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Gullixson: Blowing out the flame on 'the Stick'

  • Paul Gullixson

Looking back on it, I'm not sure how my dad got away with it, leaving a very pregnant wife at home on the Peninsula to go to a baseball game, even if it was for the opening of a new stadium known as Candlestick Park. But that's how the family story goes.

He cut away for the opening of the park on April 12, 1960. He saw Vice President Richard Nixon throw out the first pitch. He saw Stan Musial play. He saw the Giants win 3-1. He kept score in a 25-cent program that remains in the family archives.

And two weeks later, I was born.

Thus began a long-standing, sometimes shaky (think 1989) relationship between my family and the place known affectionately as "the Stick."

Forget it if you think this is going to be some sentimental tribute to a Bay Area venue on the eve of whatís likely to be its final sporting event. (Niners vs. Falcons, kickoff at 5:40 p.m.) The fact is I won't be shedding any tears when the lights go out. Candlestick has long since burned to the wick. I've had my fill of that place.

But it is still a passing, like that of a cold and distant uncle who is remembered more for the celebrations he hosted than the warmth he provided. At times like this, we're still obliged to say something nice.

There's been no shortage of coverage in recent weeks about the celebrations - the greatest and worst of sports moments of the past 53 years. That certainly has its place. But if you're like me, most of your best memories don't really concern a score. They are about people - the people we were with. Here are some of my favorites:

Picture Day, 1971: This one stands out because it was just mom, my sister and me. Prior to the game, the Giants players strolled the interior, allowing fans to take photos up close. With the help of a Kodak Instamatic, I captured multiple images, including one of Willie McCovey tapping mud off his cleats while chatting with Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays. Mom entered it in a fan picture contest, and it was good enough to win a team autographed baseball. This was in the days when players actually did such things and the signatures, including those of four future Hall of Famers, were real.

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