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Capacity: 58,000 (baseball); 63,000 (football)
Candlestick Park, a.k.a. 3Com Park
Candlestick Park

 

Area of fair territory: 105,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Very large

 

Fences: 8 ft

Elevation: 65 feet

 

General Information

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 Hensolt (engineers)
Construction: Charles Harney
Owner: City of San Francisco
Cost: $15 million

First-season attendance: 1,795,356
Worst-season attendance: 519,991 (1974)
Best-season attendance: 2,606,4354 (1993)


History

   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 icon.

   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 unpredictably.

 

The 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 them there."

   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 diminished considerably.

   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 right.

   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.

 

Stu 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.

 

Analysis

   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.

 

 

Defense: 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.

 

 

 

1997-1999

1999

Error Index: 107 93
Infield-error Index: 108 97

 

Who 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.

 

Location

 

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.

 

 

Park Factors

 

  Run HR Avg L-Avg R-Avg L-HR R-HR H 2B 3B
1993 99 119 96 94 99 119 118 100 79 115
1994 97 104 99 93 103 88 117 98 97 65
1995 88 90 89 89 89 66 104 89 85 69
1996 100 104 100 100 99 117 95 100 99 73
1997 95 93 96 99 93 104 85 96 92 91
1998 91 118 99 104 95 127 112 93 92 90
1999 80 96 92 94 91 105 91 90 87 74

 

 

1997-1999

1999

Walks: 102 96
Strikeouts: 113 119

© 2001 STATS, Inc.

 

Seating Chart

 

 

Dimensions

Left field: 330 ft (1960), 335 (1968)

Left-center: 397 ft (1960), 365 (1961)

Center field: 420 ft (1960), 410 (1961), 400 (1982)

Right-center: 397 ft (1960), 365 (1961), 365 (1982)

Right field: 330 ft (1965), 335 (1968), 330 (1991), 328 (1993)

Backstop: 73 ft (1960), 70 (1961), 55 (1975), 65 (1982), 66 (1985)

Foul territory: Very large.

 

Fences - History

1960: 10 ft - wire

1972: 8 ft - wire

1975: 12 ft - 6 canvas below 6 plexiglass

1982: 9 ft - 6 canvas below 3 plexiglass

1984: 9 ft - wire; 9.5 foot fence posts

1993: 8 ft - canvas

 

Capacity

1960: 43,765

1961: 42,553

1965: 42,500

1972: 58,000

1975: 59,080

1976: 58,000

1989: 62,000

1993: 58,000

Fun Facts

  • Highest infield error factor in NL in 1998

 

  • 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


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