ESPN Memories, Anecdotes of S.F.’s Candlestick Park


ESPN Memories, Anecdotes of S.F.’s Candlestick Park

In anticipation of ESPN’s Monday Night Football season finale – Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers (Dec. 23 at 8:25 p.m. ET), the final regular-season NFL game at Candlestick Park, ESPN commentators and contributors share their memories of one of sports’ most iconic venues.

“It was not the greatest played game but you couldn’t have had more exciting a game. … The ball looks like it’s going into the stands and Dwight Clark leapt like a basketball player, made the catch. But the game wasn’t over. There was still a minute to go almost. … It caught even the city by surprise. It was fresh and it was fun, and who knew what they were building at the time. The whole thing sends shivers down my spine, that I was fortunate enough to be there and see it. It’s an iconic game in pro football history, let alone Candlestick. That’s what Candlestick will be remembered for more than anything else: that play, that game, even though there were some unbelievably great games, all the playoff games the 49ers have had there.”

–ESPN NFL host Chris Berman, who covered “The Catch” from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship game

* For more memories of Candlestick, listen to this week’s Front and Center podcast interview with Chris Berman.

“I have a plethora of memories, phenomenal memories of championship games won and lost, Monday Night games, big games, December games, games that decided the home field advantage almost every year it seemed like. The locker room dripping down from condensation. The high tide would come in and you’d get that smell on the field, really soggy when it started to rain. The infield, when the Giants were playing there, with crushed rock you’d get skinned up all through September and early October. The wind obviously early in the season was always a factor. The stadium needs to close. She’s gone as far as she can go, it needs to be done. But for me, obviously it’s hard to see her go, it’s hard to see it end, and I’ll always miss playing at Candlestick Park. I missed it the second I left the 49ers and I still miss being in that park. It will be fun to be there Monday Night and see the last game.”

–ESPN NFL analyst and Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Steve Young


“When the 49ers beat the Giants on Monday Night Football at Candlestick in 1990, I had this old beat up car, a Delta ’88. I bought it for $500. It was the worst car you’ve ever seen. The players all made fun of me. They called me ‘Uncle Buck’. This Giants game is huge and before we leave for the stadium from the team hotel Charles Haley says to me, ‘I need to ride over with you in that car to the stadium. I’ve got to get in the right state of mind.’ I told him my car might not make it – it was that bad a car. He insisted on riding with me. So, he didn’t take the team bus. It’s the biggest game in my life, and my car’s going to break down on the way to the stadium. I don’t have a parking pass or anything. So, Haley is out the window yelling at security to let us in. I am a nervous wreck. I think Mike Holmgren and George Seifert are going to fire me – my coaching career is over. Even when we got to the stadium, I was scared to go in the locker room. Fortunately, we won 7-3 and Haley played his tail off.”

–ESPN MNF analyst and Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden, who started his NFL coaching career as a 49ers assistant in 1990


“My first NFL start was at Candlestick against Steve Young’s 1994 49ers team — and I was pathetic. But it was going home to the Bay Area close to where I grew up, buying 75 tickets for family and friends. At the time, you try not to get caught up in the nostalgia, the history and who you are playing because they were just awesome. Though I didn’t play well, it’s still a great memory that I was able to have my first NFL start there.”

–ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, a northern California native and resident who played his first NFL game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick in 1994


“I remember going onto the field at Candlestick and warming up. I would go to every corner of the field and throw the football because the wind was different in every area of the stadium. You think it would go right, and it would go left. Some areas you think it would knock the ball down, it would take the ball up. You wanted to know what the wind was going to do to the football, and I always felt that was to the quarterback’s advantage, knowing the wind current in Candlestick Park.”

–ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski, who played at Candlestick as a member of the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles


“The Eagles played the 49ers the last game in the final week of the 1993 season on Monday Night Football. So we play the game and it ends up tied. They played a full 15 minutes of overtime and with four seconds left Philadelphia was going to try a field goal. The kicker hooks it. He’s going to miss the field goal but the defender came in and roughed the kicker. So, the game is over, the overtime period is over, but with a foul on the last play of a period, you extend the period. The Eagles re-kicked and won the game 37-34. It was the longest regular-season game in NFL history — a full game, a full overtime, plus one play.”

