Just as they had hoped, the 49ers and their Faithful gave Candlestick Park the victorious sendoff on Monday night that will be etched in the memories of many long after the stadium’s cessation.
For players and spectators alike, many of the special moments at the team’s last regular-season game at the Stick involved honoring memories of the past.
Tailgating with 50 fellow San Francisco natives hours before kickoff, Paul Gaus, 24, said he first started going to the Stick for Giants games with his father, but since he passed away last year, it was up to Gaus and his little brother to continue the tradition.
“Me and my brother are going to take a picture like when we were 4 and 2 years old. Now we’re 24 and 22 years old,” Gaus said. “We are probably going to cry.”
Everyone, it seemed, came to the Stick to say goodbye, said Joe Starkey, radio play-by-play announcer for the 49ers from 1989 to 2008.
“It’s almost a double-edged sword,” Starkey said. “In fact, we had so many great moments, magic moments. On the other hand, the facility was way below NFC standards.”
Before the game, San Francisco police Sgt. Eric O’Neal said officers would be on the lookout for people trying to take home a keepsake from the stadium. The department had “more officers for this game than we’ve ever had for any other game at Candlestick,” he said.
The 49ers trailed early in the game and played poorly for most of the first half, but the fans’ spirits remained high. At halftime, Dwight Clark kneeled by the spot where “The Catch” took place in 1982, spray-painted gold.
For Chris Pezzi, whose family has had season tickets since 1946, the moment was tied with the memory of watching Clark catch the legendary pass from Joe Montana with her dad.
“It is very emotional because I was here with my dad and he cried,” Pezzi said. “It was awesome, I just wish Joe [Montana] had been there too.”
Stacy Samuels, 63, also known as “Banjo Man” or “Super Niner” because he has dressed in a 49ers cape and played the banjo at every game for 31 years, said. “It’s like the Super Bowl here today, having all the fans out here today.”
In the final quarter, the Atlanta Falcons started closing in on the 49ers’ lead until NaVorro Bowman’s 89-yard interception return sealed the 34-24 win for the home team.
Several days before the final game, Bowman said he has enjoyed and would miss walking through the tunnel, and hoped it would rub off on his performance Monday.
“It’s just knowing that so many greats came through that tunnel and won a Super Bowl,” Bowman said. “Hopefully what they did in that stadium can wear off on us and we can have a shot.”
After the victory, which clinched a playoff spot for the 49ers and a slight chance of another game at Candlestick, fans stuck around for postgame ceremonies. Eddie DeBartolo, who was the 49ers’ owner when the team won their five Super Bowl titles, received affectionate “Ed-die!” chants from the crowd. Boyz II Men also took the stage and sang a couple of hits, including “End Of The Road.”
Then the stadium lights went out slowly and fireworks — mostly red and gold — lit up the sky, set fittingly to “Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles, who had their final concert at the Stick.