San Francisco’s popularity in the Valley is growing
By Joe Scalzo
Dr. John York knows the San Francisco 49ers will never be as popular in the Mahoning Valley as the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But over the past two years, the Canfield resident thinks they’ve gotten closer.
“There’s always been a fairly strong contingent of 49ers fans here,” said York, who is co-chairman of the team with his wife, Denise DeBartolo York. “But I think it’s just become a closer relationship with the 49ers coming back and staying for a week the past two years.”
The 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s Super Bowl, their first appearance in the NFL championship game since 1995 when the team was owned by Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
The Yorks have owned the team since 1999 but elevated their son, Jed, to team president in 2008. Jed York, a Cardinal Mooney High graduate who is now CEO, has helped the 49ers return to the league’s elite with the promotion of general manager Trent Baalke and hiring of head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“We’ve really built through the draft,” said John York, speaking by phone this week from the DeBartolo Corporation offices. “We’ve had some key free agent acquisitions but we’ve really built this team through the draft.
“Jed has set the organization so that Trent and Jim Harbaugh can get the most out of the team and the players but at the same time putting us in good position to have a winning team when we open the new stadium in 2014,” York said. “We will be on the ballot in May for Super Bowl 50 [in 2016] or 51, and we hope the Bay Area can get one of those.”
York said New Orleans sets a high standard as a Super Bowl host.
“New Orleans is a great place; the entire week was terrific,” he said — and his only complaint about last week was with the final score.
“Obviously, it was not pleasant being as far down as we were in the first half,” said York, whose team trailed 21-6 at halftime and then gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half. “Then we got clobbered with that kick return at the beginning of the second half. That hurt.
“But then we started clawing back and made the game interesting. We couldn’t come back as far as we did against the Atlanta Falcons [in the NFC Championship Game] but we made it close and we made it interesting.
“We just fell about 5 yards short.”
The 49ers have spent a week in Youngstown each of the past two years to ease some of the travel involved with east-coast road trips. York praised Youngstown State for allowing the 49ers to train at its facilities (“They’ve been a tremendous partner,” he said) as well as the area’s hotels, restaurants and businesses for welcoming the team to town.
“It’s very much appreciated,” he said.
Because the 49ers will play one game in London in 2013, York said it’s unlikely they will stay in Youngstown this fall.