Most 81-year-old grandmothers are content spending their Sunday afternoons quietly at home. Not Shirley Caracci. Sunday means football for Shirley, specifically 49ers football. It's been that way since the 1950s, long before she became a 49ers season ticket holder.
"My dad was a big 49ers fan," she said. "He followed the team from the beginning in 1946. He got us involved with the 49ers. There was no TV back then. We were lucky if we got the games on the radio."
Listening to the Bob Fouts and Lon Simmons radio broadcasts led to a lifelong devotion to the 49ers. By the mid-1950s she was hooked.
"There was a game in 1957 or 1958. John Brodie was at quarterback. We ended up losing and I just cried and cried. My dad told me, 'if you're going to cry, we're not going to listen to the games anymore.'"
In her teenage years, football Sundays involved a 300 mile trip from the family home in McCloud, a tiny town in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, to San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. They often traveled by train, sometimes by car. At Kezar, they had a connection they could rely on for tickets. Henry Schmidt, the 49ers team trainer in the 1950s and 1960s, and affectionately known as Schmitty, took care of that.
"Henry Schmidt was an old family friend," Shirley said. "He always called me 'Queenie.' He would leave tickets for us at will call."