It really doesn't look like such an awful place. Anybody who has read about it or heard about it without actually having seen it might expect Candlestick Park in San Francisco to look more like some dump Norman Bates or Roderick Usher might hang out in than what it, in truth, is: a pretty decent looking ballyard. It certainly has more character than those cookie-cutter look-alikes in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Philadelphia. It is not the crumbling antique that tenants claim Comiskey Park to be. It is not a squeaky-clean romper room like Dodger Stadium and Royals Stadium. It has lights. It has no waterfalls. The grass is real. You can park your car there with a reasonable hope of finding it at the conclusion of nine innings or four quarters. The Polish sausages are terrific. So far, no monstrous dome crowns it, blotting out sun and sky. In fact, there's a perfectly lovely view of San Francisco Bay from outside the stadium. Candlestick even has some tradition, being, after Wrigley Field, the oldest ballpark in the National League.
And yet, in all the history of sport, no stadium—not even Philadelphia's old Baker Bowl, which was, as it was known at the time, "no bigger than your living room"—has been so consistently and relentlessly reviled as has the home of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. The place has had the further bad luck to be situated in—or at least on the outskirts of—a city that takes fanatical pride in the quality of its architecture and the beauty of its setting. When Candlestick is called, as it frequently is, "the laughingstock of the nation," San Franciscans cringe.
It was not always thus, of course. When the park, designed for baseball, was completed in early 1960, visitors and locals alike regarded it as some sort of eighth wonder. Candlestick, it should be remembered, was the first of the modern ballparks, the first to be built entirely of reinforced concrete, the first with predominantly unobstructed seats and the first with a modern scoreboard, then the biggest in baseball—94 feet high, 164 feet wide. Its construction set off a veritable epidemic of ballpark building in the '60s and early '70s that changed the face of baseball and, eventually, of professional football, too.
Vice-President Richard Nixon, who was in the seats as a presidential candidate on Opening Day in 1960, gazed out upon the new park's lush green expanse and told the San Francisco Chronicle's Art Rosenbaum, "This will be one of the most beautiful baseball parks of all time." Jimmy Davenport, then the Giants' third baseman, said of his new home, "This is the best-built park in the National League—no, I mean the best park in the majors. It's beautiful." J.G. Taylor Spink, then publisher of The Sporting News (the Bible of Baseball), called the park "simply wonderful, marvelous, unbelievable. Baseball has never seen anything to compare with it." Wrote Bob Stevens of the Chronicle on the day the park was dedicated: "It's breathtakingly beautiful, the Taj Mahal of games."
Ah, but this was before any of them knew about "the Hawk," as director of stadium operations Don Foreman calls the howling winds that whip in from the nearby Pacific Ocean, then fragment into ministorms as they collide with Bay View Hill, directly west of the stadium, and finally swirl demonically within the park itself. There are other breezy ballparks—Wrigley Field, certainly, and Shea Stadium—but their winds are to Candlestick's as zephyrs to cyclones. The Stick's are not winds at all; they are devils at play, dancing, darting, stopping, starting. The park had been open a little more than two months before Dick Friendlich, then of the Chronicle, set out to define the phenomenon: "Winds of incredible cunning sometimes blow with gale force from home plate toward left field at ground level, while 100 feet above, they blow from left field toward home plate at velocities that break out small craft warnings from the Coast Guard."
The Hawk does not always fly, of course. At night, the wind generally subsides by game time, but nights in San Francisco, even in midsummer, can be wintry. Fog, the city's natural air-conditioning system, will transform the warmest day into an arctic evening, and if the Hawk is also flying...brrr. But there are days, particularly in the spring and fall, when Candlestick has the best weather of any ballpark in the country. The sun will shine brightly in a cloudless sky on those days, and the temperature will be in the comfortable, unhumid 70s or even 80s. Sometimes these conditions will hold for an entire game, but there will be many other games that will start out balmily then, after the arrival of the Hawk, finish in windswept chaos and despair. The 1984 All-Star Game in Candlestick began at 5:30 p.m. with a temperature of 82°. It was 54" by the fifth inning. And windy. Candlestick is the sporting equivalent of the mythical island of Manikoora. You remember the movie: In the beginning, lovely sarong-wrapped Dorothy Lamour gambols in the sun; in the end she is lashed to a tree as the hurricane threatens to blast her to eternity.
