July 12, 2014. It was called The Legends of Candlestick game, and the legends were there in numbers: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Brent Jones, Bubba Paris, Charles Haley, John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Jeff Garcia, and just about every other big name, hall-of-famer, and Pro-Bowler from the ’80s and early ’90s. On the other side of the ball: Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe, Tim Brown, and even Everson Walls–the poor Cowboy who was covering Dwight Clark in The Catch of 1981.
Thousands showed up wearing #16. I left my authentic ’84 Montana-autographed Riddell jersey at home, having retired it decades ago to a mounted frame, after one too many mustard spills threatened its survival.
They say 30,000 came, but there weren’t nearly that many. It was a small, intimate crowd. And everyone was happy. Raiders and Dolphins fans sat side-by-side with 49ers fans in peace and harmony. Everyone, that is, except one solitary troll who showed up in a Seahawks jersey, all alone and desperate for attention.
We met a woman on the shuttle bus who explained how she grew up on the east coast as a 49ers fan in the early ’80s. She traveled across the country just to see this game and let out a scream when Candlestick appeared through the window.
A Photo Sphere I made from the north endzone
It was flag football, but you could tell some of these guys still had the deep-rooted instinct to go for the tackle. And they weren’t messing around. The familiar look of intensity showed on Montana’s face as he called audibles at the line. Same with Steve Young. But it was the younger Jeff Garcia who still had the laser-focused passes and quick sprints in his step, with Jerry Rice and John Taylor running full-speed patterns. Roger Craig was fit as ever and high-kneeing it down the field, but it would be good-old Bill Ring making more receptions than any 49er by my count. On the other side of the ball, Marino could still throw a few bombs too.
Disappointingly, a reenactment of The Catch never happened, despite Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls all on the field at the same time. But more importantly, and to everyone’s delight, the game came down to the 49ers down by a point and the length of the field to go with only six clock-running minutes left. #16 took the field and the place went crazy. JOE! JOE! JOE! Time for one last magic Montana drive. And the rest was history.
After the game, Eddie DeBartolo spoke, and then Montana. Joe assured us everything would be ok with the new stadium. But I don’t believe it. I’d rather see Candlestick get patched up for another decade than move the 49ers out of San Francisco, no matter how nice the new place is.
That $12 ticket makes me feel very old
I just can’t seem to let go of the Stick. I’ve been there for some classic Giants games, including Dave Draveky’s comeback victory in 1989. And more 49ers magic moments than I can count: two championship victories, Joe Montana’s comeback, Steve Young’s miraculous 49-yard touchdown run, NFL records broken by the likes of Jerry Rice and Roger Craig, and both Bill Walsh’s and Joe Montana’s final home games. And then there were the concerts and soccer matches. I even drove a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder through an autocross course at full-throttle in Candlestick’s parking lot. I think Candlestick is my favorite building in the whole city.
I’ll be there just a couple more times, including to see 1/4 of the Beatles (aka Paul McCartney) play a final concert right where the Beatles’ held their final concert 48 years ago. I even went so far as to buy field seats at the exact spot where the Fab Four took the stage on August 29, 1966.
When Candlestick goes down in all its glory next year to the echoes of booming dynamite, I will be there, and I plan to capture the demolition from a unique perspective.
I only brought my little Fujifilm x100S with me, so no close-up shots of the action: