Brian Sabean, the man who helped build the Giants into champions, said San Francisco has become a baseball city. Unquestionably. Yet, it is no less a football city, as we were reminded the other evening.
The 49ers came first, a Bay Area original in 1946. The 49ers won first, at least in San Francisco, as their Super Bowl victory in 1982 came after titles by the A’s and Raiders.
Indeed, the good feelings from the Giants’ World Series triumph, which may last until the 12th of Never, helped lure a record crowd Monday night for the 32nd enshrinement banquet of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame at the Westin St. Francis.
But so did remembrances of things past, those Niners and their five Super Bowls.
When Dwight Clark and George Seifert are inducted, along with the great Juli Inkster, the first female golfer to be enshrined, and the momentous golf leader Sandy Tatum; when Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy are giving two of the presentations, along with Hall of Famer Tom Watson and former U.S. Amateur winner Kay Cockerill; when both the World Series trophy and yachting’s America’s Cup are glistening in the building, why wouldn’t there be a sellout?
The Giants brought out Orlando Cepeda and Vida Blue for good times’ sake. Jim Plunkett, a Heisman at Stanford and two Super Bowl victories for the Raiders, was there. Al Attles, who coached the Warriors to their only title, was called out.
And not only did new Niners coach Jim Harbaugh get a plug from old Niners coach George Seifert, but also a friendly needle, with a reference to Pete Carroll, whom Harbaugh confronted at the L.A. Coliseum after his Stanford team smacked Carroll’s USC squad.
The Niners’ place around here is special. The Giants came from New York, the Warriors from Philadelphia, the A’s from Kansas City. Yes, the Raiders were formed in Oakland, but they and the AFL were created in 1960, 14 years after the Niners, the love of which in Northern California remains breakable.
Even Inkster, the two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion from San Jose State and Santa Cruz, said she was awed be sitting with her idols. “Dwight Clark,” she cracked, “looked best in his uniform.”
And leaping for the ball which in the January 1982 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys would culminate in the The Catch. “Sometimes,” said DeBartolo, “there is a moment so big, so dramatic there is an explosion in our minds. … When he came down with it, dreams became reality.”
Cheeers? Every repeated film showing of The Catch before Clark was brought to the podium brought screams of joy, turning back the clock to that winter’s day 29 years earlier.
Seifert was head coach of two Niners Super Bowl winners. Before that he was coach of the secondary of that Super Bowl XVI club. It was impressive that all five of his defensive backs — Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson and Saladin Martin — came to the enshrinement.
“By the time I could be head coach,” recalled Seifert about working under Bill Walsh, “my skin was so thick and my skills so perfect I could handle anything.”
San Francisco now is Giants territory; it always will be Niners territory.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.