Chub Feeney, then the Giants' vice-president, now in his last days as National League president, first learned of the Hawk when the stadium was still under construction. The Giants had played their first two years in San Francisco's Seals Stadium, a jewel box of a ballpark in the somewhat more temperate Mission District. The wind blew at Seals Stadium, just as it blows everywhere in San Francisco in the summer, but at least it was predictable there, and the temperatures were milder than on Candlestick Point, which juts out onto the Bay, exposing its principal structure to the caprices of nature. But the jewel box was too small, with a capacity of only 23,000, and it had little parking, so the Giants were committed to Candlestick. Feeney had been to the construction site before, but always in the morning, when the Hawk was elsewhere. He was delighted in those hours by the view and the brilliant sunshine. Perfect baseball weather, he thought. Then one day he drove out there after lunch and was assailed by a wintry gale. "Say," he inquired of a workman, "does the wind always blow like this?" "Oh no," the man replied, "only between one and five in the afternoon." Uh oh.
It didn't take ballplayers long to spot the Hawk. Hank Sauer, who had ended his playing career after the '59 season, took one look at his old team's new home and muttered, "Thank God I'm retired." Willie Mays, who would play most of his career there, tested the wind and measured the prodigious distances down the power alleys—then 397 feet, now only 365 and 375—and muttered, "Somebody's gonna get some salary cuts around here." It wouldn't be Willie, though. He learned to go with the wind and became Candlestick's greatest hitter. It is often said that if he and Hank Aaron could have exchanged ballparks, there would be a different alltime home run king.
Lesser mortals than Mays were appalled by the new park. "The fly ball will be the big play here," said then Giants manager Bill Rigney. "I'm glad I only have to play here once in a while," said Lou Burdette, the fine Braves pitcher. "Because of the sun and the wind, I don't think anybody can get used to playing rightfield at Candlestick Park," said the Giants' Willie Kirkland, who never did. The Giants won the stadium's opener on April 12, 1960 by a 3-1 score. Orlando Cepeda drove in all three Giants runs, two on a fly ball that blew past St. Louis centerfielder Bill White for a triple. In the newspapers the next day an expression was born that would define baseball in San Francisco for the next quarter century: "wind-tortured fly ball."
Candlestick achieved some notoriety from the outset, but it would be another year before the place really became infamous. One game did it—the first All-Star Game of 1961 (there were two that year), played at the Stick on July 11. And one player, appropriately a Giant, would rise in the wind to legendary heights. It was a quintessential Candlestick day. Most of the 44,115 fans, who crammed the stadium beyond capacity, arrived early on a magnificent summer day. It was 81° by noon, an hour and 25 minutes before game time, and the crowds laboring up Cardiac Hill, a prominence that rises from the parking lot to the ticket gates, were actually suffering from the heat. San Franciscans do not respond well to temperatures much above 70°. In fact, some 90 persons would be treated that day for heat prostration. "For the first six innings of the game it was the best weather I'd ever seen out there," recalls Stu Miller, the Giants' pitcher this game would immortalize. "And then those flags started fluttering." Enter the Hawk.
The National League was leading 3-2, with one out in the ninth and Miller pitching to Rocky Colavito. Roger Maris was on first for the American League and Al Kaline on second. Miller, it should be remembered, was a lightly rigged man—5'11½", 165 pounds. He was aeronautically sound. "I knew the variations of that wind as well as anyone," says Miller, now a prosperous liquor store proprietor in suburban San Francisco. "I also knew that once you've taken your set position, you can't move anything except your head. Well, I took my set position into the wind, and just then about a 65-mile-an-hour blast hit me. My whole body waved, and Stan Landes, the National League umpire behind the plate, called a balk on me. I went up to him and said, 'Stan, the wind pushed me.' He said, T know that, Stu, but rules are rules.' " The runners advanced, and Kaline scored the tying run when the Cardinals' Ken Boyer, blaming the wind, misplayed Colavito's ground ball. The National League finally won the game 5-4 in the 10th, when Roberto Clemente singled home Mays with the winning run. Altogether there were seven errors in the game, five by the winning side. Candlestick had disgraced itself.
Miller was the winning pitcher, but that was not the big news in the nation's sports pages the next day. MILLER BLOWN OFF MOUND was. Miller is a wry man, and the irony of his achieving a lasting fame through an act of nature is not lost on him. "I wasn't blown off that mound," he says. "I just waved a little. But I'll always be the guy who was blown away, no matter what I say. There were 44,000 people in the park that day, but over the years I bet I've had at least 100,000 people tell me they saw me flying in the air. You'd think I'd been blown out into the Bay."
A further irony is that Miller, who won a career-high 14 games that year, actually enjoyed pitching in Candlestick. "The players I played with—Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda—never complained about it. We always felt it gave us an advantage. It was the opposing players who griped, and that was fine with us. For a pitcher like me, who threw a lot of off-speed stuff, the wind was a big help. You know, in that same All-Star Game, I threw a breaking pitch to Yogi Berra that looked like it was going to hit him. Hell, I thought it was. He jumped away and turned his back to the plate. Then the wind took the ball and blew it right down the middle. Landes called it a strike, and you should have seen the look on Yogi's face. He never even saw that pitch, and it was a strike."
The image of Miller being transported like Dorothy and Toto through space remains fixed in memory. His historic flight is now firmly part of the ever-accumulating Candlestick lore. Some of the stories about the place are even true. Bill Madlock did wear aviator's goggles in the Candlestick infield to protect his eyes from flying dust. Bobby Murcer did stick his bats in the clubhouse sauna to keep them warm for night games. Hotdog wrappers do get pinned by the wind to the outfield fences, looking from the stands like so many miniature billboards. The Cardinals' Alan Knicely was hit on the head by a foul pop-up he lost in the sun and wind this year. The sun, even on Hawkless days, can be a problem. One of the more salubrious side effects of the summer wind in San Francisco is that it leaves the skies cloudless. There are days of such crystalline clarity that you feel you can see China from one of the hills. It's altogether magical, but not at the old ballyard, where fly balls can become invisible in the high sky. Knicely learned that. Johnnie LeMaster, who played shortstop at the Stick for 10 years and griped about it all the way, concluded that, cold as it was, he would prefer to play night games there. "At night," he said, "you've only got two things to worry about—wind and cold. In the day, you've got a third—the damn sun."
Much of what is said about Candlestick is merely shooting the breeze. As far as anyone knows, it is not common practice, as A's pitcher Joaquin Andujar has claimed, for outfielders to place their gloves high on the outfield fences and walk away, firm in the knowledge that the wind will hold them there. And while it is true that pop fouls can be blown back from the reserved seats to the outfield, the reverse is more often true. Several years ago, when he was the Giants' general manager, Tom Haller said of the Candlestick stories, "A lot of this stuff has been blown out of proportion."
One question logically arises: Why did they ever build a ballpark out there on that godforsaken windswept promontory? Candlestick is not really in the boondocks; it's only 15 or 20 minutes from downtown San Francisco when traffic is light. When it is heavy, forget it. Getting there by the principal access, the Bayshore Freeway (Highway 101), in traffic is about as easy as driving to Tahiti. There are only four main arteries entering the ballpark, and three of them are through heavily populated areas. Candlestick Point itself is not exactly Golden Gate Park. Bay View Hill behind the stadium has been hacked at so often that it now looks like a dwarfish Mount St. Helens. And the flatlands around it were best described before the stadium was built by the Chronicle's Richard Reinhardt as "a breezy track of wild grass, red rocks, chapparal and torn trees...all strewn with whiskey bottles and beer cans."
So why put a ballpark there? "The park is where it is because we couldn't find anyplace else to put it," says Tom Gray, manager of the San Francisco Downtown Association at the time the land was acquired. Gray actively supported the campaign to bring major league baseball to San Francisco, which was spearheaded by former mayor George Christopher and former city supervisor and Superior Court judge Fran McCarty. It wasn't easy. The late Curley Grieve, then sports editor of the San Francisco Examiner, had long campaigned in his columns for a big league franchise. There had been feelers in the early '50s from, among others, Cleveland, Boston, Washington and St. Louis, but no takers. The Braves' move from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953 had established that there was money in franchise shifting, and some enterprising owners were looking to the Far West. McCarty was appointed in 1953 by then mayor Elmer Robinson to head a blue-ribbon committee that would seek out a team.
