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Friday, Aug 22, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kaufman: So long, Candlestick

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ST. LOUIS — I was there.

Almost 32 years have passed, but I can still remember Dwight Clark reaching up into the sky for a Joe Montana pass that in retrospect descended from the heavens.

They are closing down Candlestick Park on Monday night and, just for old time’s sake, a few gusts should kick up and knock off some toupees during ceremonies honoring a 53-year-old wind tunnel that has served as home of the 49ers since 1971.

As a young reporter for United Press International out of New York, I was assigned to work the 1982 NFC championship game between the upstart 49ers and the tradition-laden Cowboys.

San Francisco had trounced Dallas during the regular season, but coach Bill Walsh and Montana, a third-year quarterback, were hardly household names.

Then Montana rolled right, bought himself some extra time and found Clark in the back of the end zone for “The Catch,’’ triggering an NFL dynasty that lasted 16 seasons and included five Super Bowl victories under the dynamic ownership style of Tampa resident Eddie DeBartolo.

“In a different way, I left a lot of my heart, my blood, sweat and tears on that field, too,’’ said DeBartolo, who will be San Francisco’s honorary captain against Atlanta in the final regular-season game at Candlestick.

Next year, the 49ers will move into $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium, 30 miles to the south in Santa Clara. It will be a state-of-the-art facility that has already been awarded the 50th Super Bowl, but it won’t have the memories of the ’Stick.

Candlestick Park, which housed the Giants from 1960-99, is where the Beatles gave their final full concert in 1966 before swearing off touring.

It’s where Giants pitcher Juan Marichal clubbed Dodgers catcher John Roseboro over the head with a bat in the summer of 1965, touching off a brawl between bitter rivals.

Who can forget the earthquake that shook the stadium before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and Athletics?

“You have so many memories there,’’ Montana said. “But I don’t think it was the best place for fans to watch a game. On the whole, the biggest problem was the wind — you never knew where it was coming from.’’

While the Giants never won a World Series during their stint at the ’Stick, the 49ers became the NFL’s flagship franchise.

This will be 36th time the Monday night TV crew rolls into the facility that was foolishly built along Candlestick Point, where the summer winds routinely turned Giants night games into frosty adventures.

The 49ers played at Candlestick a few years longer than their baseball compatriots, and they crafted the more intriguing story lines.

“I hate to see Candlestick go,’’ said Clark, who played his entire nine-year NFL career in San Francisco. “And I hate that the 49ers won’t be playing on that field, where all the Super Bowls were won, but I definitely understand it.’’

Before the stadium is torn down next year, fans can purchase a pair of light-red seats for $795. The fannies that watched 49ers games from those seats were witnesses to history.

“The high tide would come in and you’d get that smell on the field,’’ said ESPN analyst Steve Young, the Hall of Famer who replaced Montana under center in 1991. “The infield, with crushed rock, you’d get skinned up. The stadium needs to close. She’s gone as far as she can go, but for me, it’s hard to see her go.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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