Eddie DeBartolo Jr. went nuts. The shopping mall tycoon in a well-tailored suit was jumping up and down hugging everyone around him just five feet away from where I was standing.
He had just witnessed “The Catch” — the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark pass that propelled the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl game.
We were diagonally across the field from “The Catch” near the eastern end zone.
I was headed to the San Francisco 49ers locker room as the game against the Dallas Cowboys was winding down on Jan. 10, 1982. DeBartolo had come down from his luxury suite so he could greet the team as they headed into the locker room after the game ended. When I first saw him perhaps two minutes prior as he made his way to the sidelines he was anything but happy.
But that ended with a play that well forever be immortalized by 49er diehards.
It is only fitting DeBartolo — the man who helped engineer the San Francisco Dynasty that delivered five Super Bowl titles — will be on hand tonight when the 49ers play their final game ever at Candlestick Park. They face the Atlanta Falcons at 5:40 p.m. on ESPN.
Sometime in the next two or so years the spot where “The Catch” was made may very well be underneath someone’s bedroom floor. Candlestick is being razed to make way for a massive condominium project. It’s wacky mini-weather system of unpredictable winds and fog will be no longer.
That game in January of 1982 was big news for folks in Roseville even before the opening kickoff. The 49ers were in the National Football Conference title game that featured Oakmont High of Roseville grad Danny Bunz (No. 57) as a linebacker. The Niners that summer had just completed their first training camp at Sierra College in Rocklin right next door to Roseville.
I was working for the Roseville Press-Tribune and was shooting the game as well as helping sports putting together a feature package.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl that year Bunz made his way into 49er legend with “The Stop” on a third down at the 1-yard line when he hit Chris Alexander at waist level and drove him backwards. On the next play Bunz was part of the Niner wall that denied another try at a touchdown. After that defensive stand, the Bengals were on the ropes.
I covered more than a few Niners games at Candlestick thanks in a part to the fact Rocklin continued as their summer home through 1997 during which time I enjoyed a four year stint as The Press-Tribune’s sports editor.
I never saw a 49er game at the Stick from the seats but I did manage to see more than two dozen Giants games.
It is one of seven Major League Baseball stadiums I’ve attended games at. And with the exception of Wrigley Field, it by far had the most personality. Perhaps it was the quirky in-stadium weather system, the fact it didn’t seem to have a cold clinical feel like the Oakland Coliseum, the Dodgers’ haunt at Chavez Ravine, or the semi-dog stadium serving as the home of the San Diego Padres that’s also known as Petco Park.
And long after The Stick is gone it will be remembered as a high profile icon that was caught up in the Loma Prieta Earthquake on Oc. 17, 1989.
The quake hit just before the start of the third game of the World Series between San Francisco and Oakland. And because of that, the initial jolt was broadcast live. I had good friends and hardcore Giants fans — Jack and Gail Vaughn — who had scored tickets in the third row back from behind home plate for that game. Instead of cheering on the Giants, they spent the next 11 hours trying to return to their home in Pleasant Hill near Concord.
Candlestick’s 53-year run includes a papal visit as well as the final concert ever by the Beatles on Aug. 29, 1966.
After tonight, it will be no longer.
The Giants departed in 2000 to AT&T Park. The Niners are heading next year to Santa Clara where Levi Stadium promises to provide fans in the stadium ground-breaking high tech interaction via smartphones and tablets.
Meanwhile, Candlestick tonight may deliver on another postseason memory as the 49ers are in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot.
Candlestick will be missed but then again to future generations of Niners fans it may soon seem as archaic to them as Kezar Stadium is to many younger Red and Gold loyalists.