theParklander

The Grand Old Stadiums Are Gone
By Mark Bohm / July 1, 2014

I'm angry. Disappointed, too. It's not unusual for me to feel angry or disappointed, but I don't usually write while I feel this way. I'm in this mood because I've just learned that another piece of sacred ground is apparently set to be taken away.

To explain, let me first go back in time. It was the glorious Sunday afternoon of Oct. 17, 1976 when I first walked through the tunnel leading from the concourse to the seating at the Miami Orange Bowl. I was seven, and in tow with my father, at my first NFL game, about to witness the Bob Griese led Dolphins play the Kansas City Chiefs. I recall the feeling of amazement at how green and perfect the field appeared, the smell of the concessions, the excitement of seeing the players warming up in rows stretching, watching the god-like Shula pace among them.

Over the next decade or so, I would witness from the faded orange bench seats in that building some of the most memorable days and nights of my youth - the Dolphins' overtime loss to Kellen Winslow's Chargers in 1982, the rainy AFC Championship game win over the Jets a year later, various Hurricanes' games, The Police Synchronicity Tour concert, just to recall a few.
The Grand Old Stadiums Are Gone

Years later, I would always get a good feeling just driving by the old stadium on State Road 836. For all its flaws, there was something undeniably magic about its atmosphere. Few sports buildings anywhere could rival its history of important, if not thrilling, athletic events. A historical landmark if there ever was one. And then they tore it down.

It was a mid-summer's night in 1983, on July 11 or 12 to be more exact, when I attended my first Major League Baseball game. I grew up loving baseball, played it constantly, collected the cards and stickers, drafted make-believe teams of major leaguers with my buddies to use while playing baseball video games. But back then we had no home team in South Florida. When my dad moved to the Bay Area for work, I joined him that next summer to see the place that would soon become our family's new hometown. And on that clear, cool San Francisco night, I first walked into Candlestick Park and happily took my seat only rows behind the third base dugout to see the Giants play the Dave Parker, Tony Pena led Pittsburgh Pirates.

I would go on to enjoy witnessing years of good baseball in the swirling winds and cold evenings of that old joint - sitting in the left field bleachers back when the home run balls that barely cleared the left fence would fall onto the grass where the kids could jump down and grab them, seeing the sweet swinging Will Clark and powerful Kevin Mitchell teams of the late '80's, collecting the Croix De Candlestick pins (the Latin inscription translated: I came, I saw, I survived) awarded to fans who stayed through the conclusion of extra innings on those freezing summer nights, and always booing hard when the Dodgers came to town. Not to mention the other significant events Candlestick hosted over the years, Dwight Clark's catch in the corner of the end zone to put the 49ers in their first Super Bowl, multiple World Series and All Star games, The Beatles' last concert. Another landmark, a quirky house on a point of land sitting along the edge of San Francisco Bay. And I've just learned that from all indications, they plan to tear it down. Hence my mood.

I don't get back to Northern California very much anymore and my kids have yet to visit. But I figured there might be a day when I could take them to Candlestick for a 49ers game (the Giants moved out in 2000), show them where I'd seen my first ballgame, and rekindle some wonderful moments. Now, that's not going to happen.

I know it's the age of corporate ticket sales and luxury boxes. I'll also admit that I do like it when my team's facility doesn't leak and all its toilets work. But these realities don't take away the hollow feeling I get in my stomach when I see pictures of the revered old stadiums that are gone or going, where so many fond memories were made. At least as to my recollections, the still vivid pictures in my mind of the lush green surfaces, screaming fans, and thrilling athletic feats, those are things that can never be torn down.




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