San Francisco 49ers

Sunday Drive: Streets around Candlestick to honor 49ers greats

49ers head coach Bill Walsh, center, shares a laugh with quarterback Joe Montana, in red jacket, and receiver Dwight Clark, left, at Candlestick Park on Jan. 16, 1985.
49ers head coach Bill Walsh, center, shares a laugh with quarterback Joe Montana, in red jacket, and receiver Dwight Clark, left, at Candlestick Park on Jan. 16, 1985. Associated Press file

Joe Montana called an audible Sunday at a street-naming ceremony.

Holding a black and white sign – Joe Montana Drive – for a street to be built where Candlestick Park once stood, the former 49ers quarterback requested that it be changed to include the wide receiver who caught his most famous pass.

“I would like to share this,” Montana said at the two-hour event at City Hall. “I would ask that you change this to Montana-Clark Drive.”

Dwight Clark, who was among several famous San Francisco athletes in the audience, was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year and his former teammates have been quick to rally around him. Montana credited former 49ers safety Ronnie Lott with fostering the close-knit atmosphere on those 1980s-era teams that has continued today.

“We’re all in this together, and we’ll find ways to win,” Montana said of the team’s former mantra. “… On and off the field, everybody tried to help everybody else in any way they possibly could.”

Sunday’s presentations were made by Mayor Ed Lee, former mayor Willie Brown and officials with FivePoint, the developer in charge of the 7,000-home project on Candlestick Point.

The 49ers haven’t played in San Francisco since 2014, when Levi’s Stadium was opened in Santa Clara, 38 miles to the south. The mark the 49ers left on the city, however, never can be lifted.

The 49ers won five Super Bowl titles, the first coming in 1982 just a few years after three tragic events rocked San Francisco: the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk; the deaths of 900 Californians in the Jonestown tragedy; and the realization that AIDS had gripped the city.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was mayor at the time, has said that the initial Super Bowl title helped lift San Francisco from its grief. On Sunday, Lee also noted the “sense of history” the former 49ers squads held.

Among the other former 49ers who will have streets named for them: Lott, long-time owner Edward J. DeBartolo, receiver Jerry Rice and coach Bill Walsh, who died in 2007. His sign, Bill Walsh Street, was presented to his widow, Geri.

Carmen Policy, the longtime 49ers executive and DeBartolo’s right-hand man, will be enshrined into to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame later this week. He also was honored with a street name, Carmen Policy Avenue.

“I always figured if I got something named after me, it would be ‘Carmen Policy Alley, where you put your garbage,’ ” Policy quipped. “To have it actually say ‘Avenue’ – it’s pretty special.”

Former Giants players – Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Barry Bonds – also will have streets in their honor. Willie McCovey will have a park built in his name.

Said McCovey, whose 231 home runs at Candlestick Park were the most by any batter in a stadium infamous for its blustery wind: “I enjoyed Candlestick. I was one of the few players who enjoyed playing there.”

As was the case in years past, Sunday afternoon belonged to Montana and Clark.

Clark, 60, has declined interviews since revealing he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable affliction also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

On Sunday, however, he was put in the spotlight after it was revealed that the development project also would include a public mural of the famous Montana-to-Clark connection, known as The Catch, that came in the 1982 NFC Championship and that instantly became the most iconic play in franchise history.

Looking lean and tan in a dark gray suit and white shirt, Clark took the microphone and noted that when the 49ers practiced it before the game, Montana would invariably sail the ball over his head or put it at his feet. The pass in the back of the end zone at Candlestick Park was perfect, prompting Montana to lobby to call the famous play, “The Throw.”

Said Clark to his friend in mock protest: “Give me my one play!”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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