49ers

Heartfelt letters lifted Dwight Clark's spirit on a bad day

clarkdwightlettersronnie.jpg
Brad Mangin

Heartfelt letters lifted Dwight Clark's spirit on a bad day

A group of friends was scheduled to have lunch in Whitefish, Montana, with the man they traveled to see that day.

But Dwight Clark was not feeling well enough to join his visitors to dine at the popular Central Avenue restaurant at which they planned to meet. He was growing increasingly weak as his ALS symptoms were rapidly worsening. Clark would be spending that entire day in bed.

The group was encouraged to keep the noon restaurant reservation at Casey's. Then, everyone was invited to head out to the ranch where Dwight and his wife, Kelly, had lived for a couple months since their move from Capitola.

Before the move, Clark expressed his desire to hear from fans as he faced an unimaginably difficult road ahead against an untreatable, deadly disease.

Clark created the most important play in San Francisco sports history with his leaping 6-yard touchdown catch of a Joe Montana pass in the NFC Championship game in January 1982.

“The Catch,” as it quickly became known, lifted the 49ers to their first Super Bowl. Clark loved to hear stories about how that play, that team, that season, was remembered. And this was the day some of those letters would be read to him.

“He was really excited about that day because of the letters that were going to be read from his fans,” said Rick Winters, a former Navy SEAL and close friend who helped Kelly care for Dwight as his ALS symptoms worsened.

“The day came and it was a rough morning. He was struggling a lot, having a hard time catching his breath and speaking.”

Former teammates Ronnie Lott and Keena Turner were there that day, just as they were a month earlier when former 49ers owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. held a two-day party in Clark’s honor. Clark’s property is just a 15-minute drive from the 800-acre ranch DeBartolo has owned for decades.

Clark tried to carry the conversation as much as he could for more than an hour. Then, it was clear he needed a break. It was his turn to just sit back and listen. He asked to hear letters.

Former NFL executive Lal Heneghan and KNBR radio host Brian Murphy were among those who joined Lott and Turner in reading the letters to Clark.

“What I saw that day was how much people cared about the letters and the spirit of the letters and who they were representing,” Lott said. “To me, that’s what was so powerful about what we were all trying to accomplish. What Dwight felt was something that a lot of times you don’t necessarily get a chance to appreciate.

“The letters were amazing and powerful and loving, and it was heartfelt. Those are people giving their gesture of appreciation. You’re reading somebody’s work, you’re articulating somebody’s heart, and that’s what makes it so special.”

Some of the first letters were punctuated with colorful language that elicited laughter, most notably, from Clark. The room would fill with laughter.

“You could see the color change in his face,” Winters said. “The smile was back.”

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Clark was fully engaged and soaked in every syllable that was read to him. There were tears from laughter. And there were tears from raw emotion.

“There were things that people said you were like, ‘That’s good; that’s really good,’ ” Lott said. “And you had things that people said that you went, ‘Wow,’ and it took the breath out of you. And there were moments that you wanted to feel like you had to cry because somebody, it impacted their life more than just being a game.”

Turner had seen this before during his attendance at many Tuesday lunches in Capitola. Clark might have been experiencing a difficult day, but he always seemed to find strength in his interaction with friends.

“He was listening to the letters and you could see that he was participating in the moment,” Turner said. “It was always amazing to me that after such tough mornings he could be so engaged and participate in the moment. It was something I’ll always remember.”

Said Lott, “It got all of us in that room that day just how lucky we were to have a chance to be around it.”

Clark died just two weeks later on June 4. He was 61.

49ers' Nick Bosa suffered first loss in over two years vs. Seahawks

nickbosabenchusa.jpg
USATSI

49ers' Nick Bosa suffered first loss in over two years vs. Seahawks

49ers rookie sensation Nick Bosa experienced something Monday night that the 22-year-old hasn’t faced in over two years.

He lost a game.

That’s right, the defensive end hadn’t suffered defeat prior to San Francisco's loss to the Seahawks on Monday night since his sophomore season at Ohio State.

That game was especially rough for Bosa, as he was ejected in the second quarter after a pretty blatant targeting penalty for a hit on Iowa's quarterback.

Bosa’s Buckeyes won the first three games of 2018 before he injured his knee and missed the final 11 games of his collegiate career.

[RELATED: 49ers clarify Kittle not officially ruled out vs. Cardinals]

The 49ers hope to restart Bosa’s winning streak Sunday when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

49ers 'most likely' turn to Justin Skule again to replace Joe Staley

skulestaleyap.jpg
AP

49ers 'most likely' turn to Justin Skule again to replace Joe Staley

SANTA CLARA -- Rookie Justin Skule will “most likely” return to the 49ers starting lineup in place of veteran left tackle Joe Staley, coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday.

Staley underwent surgery to repair a broken and dislocated finger, an injury that occurred Monday night in the 49ers’ 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Staley, a six-time Pro Bowler, did not realize the extent of the injury until it swelled on him Tuesday morning.

“He will not play this week and probably be out a couple of weeks,” Shanahan said.

Skule started six games earlier this season when Staley was sidelined with a fractured left lower leg. When Staley returned to action on Monday, Skule was deactivated for the game. The 49ers went with Daniel Brunskill as the backup offensive tackle behind Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

[RELATED: 49ers clarify George Kittle not officially ruled out yet vs. Cardinals]

Shanahan expressed confidence that Skule will again step in and play well in place of Staley.

“I thought he did a very good job,” Shanahan said of Skule, a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt. “He came in there and stepped it up right away. He did a good job his first game and I thought he got better each week. We were happy with how he played, and I’m glad we have a couple of good backups.”