Dwight Clark is one of the most iconic figures in San Francisco 49ers history, so it is only fitting that the team honor number 87 on 8/7 every year.
The team opened up its training camp at its facility outside Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 7 and invited fans currently battling ALS and their families to watch and meet with 49ers alumni. Clark died after his own battle with ALS on June 4, 2018.
Among the invitees, Chris Mavraedis is a long-time 49ers fan who distinctly remembers when Clark made his famous catch.
“I was in Jackson, Mississippi on business when Dwight made ‘The Catch,’” said Mavraedis. “I got so excited I jumped off the couch and jammed my middle finger into the ceiling. I had to go to the hospital.”
“I had the pleasure of telling that story to Dwight a year later when he and Montana lived across the street from Levi’s Plaza,” Mavraedis continued. “Dwight laughed so hard and said I was the only guy that was injured on ‘The Catch.’”
The guests got to visit with a number of 49ers alumni including Bubba Paris, Eric Wright, and Dennis Brown.
Brown remembers the years leading up to the moment, including the 1978 assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Brown believes “The Catch” was something more than a simple football play.
“That catch meant so much, not just for this organization, I think for San Francisco as a whole,” said Brown. “The city kind of needed something and that happened…Dwight became the icon for this organization, but he’s kind of like the icon for San Francisco.”
Much of that sentiment is expressed in Letters to 87, a book written by long-time 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco. In addition to including essays by Clark’s former teammate Joe Montana; Clark’s widow, Kelly; and former team owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., the book also includes 100 letters written by fans who expressed how “The Catch” impacted them.
Maiocco visited Clark two weeks before Clark died. During the visit, Maiocco read Clark the letters.
“He was expecting letters about what [people were] doing; he was expecting letters about people crashing through windows and cutting their hand open,” said Maiocco. “I don’t think he was expecting the kinds of letters where people talked about the impact on family, on life.”
“Those letters, the people who wrote those letters, provided such a huge lift to him,” continued Maiocco. “He needed that and he got it from the fans. He was always there for the fans and when he needed the fans the most, the fans just rose to the occasion for him.”
In honor of Clark, all royalties from the sale of Letters to 87 will be donated to The Golden Heart Fund. It was a cause very important to Clark.
The Golden Heart Fund was started by the 49ers players and initially funded by the York and DeBartolo families. It offers a helping hand to former 49ers players who are going through rough times.
During the season, Letters to 87 will be on sale at the 49ers Museum. The team will also recognize Clark by making the number 87 logo where he made “The Catch” a permanent part of the field.
Later this season, the 49ers will also make additions to “The Catch” statue that was unveiled at the stadium last season.