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Giants bid final farewell to Candlestick Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- Old and new generations of San Francisco sports greats gathered at AT&T Park on Thursday night, when the Giants honored their former home of Candlestick Park, which shut its doors following the end of the San Francisco 49ers' football season earlier this year.

To commemorate their former home stadium, the Giants invited members of the 49ers like Joe Staley, Bruce Miller and Brent Jones to the park, while esteemed former Giants like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and manager Roger Craig also took part in the festivities. Craig joined 49ers great Keena Turner in throwing out the ceremonial first pitches, with Turner tossing a football to Jones.

Hard to believe, but 2014 marks the 15th season for San Francisco at AT&T Park. Shortly before Thursday's contest against the D-backs started, Giants and 49ers alumni took the field together in a joint celebration. Giants president and CEO Larry Baer was also presented with Candlestick Park's original dedication plaque that will be featured beyond the right-field wall at the entrance to the new Candlestick Suite, which will showcase mementos and old seats from the stadium.

"Being a Bay Area kid, this is special." Jones said. "I have to say, nobody does this pulling together of the community like the Giants."

Jones, a South Bay native who played football in San Francisco from 1987-97, said he still remembers going to his first game as a 6-year-old in the summer of 1969 at Candlestick. If memory serves Jones correctly, he saw St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson outduel Giants Hall of Famer Juan Marichal; those two faced each other at Candlestick on Aug. 10, 1969, in a 7-4 St. Louis win.

"The drive from Almaden Valley to Candlestick Park, back then, that seemed like an eternity to get to the game," Jones said. "It was such a big stage and an unbelievable place and venue. To just see the guys that you heard about, it was pretty special."

It's been 22 years since Craig was San Francisco's skipper, but he's still keeping up with the Giants. In fact, the 84-year-old offered his take on struggling righty Tim Lincecum, who has yet to crack his personal hex against D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt.

Craig had some old-school advice to offer Lincecum next time he faces Goldschmidt, who took him deep again Wednesday night in an Arizona victory.

"Pitchers have to learn to take the outside part of the plate away from the hitter," Craig said. "You have to pitch inside more. It's tough to teach young kids to pitch inside. They're not so much afraid to pitch inside; they don't want to hit [the batter] and put him on base. Don't worry about that. ... You'll send a message all around the league."

As for current manager Bruce Bochy, he doesn't have many fond memories of Candlestick Park. The first recollections that popped in his mind include the time he broke his hand trying to catch a bullpen session on Opening Day and another time when umpires took a line-drive hit away from him and ruled it foul.

"I don't know if I have any good memories of it," Bochy said with a smile. "That base hit was fairly significant. That would have put [my career batting average] at .240 or above."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to
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