Who Played Here:
San Francisco Giants (NL); San
Francisco 49ers (NFL)
First Opened: April 12, 1960
Last Giants game: September 30, 1999
Surface: Bluegrass (1960-1970; 1979-1999); artificial (1971-1978)
Architect: John Bolles; Chin and
Construction: Charles Harney
Owner: City of San Francisco
Cost: $15 million
Worst-season attendance: 519,991 (1974)
Best-season attendance: 2,606,4354 (1993)
Perhaps the most hated ballpark in baseball - Keith Hernandez once
negotiated a clause with his New York Mets that forbade them from trading
him to San Francisco, and in a 1983 poll of major league players,
Candlestick was voted as the worst ballpark in the majors - the Stick was nevertheless a baseball
There was nothing like it in baseball - the peaceful little stadium would
fill with papers spinning cyclones in the air; swirling dust clouds would
dance across the infield like ghosts before
skipping back into the sky and obscuring the sun. And cold?
The game time temperature would frequently drop into the mid 50s, with a
wind chill in the low 30s. Yes,
indeed, there was a certain San Francisco charm to the park. Still,
the first big league baseball field in the West always drew complaints.
Built upon a tiny peninsula called Candlestick Point (for its rock
formations, which loosely resembled candlesticks), it is located just
yards away from San Francisco Bay. Legend
has it that when the Giants first picked the site to build their new
stadium, upon moving from New York, owner Horace Stoneham never went to
Candlestick Point in the afternoon. Those building the stadium made
sure to bring him out in the late morning, when the day was still and
perfect and beautiful; once, he did
happen upon the construction site in the afternoon and was nearly knocked
over by the gusts.
He made a remark about the severity
of the wind and one of the construction workers replied: "Oh, don't
worry, it only kicks up like this around 3 o'clock." "But
that's when we play our games," Stoneham is said to have replied.
The fact that it was a multi-purpose stadium hurt it immensely - the space
behind the outfield wall in right should have been packed with fans close
to the field, instead of gapingly empty; there was too much space behind
home plate; when the field was covered by artificial turf in the 1970s,
balls that hit the carpet would carom in all directions (finally the
manufacturer placed a padding under the turf in center field to smooth out
the bounces); and the sightlines for fans in the upper deck were terrible.
The Giants tried everything to improve attendance - once, they handed out
a tiny pin, called the Croix de Candlestick, to any fan who sat through an
extra-inning night game. Don't think that's a feat? Try
sitting through a 30-mph gale one summer evening when the wind chills
makes it feel about 30 degrees.
In 1971, $16.1 million in renovations were made, including the addition of
artificial turf. The turf, which was more blue than green, was added at
the request of the San Francisco 49ers, who switched their home games from
Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park. The stadium went back to natural grass
in 1979. The park was double-decked and completely enclosed that
year in an effort to boost capacity and cut down on the wind, but this
didn't work - the winds came in just as hard in 1972, they just swirled
Wind: Wrigley Field has its vines, Fenway Park has the Green Monster,
and the Stick had its wind. Candlestick was legendary for its
brutality. Infielders have had their caps blown off their heads and
out to the outfield fence before anybody could lift a hand. In
1963, New York Mets Manager Casey Stengel took his squad out for batting
practice, only to watch a gust of wind pick up the entire batting cage and
drop it 60 feet away on the pitcher’s mound. Fly
balls were adventures - Gold Glover Willie Mays would wait for a
five-count before getting a jump on fly balls.
Willie Mays once said, "The wind was so bad, what we would do was
stick our gloves on the side of the fence and the wind would just hold
The problem has everything to do with the hill that rises just behind
Candlestick's third-base side. The stadium architects were no doubt
pleased with the aesthetic view of a small mountain looming above the
ballpark. And while it provides dramatic television shots from the
right-field stands, the hill also redirects gusts to drop straight down
into the stadium. Experts say if Candlestick were built just 10 feet
farther away from the mountain, its treacherous winds would have been
Willie Mays led the league in home runs three times while playing half his
games here, but since the wind blew in from left field, many people think
Mays would have hit 800 homers if he’d played somewhere else.
Lefthanded hitters, on the other hand, get the benefit of the jetstream to
Mays himself once declared that he lost 200 home runs due to the Stick -
"I bet I lost 200 home runs in that place. The wind would just
come in and knock them down. You'd think they were gone and then the
ball just dropped," he told the Seattle Times' Les Carpenter in 1999
- but this was just whining. Mays played 12 years at Candlestick,
and in 7 of those years he hit more home runs at home than on the
road. In 4 of those years he hit more on the road, and in 1971 he
hit 9 each way. So how many homers did Mays lose due to the
Stick? Pehaps a couple of dozen, maybe even as many as 40, but no
way did he lose 54, which would have tied him with Ruth. Hell, Ruth
played in a much less homer-friendly park.
