Mayor announces name change at public memorial service

Updated: August 10, 2007, 8:28 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fans of Bill Walsh paid tribute Friday to the Hall of Fame 49ers coach, describing him as a legend who uplifted the football franchise and the city.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom told the crowd Friday the field at Monster Park would be named after Walsh, although the name of the stadium won't change.

"He shared his action, he shared his passion and he made our lives better," Newsom said.

Hundreds gathered at the field at Candlestick Park to celebrate Walsh, who died of leukemia on July 30 at 75. Friday's service included a gospel choir singing "Amazing Graze" and a video recounting Walsh's achievements.

Several of Walsh's former players, including Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Joe Montana, attended the event.

Young described Walsh as a great football strategist who frustrated opponents with his plays on offense.

"He helped us climb the mountain to the championship," Young said. "He made us all feel like champions."

Walsh led the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships and revolutionized many aspects of the game during a decade as the team's coach. Overall, he won 10 of his 14 postseason games and ended with a record of 102-63-1.

"He built the dynasty that all of us fans got to enjoy," said Dante Stevens, 43, who wore a 49ers jersey and took a day off from work as a chef to attend the memorial.

Stevens said Walsh was gifted at spotting talented players.

Montana on Walsh
After attending the private memorial service for Bill Walsh, Joe Montana remembered his coach and shared what he learned building the 49ers dynasty. He also said Walsh is responsible for him being in the Hall of Fame. Listen Insider

"It's hard to say whether any other coach will top this guy," said Mike Lopez, 49, who drove from San Jose for the event.

Other speakers at Friday's memorial service recalled how Walsh and the 49ers uplifted the city during turbulent times.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said San Francisco was reeling from the assassinations of mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk, the emerging HIV epidemic and the massacre of roughly 900 Californians in Jonestown.

She recalled watching Montana's famous pass to Dwight Clark to win the 1981 NFC Championship Game.

"What that meant for this city to win something, to do something right," Feinstein said.

Montana said before his death, Walsh asked him to tell the players how much he loved them.

"But I don't think he knows how much we loved him," Montana said. "On behalf of all the players, Coach, we love you and are going to miss you."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press