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Giants memories remain at Candlestick Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- A rush of nostalgia has accompanied the approach of the San Francisco 49ers' final regular season game at Candlestick Park, which could be the last sporting event ever played at the 53-year-old edifice.

But baseball fans shouldn't expect the sudden sentimentality over the oft-reviled stadium to result in any sort of encore performance by the Giants, who played at Candlestick from 1960 through 1999. When the 49ers conclude Monday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons, the final gun will truly be final. That is, unless the 49ers, who will relocate next year to Santa Clara, Calif., host a Wild Card playoff game.

Conducting a Major League ballgame at Candlestick would be virtually impossible. With the Giants ensconced at luxurious AT&T Park and Candlestick about to be vacated, many fans have dreamed of a baseball revival at the old park, knowing that the chill winds and cramped conditions they formerly loathed would be a novelty, not drudgery.

Mike Gay, who has served as Candlestick's stadium chief for the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department for 35 years, pointed out why the Giants can't go home again.

The dugouts are no longer dugouts. They provide field-level luxury seating.

The backstop vanished more than 10 years ago. So did the netting.

The outfield fence no longer exists. The once-retractable seats that emerged from beyond right field to form the East sideline stands for football have become immovable. And re-installing foul poles would be a costly, Herculean task.

"So," Gay concluded, "you're talking about $3 million to have a baseball game here. It's not feasible."

But members of the media who were granted a tour on Tuesday of Candlestick's lingering landmarks could recall, with a little imagination and a long memory, what the place was like when the Giants were its primary tenants.

Three particular dressing stalls in the 49ers' locker room resembled all the others. But these were situated by the entrance to the showers. The cognoscenti understood that these lockers were once larger and belonged to the Giants' biggest stars, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. Twenty years after Mays retired in 1973, his godson, Barry Bonds, claimed his old locker upon joining the Giants.

The tunnel connecting the locker room with what used to be the Giants' dugout still seemed interminable. And a buzzer, which supposedly blared to signal the end of batting practice, remained noisy and functional.

Candlestick's most vivid existing baseball relic is largely invisible to 49ers patrons. It's the out-of-town scoreboard, situated underneath the formerly portable East stands. Gay explained that insufficient room exists between the stands and its supports to dismantle the scoreboard, which remains adorned with a Giants logo.

"It probably still works," Gay said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.

San Francisco Giants