VanDeMortel: Candlestick, High Society, and Hot Pants

From SABR member Dan VanDeMortel at Nob Hill Gazette on April 11, 2014:

“It sort of sneaks up on you, does baseball season. Warm winter weather gives way to wintry spring weather, and one day you notice that the kids in the playground at the corner have put away the basketball,” wrote columnist Herb Caen on Opening Day, April 1971. The words are true today, as a new baseball season is arriving.

Amidst tears of sadness and joy shed over Candlestick Park’s recent closing, it is worth remembering that “The ‘Stick’s” layout originated in 1971, when cramped Kezar Stadium was abandoned by the 49ers in favor of the more parking-friendly location on the city’s edge. The result: goodbye baseball-only park; hello ongoing conversion to a multi-use stadium. Candlestick’s then-new features—not attributes—were rock-hard AstroTurf, an enclosing outfield area negating visibility of the outside world, and unfinished construction in several directions resembling “a construction job deserted by the hardhats after a hot labor-management dispute,” as another San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Charles McCabe, described it.

Such a pedestrian environment does not conjure visions of high society. Yet, undeterred, socialites answered the Opening Day bell, as they had annually since the Giants’ 1958 arrival from New York. At the Fairmont’s Venetian Room, Louis Lurie, father of future Giants’ owner Robert Lurie, hosted a pre-game brunch for 200 friends, after which several reserved buses took the group to the ballpark. Another party arrived there after attending an Opening Day lunch at Trader Vic’s. A similarly affluent Hillsborough contingent arrived by station wagon and Volkswagen bus (remember those?) for pre-game tailgate picnics. Men were attired in suits, while women sported exquisitely tasteful dresses and sun hats.  The women were particularly grateful for the newly installed red-and-orange plastic seats, which did not snag their hosiery as Candlestick’s wooden predecessors had for the past 11 years.

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Originally published: April 11, 2014. Last Updated: April 11, 2014.