Bill Walsh, A Celebration

walsh_enter.jpg

It was a perfect San Francisco day at Candlestick Park on Friday, August 10th; sun drenched and about 70 degrees, the sky a picture quality “California blue.” I was amazed when I stepped onto the field; the grass was cut to a uniform one-inch height, flat and green as a billiards table, yet with a little spring to each step and not a blemish in sight.

Chris Berman, was honored and awed by his role as emcee and brought just the right tone to the proceedings with dignity and humor. He began by introducing a video biography of Bill Walsh, put together by NFL Films.

The Grace Memorial Church Ensemble sang an incredible upbeat rendition of Amazing Grace.

Mayor Gavin Newsome proclaimed that this field where we were sitting would forever be known as Bill Walsh Field, as he held aloft a framed City Proclamation. Steve Young remarked, “This field looks a little better than what I was used to, no dirt infield.”

walsh_from_back.jpg

3,000 black folding chairs were arrayed in front of a podium in the North end zone — the site of “The Catch” — backed by five larger than life photographs of Bill Walsh. Beyond the podium, the giant diamond vision screen was playing slides of Bill Walsh, his family, coaches, players and friends. Fans also occupied the stands along the sidelines, to make a total of about 8,000; large enough for hoopla, small enough for comfort. I had a perfect seat on the right edge, so I could see the speaker, ahead to my left, and the screen, directly in front of me. This was a celebration of Bill Walsh’s life, and those present were indeed in a mood to celebrate.

walsh_my_seat.jpg

That’s my seat, with my jacket slung over it.

Senator Diane Feinstein, San Francisco’s Mayor in the early eighties, was the first speaker.

It was Walsh, who helped a tortured San Francisco heal through a time of enormous upheaval. When the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the Jonestown massacre and the frightening emergence of the AIDS epidemic all threatened to rip apart the Bay Area, Walsh’s Super Bowl teams offered unity. Hope came, to a city that had been in the dark for so many years, Feinstein said.

Chris Berman read a “telegram” from someone who was unable to attend:

As a freshman at Stanford, I knocked on his office door and as I entered and introduced myself, he said, “I know who you are, sit down.” This was the beginning of our many, many conversations, not about sports, about life. He always had time for me. Our meetings and conversations continued long after I left Stanford and were always a comfort to me.
Tiger Woods [Playing at the PGA Tournament on that Friday]

Dennis Green on “the coaching tree:”
After reciting the names of many of the coaches who had worked for Walsh, George Seifert, Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, and so on, he said,

Take your own coach, Mike Nolan,
He didn”t work for Bill Walsh, Mike Nolan worked for Brian Billick.
Brian Billick didn”t work for Bill Walsh, Brian Billick worked for me.
I worked for Bill Walsh.

Carmen Policy [49ers President under DeBartolo] on the Bill Walsh hiring.

Eddie was only 27 when he bought the 49ers. He immediately fired the General Manager Joe Thomas, and flew me to San Francisco to discuss hiring Bill Walsh, the Stanford coach, 20 years his senior. Eddie’s father advised him that his NFL cronies didn”t think Bill was “NFL material.” It took enormous courage to go against his father’s wishes. Eddie told Bill, I”ll get you the players you want, I”ll give you the money you want, but you have to win!

Carmen Policy on Eddie DeBartolo,

In the last minutes of a close loss to Cincinnati, I walked into the locker room to see the coke machine smashed. “Someone” had taken a folding chair and broken every piece of the front. I didn”t want Bill Walsh to come walking into the wrath of someone. Luckily, Ronnie Lott was the first to come out of the tunnel. He surveyed the wreckage and said, “Mr. D, didn”t you have a quarter?”

And finally, Joe Montana on The Catch.

When I got back to the sideline, Bill said, “Well, your buddy saved your ass on that one.” [much laughter as Joe paused] I didn”t think it was funny at the time. [even more laughter]

The players from Bill Walsh’s three Super Bowl Teams ascended the stage bearing their trophies.

The Grace Memorial Church Ensemble sang as we walked off of Bill Walsh Field and out of the   stadium. A fine day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.