–MNF rules consultant and former NFL official Gerry Austin, who refereed the longest regular season game in NFL history at Candlestick on Jan. 3, 1994


“Of the 36 games in Monday Night Football history at Candlestick, almost all of them were in November or December. Years ago, the NFL used to try to put late-season Monday night games in a temperate climate. I can picture going to San Francisco – as will be the case this year – late in the season with the city all decked out for Christmas. It’s one of the great cities to be in around Christmas time. For someone who’s been on the show a long time, it’s almost part of the schedule that you get a late-season game in San Francisco.


“Probably the most memorable game was 1990 between the Niners and the Giants. Both teams were at the top of their game. The coaches were Bill Parcells and George Seifert, who replaced Bill Walsh as the 49ers head coach but still had the basics of Walsh’s great teams from the 80s. We had a matchup of 10-1 versus 10-1 and the 49ers won the game 7-3. That sounds like it might not have been that compelling, but it was because of how good the teams and both defenses were. It got one of the highest ratings MNF ever had, and the Giants and 49ers met again in the NFC Championship game at Candlestick later that season.”

–Elias Sports Bureau executive vice president Steve Hirdt, now in his 32nd season as MNF’s director of information


Notes: Candlestick Park has played host to more Monday Night Football games than any other NFL stadium. Monday’s Falcons-49ers is the 36th MNF game there. (Sun Life Stadium in South Florida has hosted 32.) … The New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers game at Candlestick Park (Dec. 3, 1990), mentioned above, ranks as the second highest-rated game in MNF history with a 26.9 rating/42 share on ABC, trailing only the Bears vs. Dolphins (Dec. 2, 1985: 29.6 rating/46 share).


MNF games at Candlestick Park, 1971-2013 (49ers record: 24-11):

2013: Atlanta vs. SAN FRANCISCO

2012: SAN FRANCISCO 32, Chicago 7

2011: SAN FRANCISCO 20, Pittsburgh 3

2010: New Orleans 25, SAN FRANCISCO 22

2009: SAN FRANCISCO 24, Arizona 9

2007: SAN FRANCISCO 20, Arizona 17

2003: SAN FRANCISCO 30, Pittsburgh 14

2002: Philadelphia 38, SAN FRANCISCO 17

1999: Green Bay 20, SAN FRANCISCO 3

1998: SAN FRANCISCO 31, N.Y. Giants 7

1998: SAN FRANCISCO 35, Detroit 13

1997: SAN FRANCISCO 34, Denver 17

1996: SAN FRANCISCO 24, Detroit 14

1995: SAN FRANCISCO 37, Minnesota 30

1994: SAN FRANCISCO 44, L.A. Raiders 14 +

1993: SAN FRANCISCO 42, New Orleans 7

1993: Philadelphia 37, SAN FRANCISCO 34 (OT)

1992: SAN FRANCISCO 24, Detroit 6

1991: SAN FRANCISCO 52, Chicago 14

1990: SAN FRANCISCO 7, N.Y. Giants 3

1989: SAN FRANCISCO 31, New Orleans 13

1989: SAN FRANCISCO 34, N.Y. Giants 24

1988: SAN FRANCISCO 37, Washington 21

1987: SAN FRANCISCO 41, Chicago 0

1986: N.Y. Giants 21, SAN FRANCISCO 17

1985: SAN FRANCISCO 19, Seattle 6

1985: L.A. Rams 27, SAN FRANCISCO 20

1984: SAN FRANCISCO 37, Washington 31

1983: SAN FRANCISCO 42, Dallas 17

1978: Pittsburgh 24, SAN FRANCISCO 7

1977: Dallas 42, SAN FRANCISCO 35

1976: SAN FRANCISCO 20, Minnesota 16

1974: Los Angeles 15, SAN FRANCISCO 13

1973: SAN FRANCISCO 20, Green Bay 6

1972: Los Angeles 26, SAN FRANCISCO 16

1971: Kansas City 26, SAN FRANCISCO 17



Bill Hofheimer

I oversee ESPN’s College Sports PR, while also working on ESPN soccer, Around the Horn, PTI and more. Previously oversaw communications for ESPN's Monday Night Football and NFL studio shows.
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