Thursday, April 27, 2006

Croix de Candlestick

A long time ago, in a mystical fairyland called Hunters Point, there stood a massive circular edifice called Candlestick Park. It was large. It was concrete. It lacked any pretension of neighborhood charm. It was magnificently ugly.

After the successful theft of the Giants from the Polo Grounds, the ball-club played two seasons at Seals Stadium-- which, incidentally, stood at 16th & Bryant in the Mission, an area now roamed by hipsters and (cough) digerati with funny glasses and Eames chairs. Then, Mayor Christopher & Horace Stoneham, as planned, moved the Giants into their new home in 1960. It was like moving an orphan from a kindly foster family into a Dickensian orphanage.

But such an orphanage. Though Stu Miller may have simply lost his balance (and was not blown off the mound, as legend has it), the ferocity of the wind merited its reputation. Around the 6th inning of day games, the daily Dance of the Hot Dog Wrappers would begin: a fantasia of swirling white paper. Night games required polar attire. Fly balls (anyone remember Glenallen Hill?) were physical comedies waiting to happen. The wind, more than Yoko, probably dissuaded the Beatles from ever playing live again.

When I was a kid in the '80s, Candlestick Park meant crowds of 1,750 for Monday night games against the Expos. It meant screaming for Jack Clark from the loge, and having him actually hear you. Only die-hard fans were in attendance: the 300-pound beer-swilling Superfans, and the elderly couples with transistor radios & hats covered with commemorative pins & memories of Orlando Cepeda. Everyone hated Candlestick but the 1,750 of us.

Friday night Dodger games were the best. Once, in the '90s, I went to a game w/my girlfriend at the time, and we sat in the bleachers. We witnessed 30 arrests in our section, no joke, with bloodied faces and riot gear and endless profane invective hurled at Brett Butler. It was fucking great. Dodgers fans had the snot beat out of them with regularity at the 'Stick.

Truth be told, the new ballpark (let's just call it Mays Field) saved the Giants from moving to Tampa, and for that I should be grateful. I should worhip the beautiful views of the Bay Bridge, the Bonds shots into McCovey Cove, the comparative warmth and windlessness. And I've refrained from too much criticism, fearing that it's just blind nostalgia. But no.

Games at SBC/AT&T/PacBell Park are like corporate motivational seminars. The stands are packed with jackasses on their cell phones (ready to be placed back in their belt holsters). My friend DS, a Mets fan, writes gloatingly in an email about the soullessness of the place:

"... as if it were possible to further demean and cheapen the Giant fan 'experience'... the Visa show-us-your-credit-cards promotion in the top of the fifth inning. Exactly what it sounds like, a stadium full of khaki- and cap-clad fans wildly waving their Gold Cards in the air, like they just
don' care, for a shot at a $50 gift certificate. Yep, that's right...$50. Not having a shred of dignity? Priceless."

Move the Giants back to the 'Stick.