Ryan Klesko could only smile and shake his head when asked to share his memories of playing in Candlestick Park.
“You mean nightmares? I would have had to retire early [if that was my home field],” the Giants’ first baseman said before Monday’s game against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park. “I threw a party when they shut that place down.”
Candlestick was a cold, foggy, windy and inhospitable host for hitters in San Francisco from the time it opened in 1960 until it shut after the 1999 season — for baseball purposes, anyway. It was also the stadium Barry Bonds called home for seven years, a fact Klesko (who played in the park as a visitor with the Atlanta Braves) thinks only adds to the his stature as perhaps the greatest home run hitter ever to play the game. Bonds has 755 career homers — tied with Hank Aaron for the most in major-league history — despite playing 15 years in the sometimes-nasty San Francisco weather, including seven at Candlestick.
“When you look at what Barry’s done, he should be close to 900 or 1,000 homers if he would have played in a better hitter’s park,” Klesko said. “And I think anyone who’s ever played the game knows that.”
Bonds has hit 296 of his home runs in San Francisco, with 156 at AT&T Park since it opened in 2000 — including 34 of the Giants’ 44 splash hits into McCovey Cove. The 140 he hit at The Stick are especially impressive to Mike Krukow, San Francisco’s current TV and radio broadcaster who pitched seven years at Candlestick for the Giants.
“If you were to design the most pitcher-friendly place in history, you would start with Candlestick,” said Krukow, who went 20-9 for San Francisco in 1986. “Because it was the worst, most screwed-up place to try and hit.”
It was not always the most comfortable place to watch a game either. Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis grew up in Alameda as a Bonds fan and said he didn’t recall anything specific about seeing games at Candlestick — only the elements.
“I just remember being freezing,” Willis said. “I don’t think the sun ever got to the bleachers in right field.”
Perhaps the only time the sun did shine on Candlestick was the 1957 morning that then-Mayor George Christopher showed New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham around Candlestick Point as a prospective stadium site for when the team moved west. It was enough to sell Stoneham, who soon discovered the area to be one of the coolest, breeziest locales in The City. In fact, had Bonds’ godfather, Willie Mays, not played more than 12 years at Candlestick Park, Bonds could be chasing “The Say Hey Kid” for the all-time mark. Mays still managed to hit 660 career home runs, fourth-most in history.
“I’ve been saying all along that anyone who played at this level knows just how hard it is to do what [Bonds has] done at these ballparks,” Krukow said. “That’s gotta be his greatest legacy.”
How many HRs did Candlestick rob from Bonds?
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