Take a brand-new $7 million stadium, splash it with sunshine, whip it with a cold wind, add 42,269 fans, a pride of politicians, two baseball teams and four umpires, season with a lacing of high society, chill for three hours and there you have it—Opening Day at Candlestick Park, the Giants' new home in San Francisco.
The opener against the Cardinals was an occasion for great civic hoopla. Candlestick Park, regardless of its shortcomings (and it has them), stamps San Francisco as major league once and for all. Seals Stadium, the transplanted Giants' first home in California, was a charming little park, but in San Francisco, where appearances count for a lot, it was a reminder of the times when the town was minor league. As the splenetic Charles McCabe noted in the Chronicle, the games at Seals Stadium "always looked rather as if a major league team was playing in the high school field...for some terribly worthy cause."
Last week's festivities started the night before the game with a $10-a-plate dinner in the Garden Court of the Sheraton-Palace Hotel. Brooklyn-born Actor Jeff Chandler, who grew up to root for the Giants and play Indian in Hollywood, was the toastmaster, and the speeches were succinct. "You must realize that in New York our sentiments differ from yours," Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick assured the happy gathering. "There's a tear for every laugh, a sigh for every smile, and when you drink your toasts tonight, you're drinking our heart's blood in New York."
Vice-President Nixon, who lately has been attending so many sporting affairs that Senator Kennedy has challenged him to get out of the locker room, wondered about a Senators-Giants World Series. "But," said Nixon, "I realize that the chances of that happening are about the same as my getting the Democratic nomination for President."
California Governor Pat Brown shook up the house when he allowed that he hoped to "see the Giants and the Dodgers in the Series next fall."
On Tuesday morning, fans set out for Candlestick Park by diverse routes. Since the park is smack on the shore of the Bay, about 100 yachtsmen elected to boat down. A grisly note was struck when Hilary Belloc, son of Hilaire Belloc, lost the end of the ring finger on his left hand in the anchor winch of his ketch. His son Martin picked it up and they both raced to a doctor's office downtown where it was sewn on as good as new. Father and son then sped back to the park, arriving in time for the second inning.
The majority of fans traveled by land, even though it meant leaving home early to avoid the monstrous traffic jam the papers predicted. Everyone was so careful that no jam occurred. But on Thursday, before a night game with the Cubs, almost everybody decided to get to the park at the same time. Cars were backed up for miles.
The chic place to start out from on Opening Day was Trader Vic's. Thither society repaired to swizzle a rum concoction known as a Mai Tai, a sure morale booster for the run down the freeway to Candlestick. Robert Roos, board chairman of the Roos/Atkins stores, threw the party, and he shepherded his guests to the park in a motorized version of a cable car, stocked with pennants and affixed with dingdong-daddy bells. "This is our 100th anniversary," Roos said, peering over his Mai Tai, "and the cable car is in keeping with the tradition of the city."
Chartered buses were popular, and that's the way "the third-base group" went. The group, composed of a hard core of a half-dozen society matrons who attend every home game, met at the Roger Lapham Jrs.' at 10:30, then went downtown to pick up their husbands. Afraid of being snarled in traffic, they roared straight down to the park—and arrived almost 2� hours early. "It was really very embarrassing," confesses Mrs. Thomas Carr Howe, the group's expert on what's "in" and what's "out."
At the park, the group ate box lunches ("chicken is out except for Opening Day—too messy"), had a round of drinks (gin and juice is in, but Scotch over ice is out) and cheered or barracked the players, depending on whether they were in or out. Daryl Spencer, traded by the Giants to the Cardinals for Don Blasingame, got the treatment. Mrs. Lapham held aloft a sign saying, "Welcome Blasingame from Spence's friends." Said Mrs. Howe: "If you ever hear anyone shouting imprecations, you know where they're coming from."