clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series, Interrupted

New, 46 comments

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

ABC's Al Michaels, as told to a nationwide audience on Friday October 27, ten days after Game 3 of the 1989 Fall Classic was scheduled to start; ten days after our world (and the World Series) was turned upside down:

"At this very moment ten days ago, we began our telecast with an aerial view of San Francisco; always a spectacular sight, and particularly so on that day because the cloudless sky of October 17 was ice blue, and the late-day sun sparkled like a thousand jewels.

That picture was very much a mirror of the feel and the mood that had enveloped the Bay Area...and most of Northern California. Their baseball teams, the Giants and A's, had won pennants, and the people of this region were still basking in the afterglow of each team's success. And this great American sporting classic, the World Series, was, for the time being, exclusively theirs.

Then of course the feeling of pure radiance was transformed into horror and grief and despair- in just fifteen seconds..."

1989 San Francisco Earthquake - World Series footage (via herbnspices)


My personal encounter with the Loma Prieta earthquake is admittedly boring. I'm thinking that's a good thing.

I left work at 5:00 on the dot, with my brother John. Before heading north to San Leandro to watch the game at Mom's, we first had to pick up John's step-son Aaron from daycare in Fremont. As we went under the freeway and prepared to make a left that would send us southbound, the car jolted. John said, somewhat calmly, "I think I have a flat." He pulled over to an empty dirt lot on the right. When we got out of the car, there were four or five cars next to us, with all of their drivers thinking they had blown out a tire. We all looked around at each other and nodded knowingly.

"Earthquake."

The radio that was bringing us the pre-game show was no longer functional. We arrived in Fremont with no hassle, still unable to know how strong the quake was, still thinking that we had a game to catch.

It took us more than an hour to get home, and instead of the voices of Bill and Lon to get us through traffic, we were greeted with siren after eerie siren.

Upon reaching Mom's, we saw that the TV was out, and had learned that the game had been cancelled. Inside Candlestick Park, the feeling was like "top that, East Coast!" Michaels called it the greatest opening in the history of television. Giant announcer Hank Greenwald, upon learning that the quake had been registered at 6.9 quipped, "Yeah but the East Germans only gave it a 6.2."

But soon news began to trickle in of the horrors outside the stadium: a freeway in Oakland had fallen, the Marina District was in flames, and the Bay Bridge- very much the symbol of this Series- had collapsed.

 Quake5

In an odd twist, authorities would later say that were it not for the World Series, more lives would have been lost. People who normally would have been on the Cypress at 5:04 were either at the ballpark, or had left early to watch the game at home.

At first, Commissioner Fay Vincent had hoped to resume the World Series as quickly as possible, if for no other reason, to show the rest of the world that the Bay Area was ok. The first scheduled date for Game 3, Part II was for Tuesday October 24, then changed to Friday October 27. While our baseball heroes were sent home, real-life heroes emerged. Dave Stewart wore both hats, driving to the Cypress section of I-880 for many days after the quake.

"There was something inside me that wasn't settled", Stew says in the wonderful book "Three Weeks in October". "I kept coming back and telling my friends, ‘There are people alive in there. I know it.'"