My father, Paul E. Weiss (1924-2015) and I sat together for the San Francisco 49ers games for roughly 30 years, near the 20 yard line. Our seats were first called Section 20, Box 5K, seats 1, 2 and then Lower Box 20, Row X, seats 19 and 20 I think. Our seats stayed the same, but the bars were removed and another row was added behind us.
The boxes had bars separated you from your neighbors. Our box had six seats. We two (1,2), 3 and 4 which were in different rows and usually had single men who didn’t seem to know each other although they were both black, “Ron” and “Bob” and then a nice couple Erwin Loretz and wife Sharlene I think it was, basically in front of us. Sometimes we’d sell each other spare or extra tickets. To my left, or closer to the end zone was a couple from Redwood City, the Van Trichts. Nancy was the wife and then widow; her daugther Jeannie would use the tickets for a while. Then people from her church would take them.
I definitely remember when Mr. Van Tricht died, how ashen Nancy looked. And Jeannie leaned over to me and said “My mom wants you to know that my Dad passed away, during the off season.”. I remember him being tough on Keith Fahnhorst, who jumped off sides. He would bellow, “Fahnhorst! You idiot!” Howard Van Tricht, a Sequoia High graduate. Nancy had a red Western hat covered in souvenir pins. A gamer babe, in recent (Giants) terminology.
There’s a new book all about that era by Dave Newhouse. The period directly before the DeBartolo years and Joe Montana was pretty frustrating, but as a 10 year old box it was always very exciting to be so close to the action. In truth, my dad was not a big football fan, but he knew I loved it, so he took me. We are talking 10 games per season, for 30 seasons, maybe closer to 200 than 300 if you back out the time I was away at college, or times I took a friend and not my dad.
We also went to two Super Bowls: in Palo Alto against the Dolphins (I flew back for that) and in Miami against the Bengals, we both flew down together.
I saw The Catch, in 1981, but I took my Oaxaca Exchange pal Nancy Rhoan not my Dad. Her parents used our tickets to see the Super Bowl in Detroit.
Above is a poloroid of my Dad from the late 1980s, in the parking lot, on the hill just west of the stadium, our preferred strategy. Below is the link to the Newhouse book, which I am likely to zip over to Books Inc at Town and Country this very morning to procure, and a video posted in 2007 from a fan with similar seats.
Notes: This is not by dad’s obituary, but may suss up as such. The actual obituary is pending.
2. Erwin Loretz was a season-ticket holder for 57 years, it says. I also remember he and a pal would compete on their picks each week, Erwin pulling out a little hand-written pick sheet and me looking over his shoulder, unnoticed. Later, Sharlene introduced me to her niece, because we were both in the arts. We were 34ers, to their 57ers. They were honored at halftime once, or won a prize.
3. I found an old obit of a former Dartmouth coach who actually wrote a football fight song, “As The Backs Go Tearing By”. Thomas J Keady.
4. The Van Trichts were parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Redwood City. There was a very large young fellow named “Joe”, who also worked at Palo Alto Hardware, who took those seats for a while and maybe knew them from that. The Oliffs from Los Altos and I think Beth Am, who also had a daughter my age, sat in our section or near us, much closer, for a while. Generally our experience was self-contained, just Dad and I, and not that much socializing with our comrades, behind the high-five here and there.
5. Further research shows me that we were probably seats 5 and 6 in the box — making Erwin Loretz 1 and 2 — and we maybe were somehow 5 and 6 in the new row and aisle configuration. The Niners added a couple thousand seats during their heyday, the time when their were thousands on a waiting list and some people sold their rights. And kept the tickets until 2009 making me more like a 35er, and I do recall taking Terry their once or twice, the year we started dating. And I have to report that by 2009 Dad was not so interested anymore; I asked him once or twice if he wanted to go and he said no. He was already having mobility issues, which despite remissions culminated in him mostly needing a wheel chair to get around. He went from cane to walker to wheelchair to bed-ridden in varying hard to predict patterns. By then he was sort of over being a sports fan and turned to classic movies (like at Stanford Theatre) but also the Opera and ACT, and Theatreworks. Everyone once in a while he would surprise me by mentioning something current about the Niner, Giants or A’s. Actually we did have a scheme to go see a day game at the A’s for old time sakes, but his health back-slid a bit and that window closed. There is a comparison to the times I sat with him in the dark at Stanford Theatre in recent years, and our days going to the Niners. Don’t get me wrong: he would go to nearly every show at Stanford Theatre, sometimes twice, and I would occassiionally synch our schedules to meet him there, or sneak up on him there, or agree to meet him afterwards for a bite. (His caregivers would handle all the heavy lifting, and logistics). In fact, and this is way out of bounds for a football post but one of the first things I did deliberately as an act or homage or in my mourning was to go on a Saturday to the Stanford Theatre matinee and go watch about an hour of the movie –something with a starlet, and based on a classic source — War and Peace, that is — and go sit up close as he was apt to do. I did sort of stare into the darkness, and not the screen hoping to against-logic spot him, or see if any of the other regulars might want to know the news. I ate my popcorn, slurped my sugar-drink and left at intermission, then waited until the crowd cleared to pass the news to Patty, the manager. This part should be a separate entry. Even weirder segue, I saw two or three movies there recently with vintage baseball scenes, especially in the Kurasawa run.
6. I let the 49ers tickets lapse. Actually, in 2009, they lapsed, were re-assigned to be someone elses potential upgrade, then were offered back to me and I bit. But those last couple years I guess I became more like my dad and not that interested in football. I thought $2,000 per year was more than I could budget, for discretionary spending or yucks. And I did not feel that the IRS would let me consider them a business expense, although I did occasionally or a handful of times take music people like Eric Hanson and the singer and prospective client Candye Kane (and her son, a Cal Student). I rejoined my Gunn High fantasy league, in 2007, at our 25th reunion, but have less zeal for football, I admit. But it is one of the things my mind goes to, when I am processing the sudden loss of my dad.
7. Dad and I stood together on the Beth Am Bema in January, 1977, my Bar Mitzvah but he made a little speech in which he compared me to the Oakland Raiders, I guess for their “commitment to excellence”. I think I was a little embarrassed. I heard the tape again in 2005 or so and was still a little embarrassed or remembered such. For a while we did go to Raiders and Niners games, but our allegiances were shifting west. Despite the fact that the Raiders were Jewish-owned — Al Davis –I am guessing that more Jews identified with the 49ers image than that of the more rough-hewn — dirty, expedient, blacker — Raiders. The Niners also had Harris Barton, who I still sometimes stalk, and Jon Frank.
8. Terry and I went into the City last weekend, to use Paul’s tickets to the SF Opera, “Sweeney Todd” by Sondheim, and as we passed Candlestick Point I was driving but was also staring into the void created by the demolition of the Park and wondered if there is some analogy or comparison to the contemporaneous loss of my dad, or the void it creates. I guess, in both cases, eventually, oportunity.