The day the earth shook

Posted on 17. Oct, 2012 by

Many people who know me or have read my stories, columns or blogs over the years know I love baseball. I even tell people I can name the exact date when I became an official baseball fan: Aug. 22, 1989. That was the day Nolan Ryan got his 5,000th strikeout, and I was hooked.

So that World Series in the fall of 1989 was the first one I had ever watched. It was the “Battle by the Bay” between Oakland and San Francisco. It was the same Oakland Athletics team that Nolan had faced a couple of months earlier for his milestone moment.

I remember being at my grandmother’s house (she was the only other one in my family at the time who loved baseball and is the reason I’m a baseball fan today) in a back room watching Game 3 on a small television set with the rabbit ears.

It was 23 years ago today.

So what was so special about Game 3? The pre-game show started normally. They showed highlights from the first two games of the series, both won by Oakland. Now the series shifted a few miles to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Al Michaels and Tim McCarver were doing their introduction.

Suddenly, the picture got a little static-y, and I remember hearing Al say “We’re having an earth -” and then nothing. I remember walking to the front of the house and telling family members, “I think an earthquake just hit San Francisco.” I don’t remember what was being watched on the “big TV” up to that point, but now we had it on coverage of the earthquake.

I looked up some information on the earthquake prior to writing this blog, and I had forgotten just how much worse it could have been.First, you had a stadium full of people – if, say, the upper deck had collapsed, thousands would have died. But since the game hadn’t started yet, only about half the people were in their seats, lowering the maximum load of the upper deck. A seismic-strengthening project had also previously been completed on the upper deck.

And due to the early 5 p.m. start of the game, many people had left early either to attend the game, watch it at home, or stayed late at work to watch it with co-workers. In other words, the normally heavy rush hour traffic was remarkably light that day. If you’ll recall, several bridges collapsed as a result of the quake. Several did die, but it could have been a lot worse.

Kind of puts things in perspective as I recover from my disappointment of my Texas Rangers failing to reach the World Series for a third straight year.

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