As most of you know, Friday’s public memorial service at the ‘Stick marked the final leg–and, some would say, the climax–of the various Bill Walsh tributes. A bevy of friends, colleagues and former athletes spoke. Mayor Gavin Newsom christened Bill Walsh Field. Denny Green gave an emotional speech. Joe Montana, Steve Young and Eddie D (among others) all spoke as well.
But for us, the most memorable, moving speaker was, by far, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Her speech gave us shivers. With the hope that you’ll enjoy it, we’ve transcribed it:
Hello 49er fans.
Many of you are too young to remember 1978, 1979, even 1980. San Francisco was broken. The mayor had been assassinated. A member of the Board of Supervisors had been assassinated, and all by another supervisor. Jonestown took place, and 900 San Franciscans went to the jungles of Guyana and ended up drinking cyanide-laced Koolaid. AIDS was first discovered in this city. The days were dark. The wind was strong. And the fog was deep.
We took an interest in this new man from Youngstown, who had come to the city, Eddie DeBartolo, and a new–[applause]
[To Eddie] Stand up, Take a bow
He owned the team. He hired a new coach. That coach was Bill Walsh.
I was then mayor. I began to come to the games, watch through my binoculars from up there. I saw this tall man, impeccable gray hair, white sweater, 49er logo, the consummate chessman, and a team was born. And a team came alive!
And that 1981 season, I was sitting up there with my husband and we saw Joe step back–[turning to Joe Montana] actually we thought you were off-balance–but it was in the waning seconds of the game and we had to win it. And the pass was lofted to right there, and we saw Dwight Clark spiral up, and a legend was born.
We went to the Silverdome. We came back victorious. Oh, what that meant for this city to win something! To do something right, to come back victorious.
I remember then, we had trepidation, because of the dark days. Eddie, his wife Candy, the wonderful Geri walsh, her husband Bill, my husband. We had a parade and the 49ers were in cable cars. There were three of them, festooned with balloons, and we were in a yellow 1932 convertible: Bill, me in the middle, Eddie on the left, sitting on the rim.
And no one was there.
And we thought, nobody cared. We began to move from the Embarcadero down through Market Street, and all of a sudden, tens of thousands of people emerged! People were sitting on car tops, hanging from lamp poles, sticking out of windows and then the crowd swelled to hundreds of thousands of people, til it was estimated one million people came to the streets to greet this great, victorious team.
And names like montana and rice and lott and on and on became household legends and legends fueled a great dynasty.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980s. And what they did for this city, what they did for this city. When Joe left, Steve continued. But what they did for this city was move us together, say yes we can do somthing right; yes we can come together across race, creed, color, social status, all of it and we can be proud of who we are. That’s the great gift that the San Francisc 49ers provided in the dark days of the 1908s.
And for this, the leader was the Grey Fox himself, Bill Walsh. So to Bill Walsh today, on Bill Walsh Field, we say: we will always remember, we thank you for the gift of hope and opportunity you restored to this great city.
San Francisco 49ers, you are a great team and you will see glory days again! Thank you very much!
Via mp3, you can listen to the entire memorial, plus interviews with the key players, at KNBR.