Tag Archives: San Francisco

Fond memories of Candlestick Park

As the final curtain of fog is about to go down on Candlestick Park, I’m grateful for my memories of the place.

I went to a smattering of Giants games at the ‘Stick in the mid- to late 90s, the first of which as I recall was against the Montreal Expos. That was the second National League game I had ever seen in my life.

I arrived in San Francisco from Seattle in 1993, a few months after Barry Bonds came over from Pittsburgh. Those were, presumably, pre-steroids days for No. 25, before he got caught up in the home run chase with immortality — and notoriety.

One of the quirky things about the Giants in those days was that they signed Dallas Cowboys’ star Deion Sanders to play the outfield alongside Bonds. I actually got to see Sanders play and somewhere in a shoebox I have a photo of him on the field shot from the upper deck behind home plate.

I went to one Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick, and although the results of the game have faded from memory, those of the weather have not. With my wife and in-laws and maybe a child or two, we sat in the bright sunshine during the early innings that summer afternoon. By late in the game, we were huddling under blankets once the fog brought in a blast of cold air from the coast.

Although I never saw a football game there in person, on TV I watched many a 49ers game from there during the Steve Young era. Banner-towing planes that would circle the ‘Stick took off from Oakland Airport not far from our home in Alameda, and they’d be droning overhead as I’d listen to the games on radio while doing yard work on Sunday afternoon.

My San Francisco years overlapped with the renaming of Candlestick to 3Comm Park, a marketing change that, to my memory, no one in the Bay Area liked or embraced.

San Franciscans have warmly embraced AT&T Park as the home of the Giants, and they’ll take quickly to the 49ers new home being built down the peninsula in Santa Clara.

The ‘Stick has served San Franciscans well, and it will be missed. Mays and McCovey and Marichal and Montana were in their heyday there, but ultimately, the place will be remembered for its strange weather more than anything else.







Coming out as a San Francisco Giants fan

With one of my sons and a friend, I went to see the Cleveland Indians play the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco yesterday. The nationally televised game was a test of loyalty for me: Would I root for the team of my youth or the team of my recent years.

Honestly, I wasn’t fully sure which way I’d go. I dressed accordingly. I wore my ’48 Indians cap above my Willie Mays jersey, and my Indians socks were concealed under the legs of my jeans.

Watching the Indians take batting practice, I reminisced about all the times I watched them warm up at the old Municipal Stadium. Our seats at AT&T Park were directly behind home plate in the third deck, reminding me of all the games in which my friends and I sat in the stadium’s upper deck from almost exactly the same vantage point.

The teams were introduced, the game began — and then a strange thing happened.

The Indians touched up Giants starter Madison Bumgarner for a couple of early hits, and a cluster of Indians fans a few rows back cheered each time.

That annoyed me.

After nearly 55 of years of watching baseball, I finally, fully crossed over the line. I bleed orange and black. I prefer the Senior Circuit. I loathe the designated hitter.

I still cling to my lifelong hope that the Indians will win a World Series, imagining that I’ll return home for the celebration at Public Square with millions of Indians fans weeping for joy.

I just pray the Indians do that at the expense of any team but the Giants.

NOTE: I’ve now seen the Indians at a pretty good list of stadiums: Municipal Stadium and Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, The Kingdome, Oakland Coliseum and AT&T Park.

The Boy King rules in San Francisco

For a mid-summer diversion, we traveled to San Francisco on Friday to see the King Tut exhibit at the De Young Museum. “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” is the follow-up touring exhibition to the Tut exhibit that excited America 30 years ago. (The closest I got to that one was Steve Martin’s classic King Tut song on “Saturday Night Live.”)

The new exhibit is marvelous. After a long wait in line and watching a 90-second introductory film, you enter the shadowy galleries that dramatically light the treasures pulled from Tut’s tomb. The artifacts collected by Howard Carter and his expedition to the Valley of the Kings are spectacular.

It’s hard to mention highlights because virtually every piece in the exhibit sparkles with beauty. The items range from a solid gold dagger that was buried at the waist with Tut’s mummified remains to an enormous gold-plated sarcophagus for one of his female ancestors. Some of my favorites were the elegant canopic jars in which the organs of Tut and his relatives were preserved. There’s a photo of a fabulous canopic jar stopper at this link along with photos of some other dazzling items.

Although he didn’t wear baseball caps, Tut had some special headwear. One of the first items in the exhibit is a mannequin depicting him wearing a flat-topped crown. Also on display are statues of Tut side by side representing his dominion over upper and lower Egypt, each figure with different head gear.

As is the way with blockbuster exhibits, the end-of-tour gift shop nearly rivals the galleries in size. Souvenirs from the nearly sublime to the cheesey can be had. Toward the lower end of the spectrum are caps with Tut’s cartouches and the Eye of Horus (pictured).

The exhibit Web site gives you only a hint of the wonders awaiting you at “Tut and the Golden Age.” Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to see it, as it runs through March 28, 2010.

