Monday, April 5, 2010

SF Giants Celebrate 10th Anniversary of Move to AT & T Park from Candlestick Park - One Lifelong Fan's Nostalgia

When the San Francisco Giants play their opening game of the season in Houston this afternoon, it will mark the tenth anniversary of their move to their home at the AT & T Park, south of the centre of the city.

David is a lifelong Giants fan who has nostalgic memories of the old Candlestick Park, the good and the bad, and their move in 2000.

'I have four brothers and my dad used to take us out to Candlestick Park, take us out to the bleachers, and back then they were bleachers, wooden benches all the way across!' he recalled.

It was probably 1968, he thought, when his dad first took him along. 'We still had Willie Mays out there, Willie McCovey, the Alou brothers, Matty, Felipe, Jesus, all three of them played the field for us, left, center, right,' he said.

'We had Juan Marichal,' he said, adding to the list. 'He completed half of the games he started, which is unheard of now.'

His memories of Candlestick Park are chilly and windy. 'I remember any time we went out there, it was time to get out your heavy coats and your blankets.' The stadium, now the home of the 49ers football team, is on the bay south of the city.

The wind not only affected temperatures but play. 'My dad said if it wasn't for that wind blowing, Willie Mays would have broken the Home Run record.' A view that was shared by many people, added David.

And then the amazing stadium, with its address of 24 Willie Mays Plaza, south of the centre of the city opened up. David was there on Opening Day. 'It was so different compared to Candlestick. It was an event just to walk around the shops and the food stalls. At Candlestick, the vendors came to you!' he said. 'There was great excitement. Everybody was happy, it was a hopeful feeling,' he recalled.

He remembers boats sailing up the creek - pictured behind him - to sit in McCovey Cove and wait for the 'splash downs,' and also remembers there being one in the very first game that was held there!

The players that stand out in David's mind during the move to the AT & T Park were Barry Bonds, one of the greatest-ever baseball players, Jeff Kent and Kevin Mitchell, both winners of the National League's Most Valuable Player award, and 'Matt the Bat' Matt Williams.

The stadium - only named AT & T Park in 2006 and originally called Pacific Bell Park, then SBC Park - arguably has the most stunning views of a baseball stadium. On a sunny day, it's an experience just to sit high up in the stands and gaze out across San Francisco Bay.

Not surprisingly, with such a smart stadium, new fans were attracted to the game. 'There were much more family, much more novice kind of fans,' said David.

Candlestick Park was for hardcore fans, much more so when the seasons were lean and the team was on hard times. David and his family were among them. 'We were out there at least 20 times a season,' he said.

However, Candlestick Park days might have been bleak weather-wise, but David looks back to a warmth of camaraderie with the players. 'It seemed the players were much more in touch with their fans at Candlestick. After the games the players would be out in the carpark signing autographs. Now you have to pay for their autographs or its only on special days,' he said.

David"s Best Player?

'It would have to be Willie Mays. He was just an all-round player. There was never a dull moment with him.'

Best Season?

'I would have to say the World Series with the Angels. That was a beautiful season. (The Anaheim Angels defeated the Giants by four games to three in 2002)

'And the playoff against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was incredible to see Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays, they were the two titans of the time.'

Was he at Candlestick Park when the huge 1989 Loma Prieta quake struck as the World Series, a Bay Area battle between the Giants and Oakland Athletics, was about to start?

'No, but I remember that day I was working in Brisbane (opposite). It was exactly 5.04 pm and we were watching the game on TV. I remember the announcer saying the stadium was shaking...and just after they said it, we felt it.'

The quake was so severe, David and his colleagues were sent home, and, stopping off at a gas station on the way, he bumped into Oakland Athletics player Jose Cansenco. 'I said "hello" and he signed a couple of autographs and then he said he had to go. Probably because we were all Giants fans!' laughed David.

Hopes for this year?

'There's a good feeling for this year. It's rare when you get that good feeling without there being named players. I'm looking to see Andres Torres and Travis Ishikawa come alive.'

And what of the girls' heartthrob, two-time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum?

'He brings the game a sense of "regular-guy", he's not a prima donna.'

David's family tradition with the Giants is continuing. His son, Joseph, is a fan, and his six-year-old grandson, Julian, playing in his first year in the Little League, will be going along with his grandpa.

Unfortunately, David is working today and so won't be at the free jumbotron viewing in the ballpark that will be showing the Giants opening game being played away against the Houston Astros.

The game is at 4.05 pm but the ballpark gates open at 3 pm with free hotdogs for the first 5,000 fans. Sponsored by the Giants, and Comcast SportsNet who also have giveaways for the first 2,000 fans, there will be a chance to visit the field and dugouts, and have autograph signings from Giants alumni.

Said David, 'But I'll be there in spirit and hear all the cheering as I pass by!'

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