San Francisco had long had a grand baseball tradition, dating back to 1859, when the Eagle Baseball Club was organized. In the '20s and '30s the city had two teams—the Seals and the Mission Reds—in the strong Pacific Coast League, and Oakland had another, the Oaks, also in the Coast League. In 1946 the Seals set a minor league attendance record of 670,563 that was not broken until Louisville of the American Association did so in 1982. The Oaks that same year drew 634,311. Over the years San Francisco Peninsula playgrounds have nurtured such big league stars as Bill Lange, Duffy Lewis, George (High Pockets) Kelly, Harry Heilmann, Joe Cronin, Lefty O'Doul, the DiMaggio brothers, Tony Lazzeri, Dolph Camilli, Frankie Crosetti and Keith Hernandez. And from across the Bay have come Harry Hooper, Lew Fonseca, Chick Hafey, Lefty Gomez, Cookie Lavagetto, Billy Martin, Jackie Jensen, Dick Bartell, Curt Flood, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Rickey Henderson. Both 1929 batting champions, O'Doul (.398) and Fonseca (.369), were Bay Area progeny.
In the years immediately following World War II, Paul I. Fagan, then owner of the Seals, had a plan to convert the Coast League into a third major league. But television soon brought major league baseball into West Coast homes, and the Coast League's popularity, at a peak in the '40s, rapidly diminished. Obviously, the thing for the city to do was get its own big league team.
McCarty introduced a $5 million bond issue for the construction of a new stadium, and it was passed by the voters in 1954. The hitch was that not a penny could be spent on the stadium unless the city acquired a major league franchise within five years. "We had a catch-22 situation," McCarty says now. "No franchise, no money. And with baseball commissioner Ford Frick it was no stadium, no franchise." The quest was quickened with the election in the fall of 1955 of Christopher as mayor. A big, bluff, curly-haired man who had worked his way through night school to become a successful businessman, Christopher was the sort of go-getter the big league campaign needed. He had come to San Francisco from his native Greece in 1910, when he was two years old. He was 17 when his father died, and he then became head of a family of five children. He worked at various jobs during the day, attended accounting classes at Golden Gate University at night, read avidly and played sandlot second base on weekends. At 23 he wrote Christopher's Concise Recorder, a guidebook on accounting. "I'm a guy who likes to get things done," he says.
Through McCarty and Gray, Christopher learned that Walter O'Malley of the Brooklyn Dodgers had been flirting with the idea of moving west for some time. It stood to reason, the mayor concluded, that O'Malley would not go west alone and that Horace Stoneham of the New York Giants, stuck with an antiquated stadium in a declining neighborhood, might join him. In fact the Giants were seriously considering a move to Minneapolis, where they had a Triple A farm team. Christopher started calling on the two New York owners regularly. "We'd have those all-night sessions," he recalls. "I'd leave on Friday, check into some obscure hotel in New York, and we'd go at it all weekend." It soon became apparent that O'Malley was staking out Los Angeles for himself. "Well," says Christopher, "I thought if he's taking L.A., I know darn well somebody's coming to San Francisco." That would be Stoneham.
The stadium remained a dilemma. Stoneham would move, but he would agree to play only temporarily in Seals Stadium. Ultimately, he would insist on a 40,000-seat ballpark with 12,000 parking spaces, convinced as he was that parking was absolutely essential to the operation of a big league ball club. At the Polo Grounds he had virtually none. "Now where in hell are you going to find 12,000 parking spaces in San Francisco?" Christopher asked himself, knowing from experience that the city had always had parking problems. Downtown sites for a ballpark were explored, particularly in the area immediately southeast of Market Street, within walking distance of the financial district and the city's two major newspapers, the Chronicle and the Examiner. But land there was difficult to acquire, and the acquisition process, Christopher knew, might take years. There was also stiff opposition to a downtown ballpark from the major department stores, whose proprietors feared that traffic congestion would hurt their business. The Examiner and the Chronicle, whose editors today are loudly calling for a downtown ballpark, supported the stores, their principal advertisers.
