Candlestick Park

The following is a guest post from Life Letter Cafe blog.

Candlestick Park was opened in the Spring of 1960, in the vicinity of the Hunter’s Point shipyards of San Francisco . .

It has been home primarily to the San Francisco Giants and 49ers over most of that fifty-three year span of time. When 49er linebacker NaVorro Bowman executed what is now called “The Pick at the Stick” this last Monday evening, sealing a victory over the hapless Atlanta Falcons, fans and historians began to bid farewell to the outdated, yet iconic stadium which will be remembered not so much for it’s luster or immediate location, but for the sports memories that unfolded in it’s windy and often brutally cold confines.

Moments of anguish?

There have been plenty. Few will ever forgive Bobby Richardson for catching Willie McCovey’s liner to win the World Series on October 19th, 1962. The mild-mannered pitcher Juan Marichal went after Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro with his bat on August 22, 1965 . . an incident he profoundly regrets. Perhaps the most bitter pill ever swallowed at the “Stick” was on July 29th, 1990 when Giants starter Scott Garrelts was denied a no-hitter with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth by the “clutch” hitting of Paul O’Neil of the Cincinnati Reds.

Moments of exhilaration?

Too many to recall in this post, but who could forget April 12th, 1993 when Barry Bonds homered on the first pitch in his first home at bat as a Giant against the Florida Marlins? Or how about January 5th, 2003 when the 49ers came back from 24 points downs to defeat New York football Giants 39-38 in a thrilling win led by Jeff Garcia that is to this day regarded as the loudest game in 49er history. Little more needs to be said than Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and “The Catch” to upend the football juggernaut Dallas Cowboys (Tom Landry, Roger Staubach) on Jan 10th 1982. Cubs fans will never forgive Will “The Thrill” Clark who single-handedly beat them for the National League pennant in October, 1989.

While the act of sports competition holds little eternal significance in and of itself, Candlestick Park’s unique history offers valuable leadership lessons for pastors . . here are the first 6 that quickly come to mind:

  1. The Wind: Never underestimate your single greatest threat to success

    Though studies were done on the best way to configure Candlestick on the property, the “boomerang-shaped” rim on the top of the stadium did little if anything to divert howling gusts that would often change direction multiple times in one game, forcing untold number of missed fly balls, pop-ups, field goals and pass attempts. If taken seriously, stadium architects would have insisted on a dome . . or a different location. Today’s pastor is afforded unparalleled access to technology and proven organizational systems and processes that fall dangerously short on what can only be accomplished through a church body desperate to access the Lord’s power through prayer. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

  2. The 1989 Loma Prieta World Series Earthquake: Every leader needs an unseen ally

    Engineers got it right when they refused to build Candlestick on the part of the property that was nearly 100% landfill and instead anchored the foundation to the bedrock at the foot of Bay View Hill.  Major structural failure may have occurred during the 1989 World Series had the stadium been located even just 100 yards further out towards the Bay. Pastor’s cannot exchange critical time alone with God and in personal relationships marked by accountability to mature mentors without risking “ministry collapse” in times of greatest adversity. (Proverbs 27:17)

  3. The 1989 Loma Prieta World Series Earthquake: Your greatest tests will reveal the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your leadership team.

    While location by a windy Bay or a lack of a domed stadium was the “Stick’s” Achilles heel, it’s greatest strength was engineers who resisted shortcuts in design-construction schemes and schedules and went with more costly and time-consuming cutting-edge reinforced concrete technology that kept more than 60,000 people unharmed while bridges and freeways around the Bay were collapsing in the wake of a devastating 7.1 magnitude temblor. While “moves of God” are the end-goal, Pastor’s who start and lead churches on an unrealistically fast development pace will face inevitable implosion when times of greatest challenge occur . . particularly in the area of ill-equipped and spiritually immature staff. (Proverbs 19:2)

  4. Artificial Turf: Shortcuts to excellence will inevitably cut you short

    For more than a decade, Candlestick Park featured artificial turf to address the challenges that can occur when football and baseball teams share the same facility, especially in a damp, cool climate. The result? An accelerated rate of football injuries, baseballs taking ridiculous bounces and turf seams that were . .unseemly. Creativity for church leadership teams is essential but should never cause a pastor to trust more in “gimmicks” (gimmicks that tend to create religious consumers vs. spiritual reproducers) than the power of the gospel in and of itself. (Romans 1:16)

  5. Power Failure – 49ers vs Steelers December 2011: Leaders can and will fail

    The lights indeed went out on a nationally broadcast game between these two storied football franchises. Pastors all fail in little and not so little ways . . the question is whether they create a culture of secrecy or transparency. Those who choose the former are fabricating an illusion that misses out on the ability to equip a congregation with the one essential tool it needs that separates it from the world: grace. Restoration not fabrication should be the full-time work of a church leader. (James 5:16)

  6. Stu Miller Blown Off Pitcher’s Mound – The 1961 All Star Game: Ministry climate is never fair

    Giants pitcher Stu Miller was blown off balance by a gust of wind and was charged with a balk in front of a hometown crowd and a national audience. His response? He shrugged it off and stated, “Hey it’s my claim to fame I guess”. Pastor’s in the grip of entitlement who seek to lead a church will inevitably take themselves too seriously and lose sight of the fact that the kingdom is not “built” on a fair weather playing field and that sometimes God’s greatest gains happen in spite of our most embarrassing flops or shortcomings. (2 Corinthians 12:9)


What are your thoughts? CLICK HERE . . to look at the final 6 lessons on leadership afforded by the iconic Candlestick Park!

Greg Atkinson

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