The Associated Press in the Internet era

Five years ago today, I quit my job at The Associated Press. After 23 years of assignments from California to New York, I turned in the keys to my company car, said farewell to my staff and walked to the train station in Trenton for a long ride home. Over the next few days, nearly 100 of my former AP colleagues will be walking out of bureaus for the last time as they take early retirement. I write this post in their honor, for they are some of the finest — and certainly some of the most unheralded — journalists in the world.

Among them are people like Brendan Riley, who for the past 37 years has served the people of Nevada faithfully and fairly as correspondent at the capitol in Carson City. And there’s Andy Lippman, who as chief of bureau in Los Angeles directed some of the biggest stories of modern times. They and scores of others depart the AP as it and many other old-line news organizations struggle to find their way in the Internet era.

While well known in regional or occasionally in some national journalism circles, AP reporters and editors generally don’t get the wide recognition that  TV anchors or big-time newspaper columnists receive. While the AP news report remains one of the foundations of the daily efforts of most American news organizations, few people outside the AP give its employees much credit. I still remember a left-hand compliment one of my sports writers received from a newspaper columnist, who said she was impressed with his writing “for a wire service guy.”

The AP over the past few years has not endeared itself to bloggers and other advocates of Everything Should Be Free on the Internet. I wrestled with some of those issues myself as San Francisco bureau chief during the dot-com boom of the 90s and at corporate headquarters in New York early in this decade. I won’t judge recent policies, but I marvel at the cheek of some of AP’s critics who ignore the news service’s staggering contributions to the daily flow of news and information around the world. They care not a whit about the cost – financial or personal – incurred in gathering it. Over the years, it seemed to me that AP’s harshest critics were often those who flunked the AP writing test or otherwise didn’t get hired.

But this post is a tribute, not a rant. Above is a photo of my lone remaining AP ball cap. It sits atop the shell of an AP teletype machine that once delivered the sports wire to the Racine (Wis.) Journal-Times at 66 words a minute. The cap and teletype are artifacts from earlier times in journalism and my career. To me they represent the best of what AP stands for: fast, accurate, unbiased reporting of the news of the day.

To all my ex-colleagues departing the AP, I tip my cap to you.

The 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black

Mother Nature isn’t being cooperative, but the U.S. Open Golf tournament is under way at the fabled Bethpage Black course. While conditions have been stormy out on Long Island, here in California they are sunny, ideal for snapping a shot of my U.S. Golf Association 2009 cap.

The annual event always stirs up memories of the one time I got to play on media day for the Open. It was in 1998 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. That year, media day was a week or two ahead of the actual tournament, so the rough I faced wasn’t quite as high as what the pros would face.

I spent plenty of time in the rough and posted a terrible score. But I did have one great moment.

On the ninth hole, I faced an approach shot to the green from roughly 50 yards out. The green is at the base of a towering, ampitheater-like embankment, ideal for a gallery assembled to watch a major championship.

I pulled out my wedge, stepped up to the ball and took a whack. The ball popped onto the green and rolled right into the cup, giving me what likely was a par or maybe even a bogie. I don’t remember and don’t care. What I do remember was the imagined thrill of raising my club and waving thanks to a wildly cheering gallery.

The newspaper cap and a changing industry

San Jose Mercury News cap, circa 2002

San Jose Mercury News cap, circa 2002

This post is a tough one. As a journalist, I’ve accumulated several newspaper caps from hundreds of visits to newsrooms and industry conventions. Collectively, they are among my favorites because they represent the vitality and pride of my profession.

But the newspaper industry is in decline, severely so in towns deep in the clenches of economic recession and stagnation. The handsome black cap above, which I picked up at a California Society of Newspaper Editors convention, is from a happier era at the San Jose Mercury News.

During the dot-com boom of the 1990s, the Merc was rolling in money — and spending it like crazy. In that decade, the most vexing question for newspeople was whether they should follow some of their colleagues to Internet operations that flowered in the spray of venture capital in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jerry Ceppos, executive editor at the Merc for many of those high-rolling years, would slyly refer to the Merc as a “poor suburban daily.” At the time, the paper had the highest classified ad lineage in the nation.

Today? The Merc and so many other dailies have watched their classified revenue crater under the two-sided siege of a severe economic downturn and the proliferation of online advertising ventures.

I photographed my cap against a backdrop of the July 21, 1969, San Jose Mercury that loudly proclaimed man had landed on the moon. The industry was vastly different then, as most big cities had two or more dailies. In the two decades ahead, many papers would fold and many would combine as the Mercury eventually did with the San Jose News.

The industry is contracting again, and it’s distressing to see so many dedicated and talented colleagues losing their jobs, bolting for other industries or succumbing to despair.

For centuries, newspapers have charted the ups and downs of industries and institutions. We newspaper folk are not immune to those cycles, and I think many journalists lose sight of that. No industry is immune to change. Nothing — no business, no job — is permanent.

We journalists are most energized pursuing the hot story, a time of rapid change and even danger. We’re unwittingly in the midst of such a story in our own industry. We need to draw deeply from the well of principles and ideals that got us into this business so we can re-invent and perpetuate it, no matter what form it takes.