Gray thought of somebody who might have an answer. He knew Charley Harney, a multimillion-dollar contractor, through business contacts and the Dons Club, a University of San Francisco boosters group. Harney was an aggressive, irascible, impetuous, egotistical and, at least as far as USF was concerned, entirely generous man. He also owned 41 acres of land on Candlestick Point, which he proposed to sell to the city at a bargain price—80¬¨¬®¬¨¢ per square foot, as opposed to the $25 per square foot it would cost downtown—for a stadium, on the condition that he build it. The Giants had announced the move west in August of 1957. The city had less than two years to get a ballpark built before the bond issue expired. So a deal was struck—an especially controversial one, it turned out.
Long before the first fly ball was tortured there by the wind, there was turbulence on Candlestick Point. Harney signed the contract on July 24, 1958 to build a stadium designed by John Bolles, a well-known San Francisco architect. Harney had never built a stadium before, and Bolles had never designed one. There was trouble from the start between these two opposites, the rough-hewn builder and the patrician architect. The Giants had hoped to move in sometime during the 1959 season, and they became particularly anxious about it after they got off to a brisk 43-33 start that year. How about opening up the new ballpark with a World Series? It was not to be.
The Giants eventually faded, and Harney fell well behind schedule. He started work on the stadium more than a month late, then endured, in succession, a Teamsters strike and a shattering blow to his ego. Harney accused Bolles of adding another $750,000 to the original plans. Bolles said Harney was only "dragging his feet" because he was pouting about the name given the stadium. Indeed, Harney had been operating under the misapprehension that the stadium would be named after him. After all, he reasoned, it was being built by him on land he owned. So convinced was he of the tribute that would soon be his that he had his trucks painted HARNEY STADIUM. Instead, in a contest held to name the stadium, an overwhelming proportion of the 15,000 newspaper readers who participated suggested "Candlestick Park." Harney fumed. "When he learned the stadium wasn't going to be named after him things just stopped dead," said Bolles. Charles McCabe, then a columnist for the Chronicle, suggested a compromise: Harney should change his own name to Charley Candlestick.
As work progressed spasmodically, another bomb was dropped on the project. A grand jury report in 1958 concluded that the city had gotten a "bad deal" and that Harney had made a killing. Sherman Duckel, the city's director of public works, countered that if anybody had made a bad deal it was Harney. The builder, said Duckel, could have made a lot more money putting an industrial park on his property, as, in fact, he had originally planned to do. The grand jury's foreman, insurance executive Henry E. North, was especially vocal in his criticism of the Christopher administration for rushing the ballpark deal through channels so precipitously. Stung, the mayor replied, "Henry North got drunk and made incoherent statements." North sued Christopher for slander. Benjamin L. Swig, influential owner of the Fairmont Hotel and a principal supporter of Russell H. Wolden, Christopher's opponent in the 1959 mayoral election, got into the act. Swig wanted the stadium downtown. "The mayor," he said, "has spent a huge sum of our money to erect a monument to his own poor judgment." Harney, meanwhile, sued the city for $1.5 million, claiming extra costs. The city sued Harney for damages, claiming he failed to finish the project on schedule and had left work undone. Neither suit was settled before Harney's death in 1962. A year later his firm was awarded $400,000. North and Christopher reconciled one tearful Sunday afternoon, and North dropped his suit. Christopher defeated Wolden in the election. Seven years later, Wolden, longtime county assessor, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to prison.
