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Old 10-18-2014, 03:56 AM
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I remember setting with my dad in his 58 t-bird listening to the game that was one of the best time's I ever had with my dad...[/

I remember setting with my dad in his 58 t-bird listening to the game that was one of the best time's I ever had with my dad...

Memories of the World Series that rocked 25 years ago



It lasted less than half a minute. It seemed like forever.

Those were the opening lines of my dispatch from Candlestick Park, Oct. 17, 1989. The images remain indelible 25 years later of the earthquake that rocked the World Series and in seconds diverted the story from sports to death and destruction in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Most vivid: the memory of typing my account of the most surreal day of my career in a darkened hotel room while wearing glowing toy bee antennae to illuminate the screen of my primitive laptop. There was no way to foresee that earlier on a warm, sunny afternoon that was atypical of the stadium where the wind once blew a pitcher off the mound.

At 5:04 p.m., Pacific time, I was nine rows from the top of the upper deck of Candlestick in the auxiliary press area behind home plate waiting for the third game of the series dubbed the Battle of the Bay Bridge, between the Giants and A's.

First came the sound, as if a train were roaring through the outfield. Then the ballpark began shaking like a gelatin mold on a platter, and I glanced up to see the roof that ringed the upper deck doing the wave.

The nation's worst earthquake since 1906 lasted no more than 20 seconds. It was long enough to flash a vison of the whole stadium crumbling into itself, and to wonder if I could somehow ride it safely to the ground as I watched the players rush from the dugouts amid a cloud of dust rising from the field.

No wonder my knees were wobbly when it ended. When it did, the crowd of 62,000 let out a massive cheer, of relief and emotional release.

Now, with the Giants on the brink of hosting another World Series in a newer, modern ballpark, I am struck by the thought of how the aftermath of the quake would play out differently today.

At the time, with no Internet or cellphones, everyone in the stadium was in the dark about the widespread damage and loss of life (63 people were killed in the Bay Area), media included.

For those of us who had never experienced an earthquake, the only way to process what happened was to consult with those who had. A firefighter from Petaluma, Calif., seated near the media area, said, "This was a big, big earthquake. I'd get down out of here now."

Confirmation of that assessment came with the first television images showing the fallen span of the Bay Bridge with cars dangling on the edge of the pavement, viewed on my battery powered Sony Watchman that seemed so cutting-edge techy at the time.

The process of gathering and reporting the story was painstakingly old-fashioned. Much like war-zone correspondents, to tell it was to experience it.

We sent initial reports from the scene in the stadium via landlines, some enterprising reporters lighting the boxes from their media dinners on fire in order to see to transmit their stories in the fading light.

So began the night the lights went out in San Francisco. Baseball, the source of much pride in the Bay Area with both of its teams in the World Series, was rendered superfluous. We were ushered out of the stadium and onto city buses that got us to within walking distance of downtown.

A city with a high homeless population became the city of the homeless. Some tried to turn it into a festive occasion, singing and talking in groups around portable radios. Many wandered like zombies, footsteps crunching on shards of broken glass.

One entrepreneur set up shop on the corner of Union Square selling springy bee-like antennae with day-glo lights at the end, similar to those John Belushi wore in portraying a Killer Bee on Saturday Night Live. Some green lights, some red, some blue.

The vendor said that he sold the "Space Lights" year-round at fairs for $4. Earthquake price: $5. They sold as fast as he could pocket the money.

It made for the ludicrous sight of hundreds of humanoid bees walking the streets. It looked as if the Martians had landed. It was the only way for anyone without a flashlight to see where they were going on the darkened streets.

It also facilitated writing my second story of the night in a hotel without electrical power while my colleague Mitch Albom did his radio report to Detroit in the dark on the phone in the bathroom.

Yes, I still have the Space Lights, and they still work.

The next day brought a clearer picture of the extent of the disaster. Most of the deaths occurred across the bay in Oakland, where the double-decked highway collapsed on rush-hour traffic, sandwiching many vehicles between tons of concrete and steel. Cars were squashed like beer cans to only 4 inches high.

In San Francisco, the aftermath was less gruesome, but bizarre sights were scattered throughout the city.

I visited the fashionable Marina District where the sloping streets were lined with brightly colored townhouses that look like gingerbread cakes. Several of the multi-story houses in a four-block square area were crushed as if dropped by a clumsy baker.

I did not see Joe DiMaggio, who appeared in news photos among the residents there waiting to be allowed to go inside their homes.

A biography about the Yankee Clipper, "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life," later detailed how he was seen carrying a black garbage bag on the street there that day. He reportedly rebuffed offers to carry the bag for him, according to the book, because there was $600,000 in cash in it.

Curious what stands out in memories of such an event. I recall encountering a musician standing outside the Moscone Center carrying all of his worldly possessions, a guitar and two canvas bags.

When the quake hit he was about to take a shower in his room in a downtrodden residence hotel. His roommate had just put on a Motley Crue tape called "Rattlesnake Shake."

He cranked it up. The room started shaking. A picture of the Rolling Stones tacked to the wall began to dance. The two men, themselves rock musicians, knew it wasn't only rock and roll when a wall split from floor to ceiling and they were staring into the next apartment.

They dashed outside to find the street cracked along the center line with water spewing up from broken pipes as if from a fountain.

"The more we ran, the worse it got," the man told me. "I know one thing: If I ever hear that song again, I'm going to head for an open field."

I returned to San Francisco 10 days after the earthquake as focus returned to baseball. The Oakland A's won the final two games to complete one of the most dominant four-game World Series sweeps that is barely recalled as a footnote to the event that will never be forgotten.

I visited Candlestick Park on one more occasion, when the Miami Dolphins played the 49ers in 2012. It was aged, run down. But I couldn't help but recall how it stood up to great quake (6.9 on the Richter scale) even as it shook like a bowl of Jello.

The Giants moved to majestic AT&T Park many years ago, and the 49ers have since relocated to high-tech Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

Very soon, The Stick will be knocked down by a demolition crew to pave the way for redevelopment.

Nothing lasts forever. Except the surreal memories.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/mlb/...ago/ar-BB9EwdE
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