By Meyer Gorelick
Martin Jacobs, who grew up in the Sunset District, wrote a new book titled “Kezar Stadium: 49ers Fans Remember,” which takes the reader on a journey back through memories of the stadium that housed the 49ers until 1971.
Jacobs, a George Washington High School graduate, started working at Kezar Stadium as a 9 year old in 1952, picking up seat cushions so that he could watch the games for free. He later became a vendor, selling hotdogs and programs. In 2000, he was selected by Visa International as the number one fan of the year. With the 49ers now far off in Santa Clara, Jacobs decided to write this book to bring back to life the long-lost arena that inspired him and so many others.
“Anyone and everyone who entered the stadium for a game or event was filled with some form of excitement and anticipation,” Jacobs said.
“It was like stepping into a whole other world. I wanted to keep the stadium’s memories alive, which were bountiful.”
Jacobs collected more than 2,000 responses from fans sharing their memories of Kezar and selected more than 100 of their stories, which he includes in the book. He curated and organized what fans, players, coaches and personnel shared into different sections that focus on various aspects of the Kezar experience.
“I was there. It was like a second home for me,” Jacobs said. “From personal experience, I could relate to almost every comment that came in.”
Jacobs has written three other books on the 49ers: “Before They Were Champions – San Francisco 49ers 1958 Season,” “San Francisco 49ers – Images of Sport” and “San Francisco 49ers Legends – The Golden Age of Pro Football.”
Jacobs sandwiches these recollections between a brief history, plus his connection to the stadium and a trove of pictures, statistics and profiles. He has an astounding collection of memorabilia, amounting to more than 2,500 items, which SFGate touted as the greatest private collection of 49ers artifacts in existence.
On top of witnessing countless memorable games, which he details in the book, Jacobs remembers and shares the rowdiness of the fans of old.
“In those days, you could bring in bottles of beer, wine, whatever you wanted you could bring it in,” he said. “That’s why there were so many drunks at the game. They were passionate, passionate fans, but half of them were drunk, really.”
Jacobs dedicates a whole section to the “brawlers” who had too much to drink and were looking for a fight.
Before becoming an author (he has also written four books on WWII), Jacobs owned a chain of sports memorabilia stores. As a young man he felt like he had outgrown vending outside the stadium and asked his dad for some career advice.
“He said: ‘Why don’t you open up a store and sell the merchandise that you were selling at the game?’”
He opened up his first Sports Stop at 13th Avenue and Irving Street. For three years, when Haight-Ashbury was in its 1960s heyday, Jacobs also operated a record store called The Haight Street Palace at Masonic Avenue and Haight Street.
“I got to meet George Harrison of The Beatles and a lot of movie stars. Janis Joplin was my good friend. On Friday nights I would have music groups come in there and they would just play for free for the tourists. It would be like a practice session for them. Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company and Janis came.”
After he is done with the book he is currently working on about 49ers legend Hugh McElhenny, Jacobs plans to write about his experience on Haight Street.
“Kezar: 49ers Fans Remember” is available on Amazon. For a signed copy, email Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.