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Candlestick Says Goodnight

The fabled winds were quiet, the familiar shroud of cold and fog nowhere to be seen or felt.

Defying 40 years of history, Candlestick Park, home to Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, was the scene Thursday of a long goodbye on a brilliant day for baseball.

"Adios Candlestick," one sign read. "Candlestick: Thanks for the memories," said another placard.

"Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, watched some of the greatest players in the game on a day-to-day basis in this ballpark," Giants executive vice president Larry Baer said. "This is closure for them, but it's also a happy sendoff because we're going to a new ballpark."

Before a roaring crowd, Hall of Famer Marichal, in a business suit and a baseball cap, returned to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

That signaled the beginning of the end for Candlestick. Maligned for its bitter weather and isolation, it was also remembered for some of baseball's great moments and its strength in withstanding the October 1989 earthquake that ravaged the Bay area and interrupted the World Series.

The All-Star game was played at the 'Stick in 1961, when the winds blew pitcher Stu Miller off the mound.

Dedicated the year before by Vice President Richard Nixon as "the finest ballpark in America," Candlestick also was the scene of the 16-inning scoreless duel between Marichal and the Braves' Warren Spahn (Mays won it with with a homer); McCovey's 500-foot upper-deck homer in a 1966 loss to the Mets and lefty Dave Dravecky's August 1989 miracle comeback from cancer, in which he beat the Reds.

"Juan Marichal's no-hitter, the World Series games ...," Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda said. "And that 16-inning game that Juan pitched and Willie won, I'll never forget that. This was a tough playing field but I spent so many days here and there are so many great memories."

Strangely, the Giants and the rival Los Angeles Dodgers played the final baseball game at the 'Stick under a broiling sun. The temperature at game time was 82 degrees.

"It's unbelievable," said Richard Scimeca, 43, of San Jose, who took the day off from work to be at the final game. "Maybe it's because it's the last game and the baseball gods decided after all these years we're going to give you some good weather. It seems like every other time I was here, it was windy and freezing."

Scimeca remembers coming to the games with his dad, paying 50 cents for bleacher tickets and chasing after home-run balls.

"I never did get one but I sure ran after them," he said. "It's kind of a sad day because there won't be baseball here any more and I wouldn't have missed it. But it's not like they're leaving us. They're going to a new ballpark so at least we'll still be able to see them."

Jan Dom, 73, drove down from Sacramento to see the game.

"It did get kin of cold here at times but really I didn't mind it so much. I just wouldn't go to the night games," she said. "I think the best thing I saw here was Willie Mays hitting a home run. Don't ask me when it was. It was a long time ago."

And with the sun out and the stands and dugout warmed by nostalgia, even the bad, cold days didn't seem so windy or so cold.

"I never really minded it," said San Francisco manager Dusty Baker, a native of Sacramento who got his first hit here in 1968 as a rookie with the Atlanta Braves.

"Whenever I'm here, I've had all my friends and family here, so it was always like a homecoming for me. I had to have my best games here in front of my home boys."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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