Miller's Balk: However, the wind
at Candlestick turned in a legendary performance when it caused Giants
reliever Stu Miller to commit a balk at the 1961 All-Star Game.
Miller was pitching in the ninth with
runners at first and second. As Miller was preparing to deliver his pitch,
the wind whipped up and caused Miller to weave back and forth. Miller was
called for a balk, and the AL tied the game. The NL eventually won
5-4 in 10 innings. This
incident has become a baseball myth through the years. While Miller
was called for a balk, he wasn't "blown off the mound" - a
phrase commonly attached with this incident. In fact, most of the people
in attendance were unsure a balk had been called or why.
The wind at Candlestick is legendary.
Pop flies can turn into home runs, and titanic blasts can fail to reach
the warning track. As a general matter, the park suppressed runs and hurt
hitter's more than most parks; after the park was completely enclosed in
1971, the park played even tougher on
hitters. Before the enslosure in 1971, the wind blew strongly from
left field into right field, so while righties have always struggled for
power, lefthanded hitters get the benefit of the jetstream to right.
Since then, lefties still do better with the long ball, but the difference
isn't quite as pronounced.
A film about Candlestick would yield plenty of bloopers, missed
fly balls and errant popups. Between 1996 and 1998,
the park boasted an error factor of 121 - the Giants committed 19
more errors at home, while opposing players committed 47 more.
In 1999, the park actually seemed to suppress errors, but in large part I
believe this is due to J.T. Snow, maybe the best defensive first baseman
to play the game since Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez set the
standard. Snow cuts down dramatically on throwing errors from
infielders, because of his deftness and balance around the
bag. In general, the Giants have great defense, and this gives
them a great home field advantage - besides Gold Glovers Snow and Barry
Bonds, they have solid Jeff Kent at second, much-improved Rich Aurilia at
short, sure-handed Russ Davis at third, and a solid outfield. Expect
their park error factor to drop dramatically next year when they move to a
better park - Pac Bell.
Benefits: I'm tempted to say "The designated hitter, who
doesn't have to take the field" - but of course the Senior Circuit
doesn't have a DH rule, so no one is safe. Power pitchers tended to
do particularly well, since keeping the ball out of play was the surest
way to deal with the park - for instance Shawn Estes had a 3.72 ERA here
in 1999, compared to a 6.38 ERA on the road; Russ Ortiz (3.04 home ERA vs.
4.72 road ERA) and Robb Nen (3.21 home ERA vs. 5.04 road ERA) had great
1999 home campaigns - but most pitchers like it here.
Who Gets Hurt: Fundamentally sound
baseball players can use their edge to best opponents. The Giants
had good home records here in 1998 (outscored their opponents 387-290 at
home, and just 391-390 on the road) and again in 1999, thanks to sound
defense and familiarity with the park.
San Francisco, CA: In the
southeast corner of San Francisco at Candlestick point. Left field (NW),
Giants Drive; third base (SW), Jamestown Avenue and Bay View Hill; first
base (SE), Jamestown Avenue, Candlestick Point, and San Francisco; right
field (NE), Hunters Point Expressway and San Francisco Bay.
© 2001 STATS, Inc.
330 ft (1960), 335 (1968)
397 ft (1960), 365 (1961)
field: 420 ft (1960), 410 (1961),
397 ft (1960), 365 (1961), 365 (1982)
330 ft (1965), 335 (1968), 330
(1991), 328 (1993)
73 ft (1960), 70 (1961), 55 (1975), 65 (1982), 66 (1985)
10 ft - wire
8 ft - wire
12 ft - 6 canvas below 6 plexiglass
9 ft - 6 canvas below 3 plexiglass
9 ft - wire; 9.5 foot fence posts
8 ft - canvas
- Highest infield error factor in NL in
- The Beatles' last concert was at
Candlestick on August 29, 1966.
- Willie Mays hit his 512th homer May 4,
1966 to break Mel Ott's NL record.
- Houston's Eddie Mathews hit his 500th
home run July 14, 1967.
- On April 27, 1996, Barry Bonds hit his
300th and 301st home runs to become the fourth player in major league
history with at least 300 homers and 300 stolen bases.
- On April 23, 1998, Barry Bonds hit his
400th home run to become the only player in baseball history with at
least 400 homers and 400 stolen bases