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Posts Tagged ‘Candlestick Park’

I recently talked with Bruce Jenkins, the longtime sports columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, about baseball in the Bay Area in 1989. Of course that includes Loma Prieta, and here’s his response to my question about what the earthquake was like for him, at Candlestick Park:

I was in the upper deck, hanging out with some friends. I remember the ominous sound, the tremendous rumbling as the earthquake approached us. And as we rocked back and forth up there, we were pretty sure the whole place would come down. When it stopped, and everyone was alive in a stadium that had withstood the onslaught, there was tremendous cheering.

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My son, Peter, and I were sitting in the stands just beyond the left field foul pole at Candlestick Park for Game Three of the World Series between the Athletics and the Giants. It was very warm that day, and I was sitting in my seat waiting for the opening ceremonies and feeling a bit tired. I had gotten up early to get my work down in Berkeley and get back out to Dublin and pick up Peter from school. Originally I had planned to drive to San Leandro and take BART to the Peninsula, then take a bus to the park to avoid the traffic. But as I approached the Castro Valley area I saw that it was only 1:30 and the game wasn’t going to start for hours, so I drove all the way. That ended up being a really good decision.

Peter and I walked around inside the park, getting souvenirs and food before finding our seats. Batting practice was still going on and at one point Mark McGwire hit a booming shot right at my seat. I stood up to catch it and it slammed off my hand and up into the seats behind me. That hand was sore for days afterward.

So as 5:00 approached I was almost dozing in the warmth, watching a couple of field people walk across the grass with gigantic bunches of balloons in tow. The crowd was buzzing and the excitement level was starting to ramp up. At 5:04 the first sign something was up came when I heard a rhythmic stomping sound. The stands under my feet started bouncing and for a moment I thought people were stamping their feet. I heard a roaring, rumbling noise and there was a jet flying overhead. What the? And then the full force of the quake hit. I stood up and Peter clutched at me while the whole place started to rock n’ roll. The neat, orderly lines of seats seemed to sway in a blur and the light stanchions moved back and forth. I heard a glass crash in the sky box above me and the large plexi billboard nearby was putting up a spooky racket as well. Finally it all settled down to a low rumble and we all stood in shocked silence, 54,000 people wondering what was next.

Then a huge cheer went up, as if we’d all just come off the scariest ride at the amusement park. Everyone was chattering on about what we had felt and there was no real damage done to the stadium that we could see. Then the first images started coming in on the many portable TV’s folks had brought. The Cypress, the Bay Bridge, Santa Cruz, the Marina District. Oh, God.

Peter and I stood around for about 30 minutes and from the looks of things I guessed early on that this game wasn’t happening. We walked back out to the car, parked in the small shoreline area outside the main lot. As we walked, I looked back at Candlestick and saw the column of smoke coming up over the horizon from the Marina fire. We stayed in the lot until close to 11PM, monitoring the road and bridge conditions on the radio before I decided it was time to go. We got out onto 101 South and crawled all the way to the San Mateo Bridge while I heard that it was open, then not, then open again. As we drove over the bridge Peter fell into a fitful sleep while I fretted about the possibility of an aftershock knocking the bridge down and hurling us into the water.

Safely on the east side I finally got us back to Dublin, happy to be unscathed but worried about my co-workers from Berkeley. The next day I went to Custom Process, the photo lab where I worked, to check the damage. All the chemistry in my film machines was ruined by cross contamination and the stuff was all over the floor. A clock that hung in the main room had fallen face down, and when I picked it up it had stopped at exactly 5:04. I still have that clock. All our co-workers were accounted for save one. She had just been coming off the Cypress structure as the quake hit and had seen the destruction in her rear view mirror. She drove straight home and didn’t communicate with anyone for three days. We all had our way of dealing with it. I went to UC Berkeley and donated blood. Peter was up in the middle of the night for a few days afterward with bad dreams. The whole Bay Area was in a state of shock for weeks. I hope never to see the Really Big One if that wasn’t It.

By Ed Newbegin

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