But the stadium did get built. And then they found out it was cold and windy. A radiant-heating system was installed to warm at least 20,000 seats. When, naturally, it didn't work, famed attorney Melvin Belli sued the Giants for the price of his season box, claiming breach of warranty. To the jury Belli proclaimed that he had been assailed at Candlestick by "the bitterest winds this side of the Himalayas," and that to be comfortable at Candlestick a fan would have to dress warmer than he might for a Siberian expedition. A $55,000 wind study commissioned by the city showed that gusts at the stadium could reach velocities of 62 miles an hour. The weather bureau reported that winds there could shift as much as 180° during a game. As early as 1962 there was talk of doming the place. Buckminster Fuller, designer of the geodesic dome, was approached. He could cap Candlestick, he said, for $35 million, more than three times the cost of the original construction. Improving Candlestick would be "perpetuating a mediocrity," mayor Joseph Alioto said in 1968. And yet it was under Alioto's aegis that the city spent $24 million to enlarge Candlestick by 20,000 seats to accommodate the 49ers professional football team, which moved there from dilapidated Kezar Stadium across town in 1971. The 49ers' press guide even referred to the despised ballpark as the team's "plush new home." Plush? The expansion also included the installation of artificial turf to support the extra wear and tear of two sports. When the 49ers suffered a rash of injuries on the dreadful stuff in the mid-'70s, they asked that it be replaced by the real thing. It was, in 1979.
Through all the Sturm und Drang the Giants played on. Their teams of the '60s were, by any measure, glamorous, boasting three present-day Hall of Famers—Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal—and at least one future candidate, Gaylord Perry. This is not to mention such only slightly lesser lights as Cepeda, Billy Pierce, Miller and the Alou brothers. In 1962 the Giants won the National League pennant and extended the Yankees to seven games in the Series, losing the final game 1-0 in Candlestick when Bobby Richardson hauled in McCovey's line drive with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. The team drew 1,795,356 fans its first year in Candlestick, a record that still stands, and it averaged 1½ million fans, a high figure back then, through the 1967 season.
In 1968 the A's moved in across the Bay, and the Giants were suddenly not the only game in town. And when the great players began to fade or move on, the bottom all but dropped out for the franchise. In 1974 attendance dipped to a San Francisco low of 519,991 and improved only to 522,925 the next season. Stoneham, now in his 70s, wanted out; he was convinced the Bay Area could not support two teams, despite an aggregate population of 5.7 million, now fifth highest in the country. In January of 1976 Stoneham agreed to sell the team to the Labatt's Breweries of Toronto. A court injunction obtained by mayor George Moscone held up the sale, claiming that the Giants' original 35-year lease was unbreakable. Then Bob Lurie, a real estate tycoon and a native of San Francisco, stepped forward at the 11th hour to buy the team for $8 million in partnership with Phoenix meat packer Bud Herseth.
Herseth, who was fond of wearing bloodstained butcher's smocks and of boasting about "slaughtering cows," and the reserved, conservatively dressed Lurie were strange bedfellows, and they stayed in business together only until 1977, when Lurie bought Herseth out for $5 million. Lurie had been on the Giants' board of directors since the team came to San Francisco, and had long been interested in running the show. A shy man, he had lived much of his life in the considerable shadow of his flamboyant father, Louis, a self-made entrepreneur and boulevardier who basked in publicity and enjoyed showing off such show business pals as Maurice Chevalier. His son, even as he approached middle age, was always "my Bobby" to the old man. But the Giants gave Bob Lurie a local celebrity not even his father had enjoyed, and he made the most of it, becoming in his quiet way a man about town.
Lurie did not like Candlestick Park. At all. With rising costs and dramatically increased player salaries, he figured his break-even point was 1.8 million in attendance, a figure he has approached only once, in 1978. His underlings estimate that owning the Giants has cost Lurie upward of $20 million. Although his teams have never finished higher than third, and the A's, under the ownership of the progressive Haas family (Levi Strauss & Co.), have offered stiff competition, Lurie has blamed his misfortune on the ballpark. The Giants players, he says, have hated playing there—a notable whiner being the since-departed Jack Clark—and his efforts to improve the team have been thwarted because players on other teams don't want to play there. And, of course, fans don't want to watch bad teams play games there. Lurie says he's done the best he can with the bad hand dealt him. Under the wizardry of vice-president Pat Gallagher the team has promoted itself with zeal and ingenuity. One of Gallagher's more inspired gimmicks was awarding the Croix de Candlestick for "loyalty and devotion above and beyond the call of fandom" to those hardies who survived extra-inning night games. Another of his gimmicks was the short-lived Crazy Crab, a parody of other teams' mascots. Last year, when the team played mostly day games at home, Gallagher's advertising depicted sunbathers in the seats. But the Giants lost 100 games and drew only 818,697. What Lurie wants now is a new ballpark.
