Candlestick Park is being demolished and I, for one, can only say: Good Riddance! Though I did have experiences as a baseball fan at that stadium that I quite certainly will never forget, I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go.
In my tabletop-sports career, my favorite Candlestick Park experience came on a night in May in my 54-game 1965 National League Replay (Strat-O-Matic Super-Advanced), when Bob Gibson faced off against Juan Marichal.
The weather was bad and the pitchers were on top of their game. So as you might expect, the game started off as a duel of two aces. By the time Bob Gibson stepped into the batter’s box to face his rival in the top of the 6th, the score was knotted 0-0, the Cards having managed only two hits against Marichal, the Giants only four meager singles against Gibson.
The wind must have shifted out that inning though, because Gibson took Marichal deep to give himself a 1-0 lead and Curt Flood banged a double off the wall in the next at-bat. By the time the Giants came to the plate, the Cardinals led 3-0.
Not to be outdone, the Giants’ Len Gabrielson and Willie McCovey each deposited blasts over the Candlestick fence in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead to 3-2.
That score held into the bottom of the ninth. Both starters were still in the game. Gibson’s line coming into the inning was 8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. Marichal’s read: 9 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
Willie McCovey led off the inning with a base hit and San Francisco manager Herman Franks sent Matty Alou to run for “Stretch.” Twenty-three-year-old third baseman Jim Ray Hart (who hit .299 with 23 home runs in 65) was asked to bunt and he lay down a beauty which put Alou into scoring position. With one out, Gibson mowed down catcher Tom Haller and the Giants were suddenly down to their final opportunity. It was all up to shortstop Dick Schofield.
Though you might not think of 1965 as “the Year of the Pitcher” it was undoubtedly a year where pitching dominated the landscape of the game. There were a few superstar hitters – Mays & McCovey being two – but even a hitter of Dick Schofield’s “quality” (he had a career slash line of .232/.319/.301 through 1965) could find a full-time job in 1965 if he could play adequate defense (3e16 by Strat’s rating) at a premium position like short.
So with two out it all came down to Dick Schofield…and Schofield came through with a base hit that scored Alou and sent the game into extra frames.
With Bob Gibson leading off in the top of the 10th, Cardinal skipper Red Schoendienst had to make a decision. He chose to let Gibson hit – Gibson had, of course, homered earlier in the game. Gibson and the Cards went down quietly in that inning.
Juan Marichal pitched into extra innings 14 different times in his career, the most famous occasion being the 16-inning complete-game affair against Warren Spahn in 1963. In this game, Marichal completed 10 innings and left in the bottom of the 10th for pinch hitter Jim Davenport. The game remained scoreless into the bottom of the 11th.
Willie Mays led off the bottom of the 11th with a base hit, but twisted his ankle on the bag and was replaced on the basepaths by nineteen-year-old Ken Henderson. Henderson promptly stole second base and scooted to third when Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver threw the ball into centerfield.
With the potential winning run just 90 feet from home plate, Bob Gibson bared down and retired Matty Alou on a soft fly on which not even the speedy Henderson could score. When Jim Ray Hart struck out, it looked like the Cards may escape to try again in the twelfth.
But it was not to be. Every great game has a hero and a goat. The question is always who will be which. When McCarver’s throw sailed away, his fate was sealed. The next pitch from Gibson clanged off of McCarver’s glove and Henderson came home with the winning run. Maybe it was the strange winds of Candlestick that shook Gibson’s pitch off course, maybe it was just the winds of fate. Either way, the Giants beat the Cardinals on that night in May, 1965.