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Rubino: Candlestick leaves enduring legacy of agony, ecstasy

  • Giants pitcher Juan Marichal (27) swings a bat at Dodgers catcher John Roseboro as Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax tries to break it up in the third inning at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Aug. 22, 1965. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Giants haven't played at Candlestick Park in 14 years, but with the 49ers about to close down the Stick for good and settle in Santa Clara, it's only natural to look back at the long-maligned stadium's conflicting baseball legacies of agony (the weather) and ecstasy (great players, memorable games).

A dubious legend is born

A capacity crowd. Gorgeous spring afternoon. New baseball season. Wild, cockeyed optimism in the air.

“This will be one of the most beautiful baseball parks of all time,” Vice President Richard M. Nixon said before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on April 12, 1960, which was not only opening day but the official debut of Candlestick Park. Nixon went on to call the San Francisco Giants' new home “the finest in America.”

Fifteen months later, Candlestick's developing reputation as cold and windy already falling a bit short of Nixon's pronouncements, there was another capacity crowd on hand. This time, though, there was also a national television audience. And so, on July 11, 1961, a breezy All-Star Game went from familiar to unforgettable when a gust of wind caused Giants pitcher Stu Miller to balk.

And Candlestick's legacy was forever established.

Even if the facts might get in the way of the story.

“I got ready to throw to the hitter, took my stretch position,” Miller told author Mike Mandel for “SF Giants, An Oral History,” some 17 years later. “And just then, an extra shot of wind came along and I just weaved in the wind back and forth. And nobody said anything, and I went ahead and delivered the pitch to the plate to Rocky Colavito. He swung and missed the pitch, a slow curveball. ... The umpire came out and slowly took his mask off and motioned for the guy on second to go onto third. Balk. And I just walked in and said, 'Jeez, that wind just pushed me. It made me balk.' ... He said ' ... rules are rules.'

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