Christmas week marks the end of an era for a San Francisco icon. Monday night, Candlestick Park will host the San Francisco 49ers final home game of the regular season. Next year the team departs for a brand new stadium about an hour south in Santa Clara. Even fans who've suffered through decades of cold, fog and wind at Candlestick are getting sentimental about the place.
This week the team and the city hosted reporters on a trip down memory lane at the 'Stick. Bob Mallamo is the locker room manager for the San Francisco 49ers. For the past three decades, Mallamo has made the most of the outdated, cramped locker rooms at Candlestick, especially, he says, for visiting teams.
“They come in, there's 56 lockers over there and that’s all there is,” said Mallamo. “The equipment room is the shower, we have to put ramps in there and they roll their equipment inside the shower to store the stuff.”
Inside the San Francisco 49ers locker room at Candlestick Park.
Candlestick was a state-of-the-art ballpark when the San Francisco Giants played their first baseball season there in 1960. Now, only the 49ers are still here, and the 'Stick is well past its prime. The spare showers resemble high school bathrooms from the Eisenhower Era. A vending machine and cheap coffee maker pass for locker room amenities.
Despite its shortcomings, the park's chief engineer of operations, Mike Gay, has kept the place running.
“On the other hand, you pick up the paper and everybody's saying how bad -- the negative things about it,” Gay said. “That's kind of hard, not only for me, but for the crew that works here.”
Gay tears up and chokes back emotion when asked what these last days at Candlestick mean to him. He thinks come Monday night, “it’ll all sink in.”
Throughout the years, Candlestick Park has seen its share of historic moments. There was the very last concert ever performed by the Beatles in 1966, and a dramatic last-minute touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC Championship. That play, now known simply as "The Catch," sent the 49ers to the 1982 Super Bowl.
Former San Francisco Giants pitcher turned broadcaster Mike Krukow remembers the 'Stick with a combination of scorn and affection.
“Basically, she's a nasty old lady, and she doesn't like to have bad things said about her,” said Krukow. “And all those guys that would dog her and say bad things about her, she in her own way would, you know, throw up a mustard wrapper and would hit 'em up in the side of the face during an at-bat, or have a little squirt of dirt that would him 'em in the face.”
Although Krukow was injured and missed the 1989 World Series against the Oakland A's, he remembers the 7.1 earthquake just before the start of Game 3. He likens the quake to a 600-pound gopher racing at 40 miles an hour in the ground. The game was cancelled, and despite some minor damage, Candlestick held up pretty well and hosted Game 3 ten days later.
The 49ers are eager to play in their state-of-the-art stadium next year. Even in the face of last-minute nostalgia, City Rec and Parks Director Phil Ginsburg says it's time.
“Quarterbacks and stadiums all have a shelf life,” Ginsburg said. “Candlestick has had some very proud history and, you know, we’re going to say goodbye to it in style.”
The 'Stick is slated for demolition next year. It will eventually be replaced by housing, offices, parks and shops.