The arrival of Super Bowl Weekend got me to thinking about the most important NFL game I ever attended, the 1970 NFC Championship Game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
I’ve never been to a Super Bowl, but I can’t say that represents any kind of significant void. I’ve never been too interested in doing stuff just so I could say I’ve done it, and I suspect that all the corporate hoopla and then the silliness that envelops the game would simply annoy me if I were actually in attendance.
But that 1970 NFL Championship Game was all business, and coincidentally turned out to be the 49ers last game at that quaint facility located at the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. Drat, but the 49ers lost it, messing up my plans to party in a city that had just won a major professional title. I’d missed the 1969 World Series entirely when my Mets startled the whole nation; I’d been in the Philippines for the whole year and then some. I wasn’t technically old enough to drink (20), but a sailor in good standing could usually manage well enough on Market Street in that regard.
So here was my chance and yet John Brodie & Co. came up a touchdown short. The only reason I’d even gotten tickets was somebody donated them and somehow I wound up being picked – along with a handful of others – out of the 3,500 sailors on the U.S.S. Midway to go to the game. I am pretty sure I didn’t do anything special to get the tickets; they must have been just randomly distributed to various divisions on the ship.
I do recall that Kezar was a fun if unimposing facility, which I suppose explains why the 49ers were departing in favor of Candlestick Park.
And I got a kick out of seeing the park prominently featured in the 1971 Clint Eastwood blockbuster “Dirty Harry.” That movie was fun because there were lots of location shots of San Fran places that I had frequented, including the weenie stand outside the bank where Harry Callahan was wolfing down a hot dog just as the bank robbers emerged.
In the years following the 49ers exit, the facility gained a good deal of notoriety as an outdoor concert venue, hardly surprising given its close proximity to the Haight-Ashbury District.
And so names like Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Carlos Santana, Waylon Jennings, and Neil Young were added to the Kezar legend.
The facility was also used for a number of other pro sports, most notably soccer, but it was also the home field – if that’s what they call it – for the San Francisco Freedom of the Pro Cricket League.