steve marantz

Episode 9: 1989 Oakland A's

steve marantz
Episode 9: 1989 Oakland A's

It’s Wednesday, October 17, 1989. Baseball fans await Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants -- two Bay Area rivals.

Tony LaRussa manages the A’s.  Their lineup is power-laden with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Parker,  Ricky Henderson, Carney Lansford and Terry Steinbach.  Their deep  pitching staff features starters Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Storm Davis and Bob Welch, and closer Dennis Eckersley.

The Giants are managed by Roger Craig. Their lineup features National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark, Robby Thompson, Brett Butler and Matt Williams. But a ragged and thin pitching staff, led by 40 year old starter Rick Reuschel and closer Craig Lefferts, puts the Giants at a distinct disadvantage.

The A’s won Games 1 and 2 in Oakland. Now the series has shifted to Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Game time is 5:35 p.m.

 At 5:04 pm a subtle vibration shakes the ballpark. Within a few seconds the vibration becomes a bouncing motion. The outfield light standards begin to sway. The field rolls like a wave. Windows tremble in the enclosed boxes below the second deck. Cracks appear in the concrete aisle of Section 53 in the upper deck. Debris falls from the ceiling of the ground floor concourse.

In the clubhouses players see smoke rise from the air vents. The power goes out and auxiliary lights come on. Giants manager Roger Craig feels a rumbling beneath his feet. Then he hears one of his players call out, “Earthquake!” Quickly, players, coaches and managers exit the clubhouses and head for the parking lot.

What Candlestick Park experiences is the  Loma Prieta earthquake -- so named because it involves the Loma Prieta segment of the San Andreas Fault System in northern California.  It starts 60 miles south of San Francisco --- near Santa Cruz -- and covers those 60 miles in about 23 seconds. The earthquake registers at 6.9 -- just below the 7.0 magnitude that defines a major earthquake.

Loma Prieta kills 63 people and injures another 3700. 366 businesses and 11,000 homes are destroyed. Property damage amounts to $6 billion.

But there are no serious injuries at Candlestick because it had been retrofitted to withstand seismic shocks. The World Series is postponed for 10 days while the Bay Area digs itself out. When it resumes, the A’s finish off the Giants in four games.

History remembers the 1989 A’s as as a footnote to one of baseball’s most unusual and tragic seasons. As good as they were, they were no match for an earthquake.

Photos: (top) Damaged building in San Francisco. (Bottom) 1. Oakland A’s players escort friends and loved ones to safety minutes after the earthquake struck Candlestick Park. 2. Collapsed freeway in Oakland. 3. Survivors in San Francisco.

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