The end of the 2013 NFL season will also mark the end of an era in Bay Area Sports. In 2014 the San Francisco 49ers will move to their new home in Santa Clara, and for the first time since Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch at its Opening Day Ceremony on April 12, 1960, Candlestick Park will be teamless.
Built for the San Francisco Giants as part of the deal that brought the team from New York, Candlestick Park has also hosted the Oakland Raiders, and has been the home of the San Francisco 49ers since 1971.
A lot of amazing things have happened in Candlestick Park in the last 53 years, and here is a countdown of my Top 7 Greatest Moments in Candlestick Park History:
7. The Beatles perform their last commercial concert, August 29, 1966. John, Paul, George, and Ringo performed their final full concert performance at Candlestick Park in 1966. Strangely enough, the audio recording of the concert was rough and was never released, though video of the concert was. The audio track was leaked to the internet and can be found online, the released video footage was largely captured by a 15 year-old fan named Barry Hood.
6. Willie Mays Home Run, September 30, 1962. In September of 1962, Willie Mays was in a slump. As the Giants played their hearts out against a Houston team that looked like it could end the Giants playoff hopes, Mays was 0-for-2 going in to the eighth. Then it happened. The Say Hey Kid blasted what would be the game winning home run, the 47th of his career 660, to send the Giants in to a best-of-three playoff against the Dodgers for the National league pennant.
5. Perry and Washburn go back to back, September 17th and 18th, 1968. On September 17, 1968 Gaylord Perry tossed a no-no against the St. Louis Cardinals. Perry’s no-hitter was the fourth of the 1968 season and came on only 101 pitches. Only 2 Cardinals hitters even managed to get the ball out of the infield, and had Perry not walked a pair, his no-hitter would have been perfect. The next day, Cardinals pitcher Ray Washburn returned the favor, no-hitting the San Francisco Giants on 138 pitches, even surviving a 2-on-2-out jam in the 7th, and popped out Willie McCovey to end the game. It was the first time in Major League history that no-hitters were thrown back to back by the same two teams in the same stadium.
4. Will Clark sends the Giants to the World Series, October 9, 1989. In Game 5 of the 1989 NLCS the Giants were trying to get past the Chicago Cubs and into the World Series. The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead and held it until the 7th inning, when Will Clark tripled and then scored on a Kevin Mitchel sac-fly. The Cubs looked like they might send the series back to Chicago when, with two outs, the Cubs walked three straight to load the bases. Will Clark then hit a single to center to score two runs that would end up being the pennant clinchers. Will Clarks .650 batting average in that series, and phenomenal overall performance, would earn him the honor of NLCS MVP.
3. 49ers comeback against the Saints, December 7, 1980. When the clock ran out on the first half of play, the 49ers trailed the New Orleans Saints 35-7. What happened next was, at the time, the greatest comeback in NFL history. Joe Montana led the 49ers to a huge come from behind victory, scoring 28 unanswered points to tie the game at the end of regulation. The 49ers would complete the comeback on a Ray Wersching field goal in overtime to win 38-35.
2. Vernon Post, January 14, 2012. After a dreary 2010 season, no one expected the 49ers to be a contender in 2011. However, new head coach Jim Harbaugh led his team to a 13-3 season. They faced the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. After a powerful first half showing by the 49ers, the Saints started to do what the Saints do and mount a comeback. Going touchdown for touchdown in the fourth quarter, the 49ers had one final possession to try and beat the Saints and advance to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1998. Jim Harbaugh called the play he ran from the New Orleans 14-yard line, the Vernon Post, to give the team the win. 49ers fans have labeled the game-winning grab The Catch III.
1. The Catch, January 10, 1982. The San Francisco 49ers were fighting for their season against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game in 1982. After several lead changes the Dallas Cowboys led 27-21 as the 49ers took over on their own 11 yard line. Joe Montana drove the 49ers 83 yards to the Dallas 6. Then, on 3rd and 3, with 58 seconds left in the game, the 49ers ran Sprint Right Option intended for Freddie Solomon, who had scored on the same play earlier in the game. However, the Dallas defense covered Solomon perfectly. As Montana pack-pedaled toward the sideline, chased by 3 defenders, he pump-faked, causing Ed Jones to jump, and sailed a high pass that looked like it would sail out of the end-zone. That is, until Dwight Clark launched himself into the air and made a finger-tip grab in the back of the end zone to put score the game winning touchdown that would send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl, and ultimately their first Super Bowl win. Labeled simply “The Catch”, Dwight Clark’s touchdown would go down as one of the most memorable events in NFL history.
As with all of the countdowns I do, this list is not meant to be all-inclusive, and is simply the opinion of the writer. Obviously, after 53 years, there have been countless memories, both famous and infamous, and there is simply not enough room to expound on them all. I do know one thing, when the 49ers play their final game at Candlestick, and the ‘Stick closes its gates forever, it will mark the end of one of the greatest eras in professional sports history.