In 1979, seeking some clout at city hall, he hired as his administrative assistant the then 29-year-old Corey Busch, who had worked for a time as mayor Moscone's press secretary. Busch is now the Giants' vice-president of administration, and his job is to get a ballpark. He's had rocky going so far. In '83 Lurie and Busch got mayor Dianne Feinstein to back a proposed domed stadium downtown. The plan died a year later. In September of '84, Feinstein suggested a ballpark near the airport. Nothing came of it. In October of '84, Lurie announced that the Giants were for sale and that he would try to find a buyer who would keep the team in San Francisco. In February of '85, Feinstein proposed putting a dome on Candlestick. In April of '85, Lurie took the Giants off the market, reiterating, however, that he wanted out of Candlestick, domed or otherwise. In May of '85 a plan for a ballpark-hotel complex near the Bay Bridge was unveiled. In September the plan fell through. In October, Lurie announced that the Giants would play the next three years at the Oakland Coliseum, sharing it with the A's until a new stadium in San Francisco could be built. This apparently came as news to the A's, the Oakland Coliseum Commission and the city of Oakland. Permission denied.
Last season Busch and new Giants general manager Al Rosen were spotted in Denver, supposedly working on a bizarre plan to house the team there temporarily. This, understandably, got nowhere. In January of this year Lurie backed off from his earlier threat to vacate Candlestick and said the team would play there another season. In May, Feinstein announced plans to build a stadium at Seventh and Townsend streets, not quite downtown, but nearer to the heart of the city than Candlestick. In July this plan collapsed. Lurie says now the Giants will stay in Candlestick at least through 1987, describing the Seventh and Town-send planning setback as merely "a detour.... I haven't given up by any means." Hope obviously remains for the site.
Candlestick, in the meantime, is undergoing a $30 million refurbishment, which includes more seats and the installation of luxury boxes, all of which will mainly benefit the 49ers. The Giants now seem to be second-class citizens there. But the baseball team is going great guns this year. Gallagher's slogan for the season is "You gotta like these kids," and the fans do. Attendance is up nearly 500,000 over this time last year and, at the current pace, will approach, if not surpass, Lurie's break-even figure. New manager Roger Craig forbids any complaints from his players about the park, so the only gripes registered so far have—shades of the Willie Mays days—come from the opposition. The Giants have been the talk of the town all summer.
This good fortune, in one way, works against Lurie. His critics, former mayor Christopher among them, now gleefully point out that, see, it wasn't the ballpark after all, but the ball club that was causing all the problems. "Other cities do not continually blame their stadiums for the weather that Providence has thrust upon them," Christopher has said. Put a good team on the field and people will watch, even if it plays in a meat locker. So who needs a new ballpark if there are crowds at the old one? "Last year's igloo is this year's Hawaiian resort," says Gray.
It's all relative, says Busch, the political strategist. These are merely, so to speak, fair-weather fans. They won't be back if the Giants start losing. The team needs an attractive home to keep people coming in good times and bad. "Ours is the second-highest increase in baseball, next to Cleveland's," says Busch. "But we are still 17th overall of 26 teams in attendance. What's wrong? Quite frankly, it's the ballpark. What we hope to do now is work with the mayor to put together a package for a new stadium, something very specific that we can put on the ballot. Let's put it this way: Bob is a man of infinite patience, but he can't afford to wait forever."
And so Candlestick Park stands out there by the Bay, a monument to haste and need. On a clear day you can see forever. Then the Hawk flies in and you can see Stu Miller, wafting, like a leaf, out to sea.
According to legend, Miller was blown off the mound by the wind during the 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick.
On the park's Opening Day in 1960, candidate Nixon raved about its beauty.
To protect his bats from the night's chill, Murcer warmed them in the team's sauna.
The terrible triumvirate of sun, wind and cold puts a damper on visiting teams.
Christopher reeled in Stoneham's Giants.
Harney wanted his handle on the park, and that only added to the acrimony.
Mays, no fool, wisely chose to befriend the Hawk.
Until the cure for Candlestick is found, Lurie will be saddled with its problems.
A young team, unruffled by the Hawk, has manager Craig in the catbird seat.
What mayor Feinstein pulls out of the hat could well decide the Giants' future.