Sports

49ers rename field in honor of Walsh

SAN FRANCISCO -- The names on the Bay Area's sports arenas sometimes change faster than the names on the back of players' jerseys.

The most beloved and historic venue is aging Candlestick Park, which will spend one more official year as Monster Park -- even though the San Francisco 49ers and their contractually obligated broadcasters are the only people who don't still call it by its birth name.

Leave it to Bill Walsh to be the source of the first new name that Bay Area fans can really support -- even if it's only the name of the grass inside the Monster.

Though the swirling wind is still an unpredictable menace and the turf always seems to be erratically slick, Bill Walsh Field is the San Francisco 49ers' new home inside the venerable stadium with the temporary name, starting with Monday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

"We've just tried to recognize and memorialize what Bill has done," 49ers owner John York said of the club's weeks of memorials to its former coach and general manager. "I think this is very appropriate for Bill, and I'm glad we were able to do it."

The 49ers made extensive preparations in recent weeks for their regular-season tribute to Walsh, the Hall of Fame coach and the architect of the 49ers' Super Bowl dynasty. Walsh died of leukemia July 30, and the city of San Francisco announced its plan to change the field's name during a memorial service at Candlestick several days later.

The club distributed commemorative programs and posters for the regular-season debut of the newly named field Monday night, and they put together a rousing video tribute that played on the scoreboard at halftime. The short film ended with the words, "We'll miss you, Coach," followed by a photo montage.

Walsh's wife, Geri, took the field after the video tribute alongside several former 49ers, who unveiled the plaque to cheering fans. Walsh's initials then were unveiled among the club's 10 retired jerseys hanging on the Candlestick facade in the 49ers' ring of honor, accompanied by a spray of fireworks.

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