The still unfinished outlines of Candlestick Park have become a sort of spectral vision in San Francisco, dominating thoughts and conversations even when the park itself is invisible. Last week, for instance, there was a welcoming crowd at the airport when the Giants returned for a long September home stand. They cheered and waved banners reading WELCOME HOME, GIANTS! and ON TO THE PENNANT! and SAN FRANCISCO'S FINEST! and other inspiring messages of pride and encouragement. It was 2:20 a.m. when the plane arrived, and 300 were on hand to greet it.
That gives the outlines of the plot: banner-bearing crowds in the velvet darkness of a California midsummer night, a stadium rising in unfinished majesty, the possibility of a pennant and worry about a place for the World Series if won. The sleepless San Francisco fans welcoming home the Giants (who had lost two out of three in Los Angeles) might seem a new baseball phenomenon, except that Los Angeles fans are revealing the same mixed apprehension and enthusiasm. There were 82,794 of them in the Coliseum to watch Sandy Koufax strike out 18 Giants and win his game before the Giants started home to their welcome. And talk in Los Angeles casually mentioned crowds of 93,000 daily if the Dodgers played in the World Series. True, by Series time many college and professional football teams will also be using the Coliseum, and no doubt scuffing up the turf. It takes 27 men eight hours just to take down the various screens and fences for a football game in the Coliseum and eight hours more to put them back up for a baseball game. But nobody worried about these matters. "The Coliseum can be converted in six hours if necessary," said the Dodgers' vice-president Buzzie Bavasi, with a faraway look in his eyes.
Destiny usually arrives for mankind along with a mixup about advance ticket sales and fears of traffic jams, bad weather or some other revelation of inadequate preparations for destiny. As San Francisco's hour of destiny approached it found the teamsters' union in the way. There was a picket line across the entrance to Candlestick Park. There were only 23,000 seats in place, but Contractor Charles Harney said there would be 38,000 to 40,000 by World Series time. Would the pickets let the additional seats be moved into the stadium? With a deep and proper sense of public relations, the teamsters said yes.
That was enough to revive the intoxication of the hour. A jazz musician revealed that he had written a musical composition in honor of Orlando Cepeda. He called it Viva Cepeda! The city engineers said the access roads to the stadium would be ready in time. The convention bureau announced there were 62,000 hotel rooms in San Francisco.
To the Old Established Cities of the National League (i.e., Milwaukee and East), the heady excitement of the West Coast looked like upstart expectation. Pennant fever in Year Two of baseball on the Coast? It was really too much too soon. But even the jaundiced old cities of the East (some of them suffering from too little too late) had to admit that, as of Labor Day, nobody had a better right to pennant fever than the cities of the Coast—Year Two or not.