#44 Loma Prieta

In case you were wondering, Loma Prieta is the name of the highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains.  It is also the name given to the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that arrived in San Francisco at 5:04PM on October 17, 1989. At the time, Bob Welch of the Oakland A’s was warming up in the bullpen, preparing to start Game 3 of the “Bay Bridge World Series”, between the San Francisco Giants and the A’s.  The A’s led the series 2-0, in a series that would only go four games.  As Welch delivered his 11th warm-up toss, the earthquake shook the stadium and resulted in a 10-day delay to the scheduled Game 3. 

Bob Welch put down his glove, and as it ended up, never threw a pitch in the ’89 World Series.

We often see tropical storms and hurricanes and cyclones televised as they unfold as gigantic storms or high waves.  It is not very often that we are watching a live TV broadcast that catches an earthquake on camera.  This was truly an ironic event that the earthquake would hit the Bay Area, at game time of a World Series between the only two teams that could possibly be affected by the Loma Prieta quake….San Francisco and Oakland…

SSOMG is still amazed by this incredible coincidence.  What are the odds?  What are the chances?

In 1988 the Series was between the Dodgers and the A’s…and a year later, in 1990 the Series was between Cincinnati and Oakland.  An earthquake in San Francisco would probably not have affected those games.

But here you go, an earthquake, and a big one, on National TV, just prior to the start of the game between the Bay area teams.  Go figure.

Al Michaels, announcer for ABC, was caught mid-sentence,   “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an earth-” with the feed cutting out just before he finished.  Michaels, Tim McCarver, and third man in the TV booth, Jim Palmer grabbed for whatever they could to brace themselves and grabbed on to one another’s legs, leaving all three men with thigh bruises.

Loma Prieta resulted in 63 deaths and over 3,700 injuries in Northern California.  It was determined that injury and loss of life had been mitigated by the fact that Game 3 was scheduled to start within half an hour.  Bay area folks were at home or at the office, in front of televisions preparing to watch the game, and were not on the roadways and bridges that ended up failing or collapsing.  The Goodyear Blimp was already in the air, hovering over the area, and able to help coordinate the emergency efforts and record some of the destruction.

Bob Welch did pitch again.  In fact, Bob won the 1990 Cy Young Award as the American League’s best pitcher.  It certainly shook him up that he never pitched in the ’89 series, but Loma Prieta shook us all up. 

It was a series to remember, a televised earthquake that we will never forget. 

And of course the footnote, an Oakland sweep:  Oakland A’s – 4 wins, San Francisco Giants – 0. 

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