TELL IT GOODBYE: Giants last game at Candlestick
Posted on December 5, 2011
Photographer Brad Mangin poses on the field after the San Francisco Giants last game at against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on September 30, 1999. (Photo by Martha Jane Stanton)
I love Candlestick Park. I always have. I always will. When I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s it was the home ballpark for my team- the San Francisco Giants. What kid doesn’t love the hallowed ground where their heroes play? Even if your heroes were Mike Ivie and John Tamargo, like me. They wore the orange and black and played for my team on the faded, rock-hard, lime green Astroturf that covered the field. I could never imagine the Giants playing anywhere else. I figured I would grow old watching the Giants play at The Stick. Either that or I would have to follow them on television as they played in Toronto or Tampa Bay. You see, everyone but me seemed to hate the place. Bobby Murcer was the first guy I really remember complaining about the wind and the cold, but he certainly wasn’t the last. It became apparent that if I wanted to grow old watching my team play in San Francisco they would have to get a new yard, but that was NEVER gonna happen.
Night games at Candlestick were so cold my dad would only take my sister Paula and I to day games. By the time I was 12-years-old in 1977 I was desperate to get to a night game. As a kid I wanted to see what the ballpark looked like at night! I finally dragged my dad to a Tuesday night Phillies game in July of that summer. Man was it cold! However, the home runs by Tim Foli and Randy Elliott warmed us up as the Giants somehow beat ace lefty Steve Carlton.
Things were so bad in the early 1980’s that San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein proposed putting a dome on the old park. I took this idea a step further by putting a dome on The Stick myself as a final project for Mr. Franchi’s drafting class my junior year at Washington High School (see above). When the team won they would get a few fans out at the park, but during normal years they would only get a few thousand for a night game against the Expos. This could not continue if the team wanted to compete in the marketplace for talent as players salaries kept going up and up.
After owner Bob Lurie could not get a ballot measure passed to build a new park either in San Francisco or Santa Clara he finally sold the club to new owners, led by Peter Magowan in December of 1992. The new owners were not messing around. They finally got a stadium ballot measure passed in San Francisco allowing them to build a $240 million privately financed park in China Basin. Ground breaking took place on December 11, 1997. It was finally gonna happen!
The new yard, Pacific Bell Park, was slated to open in April of 2000. This meant that Candlestick would have it’s own farewell tour- every home game during the 1999 season. I became very nostalgic as the season wore on. The final game would take place on September 30, 1999 against the Dodgers. This day would be very special for so many reasons. I was assigned to cover the game and festivities for Sports Illustrated. The Giants media relations department was super classy as they realized what a big deal this was. They issued special 5 x 7 inch laminated credentials just for the final game (see in picture at top).
Of course the game meant nothing that glorious fall afternoon in The City. It was all about the park, and I did my best to try and tell the story of the final game at the old “pigsty” as former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo once called it. Once the game ended on a Marvin Benard infield grounder at 4:35pm the fun began. It was a thrill to see all the former players trot out to their positions one last time in Giants jerseys. I got chills down my spine when the crowd chanted “Ivie – Ivie – Ivie – Ivie” for Mike Ivie as he ran out to first base (see above). After the introductions and the final pitch by Willie Mays home plate was removed to be delivered by helicopter to the new park (see above). This long day was coming to an end and I got a little sad.
I had the pleasure of shooting this assignment with the great V.J. Lovero. After the game V.J. told me to get some dirt to save for myself. I got two film canisters and put dirt from the mound in one and dirt from home plate in the other. An era had ended and I still could not believe they would never play at Candlestick again.
Because I am a little nutty and am always thinking about baseball and photography I have dreams every once in awhile that the Giants are going back to The Stick to play a weekend series against the Dodgers. I get so excited in my dream and call my editor at the magazine Nate Gordon to tell him the big news. I get fired up to shoot baseball at the great old yard one more time. It was a great place to work, but I was too young and dumb back then to take advantage of all it had to offer. If I could go back to a Giants game there one more time I would do so many cool things.
Thanks Candlestick Park. You taught me to love baseball, and you taught me how to photograph the game I love. I will never forget your place in my life.