Last fall, I heard Al Michaels on the radio talking about a bit what it was like for him as an ABC broadcaster at Candlestick on the 17th of October, 1989. He mentioned how he was doing the voiceover for a package of clips about the World Series when things started to rumble. He got out “I tell you what, we’re having an earth-” before the broadcast cut out. Still, not long after the quake ended, some of the Giants and A’s fans at Candlestick started chanting “Play Ball.” Apparently for a while, people there thought it was just a preliminary shake before the baseball game got going. But for me and my family in the South Bay, things were a little more urgent.
We were sitting at home in front of the TV, urgently anticipating the game, and when the earthquake started, it took a moment or two to realize what was happening. But then we stumbled to our feet, ran outside, through the already open sliding door, past the patio and into the backyard. It felt like the ground was pushing me up and out, basically roughhousing in a very insistent way: my brother bragged about his strength afterward when I said that at first I thought he was pushing me. The neighbor’s pool was making big waves, but had not cracked. We wandered back inside, maybe a little dazed, but not stunned, and the damage inside was limited to a fallen-down bookcase. The neighborhood also didn’t have much apparent damage.
That night we just watched the constant coverage of that one car disappearing over the top deck of the Bay Bridge, the burning Marina as seen from helicopters, and the Cypress collapse. I had recently gotten a poster from Chevron that showed two muscle-bound giants, representing the A’s and Giants, standing in the Bay astride the Bay Bridge as they pulled against each other in their struggle to seize the World Series pennant they both gripped. That night, the Bay Bridge was cracked, the Nimitz was destroyed, and thoughts of the World Series were on hold, to say the least.