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Early in the process, it wasn't exactly clear where the Giants would play. Some wanted to enlarge Seals Stadium, the beloved park at 16th and Bryant in the Mission District, home to the Seals and Missions of the Pacific Coast League. Others advocated a new Southof- Market Stadium. But Stoneham demanded at least 43,000 seats and 12,000 parking spaces, goals that would have been hard to meet downtown.

Instead, attention fixed on Candlestick Point, in the southern part of the city, across South Basin from the Hunters Point Shipyard. Stoneham signed a 35-year lease in July 1958, and construction began two months later.

Not everyone was a booster of the project. The June 1960 edition of The Californian included a cover story titled "The Giants' Ball Park: A $15 Million Swindle." The Californian noted that developer Charles Harney had purchased 41 acres at Candlestick Point from the city for $2,100 an acre in 1953. Four years later, when the stadium deal was green-lighted, he sold the same land back to the city at $68,853 an acre — for a tidy profit of more than $2.7 million — even though the city was paying just $4,000 an acre for adjacent land.

Moreover, Christopher and his allies in City Hall had set up a shadow fund called Stadium, Inc., to help divert money to the ballpark. A grand jury investigated and strongly criticized the deal, but stopped short of alleging outright graft.

None of this seemed to be on anybody's mind on opening day in 1960, when a crowd of 42,269 showed up to watch the Giants host the St. Louis Cardinals at Candlestick. Some arrived by private boat and docked just south of the stadium, braving the mud in their high heels and oxfords. Deluxe seats went for $6.60, the most expensive in Major League Baseball.

Nixon wasn't Candlestick Park's only admirer. Bob Stevens of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "It's breathtakingly beautiful, the Taj Mahal of games."

The first major stadium built in the United States after the Great Depression had the first modern scoreboard, then the biggest in baseball. It had the country's highest light towers at 240 feet, and a few years later it would gain the world's longest escalators.

But problems surfaced immediately. In the third inning of the first game, the umpires protested the placement of the foul poles, saying they stood completely within fair territory. The toilet in the Giants' dugout had no door — significant when you consider fans in box seats could see into the dugout. The visitors' locker room was (and will be for the Atlanta Falcons on Monday) absurdly cramped. Reporters complained that due to the varying heights of seats, work shelf and window, they couldn't see much of the field from the press box.

San Francisco, being on the West Coast, is buffeted by strong ocean winds from the west. As Harold Gilliam explains in "Weather of the San Francisco Bay Region," these gales bang up against bluffs, hills and skyscrapers, and are somewhat dispersed around the city. But a few natural "streamlines" allow them to pass unimpeded. The largest of these channels, by far, is the Alemany Gap, immediately north of San Bruno Mountain. Winds roar through the gap, split into two branches, sweep around Bayview Hill and reconvene — right at Candlestick Point.

Coffey Park Chronicles

Read more stories about Coffey Park’s recovery here.

Read all of the PD’s fire coverage here.

Veteran fans might find it hard to believe, but this is not a particularly cold area of San Francisco. AT&T Park, the Giants' state-of-the-art new home, is just one degree warmer on average. But those Pacific winds gave Candlestick Park an arctic feel. An early study commissioned by the city showed that gusts at the stadium could reach 62 mph.

In 1963, a Candlestick blast lifted the batting cage as the New York Mets prepared to take some cuts and deposited it near the pitcher's mound. In 1976 the wind overturned a piano wheeled onto the field for a pregame performance.

But Candlestick's defining moment came during a 1961 All-Star Game (there were two that season). It was 81 degrees at noon that day, warm enough that 90 people were treated for heat prostration, most of them victims of Cardiac Hill, a route into the stadium that became obsolete when those giant escalators were installed. A few innings into the game, though, the winds took over.

San Francisco pitcher Stu Miller was on the mound in the ninth inning with two runners on base when he went into his windup and was hit in the face with what he described as a 65-mph gust. His body wavered (he was not "blown off the mound," as popular lore insists) and home umpire Stan Landes called a balk. The American League tied the score that inning, and the National League finally won in the 10th when Roberto Clemente singled to bring home Mays. There were seven errors in the game.

Bill Madlock later wore aviator goggles playing third base for the Giants to protect his eyes from storms of dust. Bobby Murcer stored his bats in the clubhouse sauna to keep them warm for night games. Long underwear and hot water bottles were required equipment.

"Oftentimes at Candlestick, the right fielder, after the third out, would go into that door," said Giants senior vice president Mario Alioto, who started working for the team as a bat boy at the age of 12. "That's usually because he was cold and went and got a cup of coffee."

Visiting players complained that their dugout was colder than the Giants'. They were right. "I know, because I sat in there," Alioto said. "The Giants dugout actually had a heater in it. The visiting dugout did not."

Candlestick tortured fans at least as much as players. Bolles' original design called for an aerodynamic canopy to cover most of the seats, but the city eliminated the feature to cut costs.

Another design element that went bad was a much-advertised radiant heating system that was supposed to warm 20,000 reserved seats. Ted Atlas, author of the definitive book "Candlestick Park," wrote that the pipes were not embedded in the concrete; they were suspended below the seats, and did almost nothing to heat them.

Melvin Belli, the prominent San Francisco attorney, successfully sued the team for $1,597 in 1962, arguing breach of services because the six box seats he purchases were so frigid.

As the novelty of major league baseball wore off, the Giants' attendance plummeted. In 1960 it was a shade under 1.8 million. In 1968, the year the A's moved to Oakland from Kansas City, it dipped to less than 840,000. In 1974 (519,987) and 1975 (522,919), the Giants had the lowest attendance in baseball.

From that point on, the team almost constantly declared its need for a new stadium, and occasionally threatened to leave San Francisco, right up until the Giants built PacBell Park (as it was first called) and started playing there in 2000.

"When I came here 35 years ago, they were talking about building a new stadium," said stadium chief Michael Gay, an employee of San Francisco Recreation and Parks. "So that started the first week I was here. And my boss said, 'Don't pay any attention to it, they've been talking about that for years. That'll never happen.' Well, it kinda did."

Long before, in 1971, the 49ers had moved from Kezar Stadium to share Candlestick Park with the Giants. The city filled in the open side of the stadium and bumped up capacity. Planners and fans hoped encircling the stadium would mitigate the winds. The velocity may have decreased a bit, but the gusts only became more swirling and unpredictable.

The weather never seemed to be as much of an issue for the 49ers. Football is more impervious to the elements than baseball, of course, and fall weather at Candlestick tends to be much nicer than summer. Still, there were those winds.

"I remember going onto the field at Candlestick and warming up. I would go to every corner of the field and throw the football, because the wind was different in every area of the stadium," former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "You think it would go right, and it would go left. Some areas you think it would knock the ball down, it would take the ball up."

The city has made improvements to Candlestick Park over the years, but not enough to prevent the stadium from deteriorating. The bathrooms are dank and smelly. The press box elevator quits periodically. In 2011, a Monday night game against the Steelers was delayed twice by power outages. Traffic, more than ever, is a nightmare.

And so the 49ers are building their own high-tech stadium down in Santa Clara. The organization is clearly proud of the development. Alioto remembers a similar feeling when the Giants fled to China Basin. He has no reservations about that move, but he will never lose his fondness for chilly, blustery, strangely lovable Candlestick Park.

"It's almost like I want to walk through the concourse and hear those doors in lower reserved slam shut one more time when the wind starts to blow," Alioto said.

A year from now, or so, even those doors will be gone. Only the wind will remain.

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