

By then, we were battered by the harsh conditions. The game began under pleasant conditions but, by the fourth inning, a blanket of fog had engulfed the park. Even to this day, my memory of this game is that of Reds’ outfielder Eric Davis looking upward at the thick haze and appearing a bit stunned.

Fortunately, we didn’t experience much of the infamous Candlestick Point winds.

This was the same sort of gust that, according to legend, caused Stu Miller to balk during the 1961 All-Star Game.

Many to this day believe the Giants pitcher was blown off the mound. But Miller, in a 1978 interview conducted by Mike Mandel, said otherwise.

 “And I got ready to throw to the hitter, took my stretch position. And just then, an extra shot of wind came along and I just weaved in the wind back and forth…. And the next day in the paper it’s not, ‘Miller Wins All-Star Game,’ but ‘Miller Blown Off Mound.’” he recalled.

Miller reportedly approached the writer and said, “For crying out loud, what kind of headline is that? I made a balk, sure. But blown off the mound?

“He said, ‘I just write the story, somebody else puts in the headlines.’”

Yet the ‘Stick could be a pleasant experience for day games.

In fact, one my favorite games there took place in 1987 featuring Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott coming off his “sand paper” incident. He had been busted with the rough material found in his glove that reportedly was used to scuff the baseball.

The fans, however, seized the opportunity, bringing sandpaper to the ball park in an effort to rattle Scott, who surrendered a lead-off homer to Eddie Milner.

The Giants won, 5-1, with Scott lasting five innings, allowing all five runs via the long ball (Mike Aldrete had a solo round-tripper while Will Clark blasted a pair).

Once again, I went to this game with several of my work colleagues, including reporter Tom Friesen, who was against sitting in the bleachers for this magnificent sunny afternoon affair.

“At the end of the game, you won’t regret sitting here,” I mentioned to Tom.

We had the best seats in the house when a fellow bleacher fan retrieved Gerald Young’s home run. As it turned out, it was the Astros’ only run off Dave Dravecky, who went on to pitch a four-hit complete game. Not only did the fan raise the home run ball triumphantly in the air but he made an impressive throw back into the field of play, reaching the infield.

This game ended when Aldrete scaled the fence, making a spectacular grab not too far from our seats.

As it turned out, the bleacher seats at the ‘Stick were as good as it gets for this particular game.
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