Monday, October 26, 2009

Five Hundred Posts

I've reached five hundred posts on this blog. I wanted to get the exact 500th, but somehow I missed it by about ten. Oops! I've enjoyed writing about baseball, and it seems like quite a bit more than 500 posts over the last 4 1/2 years. That's about 100 posts or so a year, or about one every three days or so. I'd love to increase that frequency, but will need to be in a writing groove in more of a writing environment to do so. Maybe that's my New Year's resolution for October.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

1989 Earthquake Aftermath

In a previous post, I wrote about my experience the day the earthquake occurred. The days, weeks and months that followed were ones of confusion and waiting. Even controversy. It turned out that there were far fewer deaths in the freeway collapse than previously feared, as most people left work early to watch the World Series! My good friend Mike was one such non-casualty. At the time of the quake, he would have been on that freeway on his way home, but he was already at the game.

The Bay Bridge was out of commission for months as a replacement section had to be constructed. This was a major bridge with six figure vehicle traffic each day. A new freeway in Oakland took years to be built. The World Series was delayed (ten days eventually) as there was structural damage to Candlestick Park. Expansion joints were located below seating section stairways. The concrete steps crumbled, and fans could see the parking lot through the new holes. There was talk of relocating the Series to Los Angeles. Over the dead bodies of 62,000 Giants fans would their first Series in 27 years be played at Dodger Stadium! Some people felt that a sporting event was so insignificant in light of such a disaster that it should be cancelled altogether. Cooler heads prevailed as the structural damage was fixed, and game 3 was played at the 'Stick after all. It turned out to be what the Bay Area needed as therapy.

The quake stirred fans, as they showed up for the postponed game 3 wearing hard hats with their team logo. The A's swept the Giants, and decided that in light of the catastrophe, they would celebrate their victory in the locker room without alcoholic beverages.

Another friend of mine was driving on the Bridge at the time of the quake and collapse. He had just passed the section that would collapse. Then when he reached the joint between the bridge and terra firma, the buckled pavement scraped the underside of his car. Not knowing what happened, he pulled off and checked his car out. He looked back up the bridge, and there was no traffic whatsoever in an eerie sight.

Having two teams close by has always been a blessing for me. Getting to drive to every game is something few fans have ever claimed. The '89 quake and Series are things I will never forget.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


World Series Ticket: $200
Airfare: $595
Hotel: $95
Seeing Manny take a mulligan off the first tee shot tomorrow morning: Priceless

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Phillies Have To Win

If the Phillies don't win the NLCS, then it's either the Dodgers and Angels in the World Series, or the Dodgers and Yankees. How could I watch either of these matchups?

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Tuesday, October 17, 1989, 5:04pm, minutes before the start of game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's. It registered 7.1 on the Richter scale. Just prior to this I was in the upper deck at Candlestick Park visiting some friends who also had tickets. I was on my way down the ramp to the lower deck, and was near the bottom of the ramp with a friend, who said, "Is that an earthquake?" I stopped, felt some shaking and looked down. My head was still but I could see the ground move several feet in each direction under me. Yes it was an earthquake, and a huge one. It shook for 45 terrifying seconds.

There were 62,000 fans there, and when the shaking stopped, there was dead silence. Everybody looked up and around. A few seconds later, a monstrous cheer erupted. Welcome to San Francisco! "We had an earthquake on national TV! Awesome! Welcome to California!" could be heard by many of the fans. No visible damage. We proceeded to the concession line to buy some goodies. Just then, the power went out. The cash registers were electric, so no change could be made because the drawers were stuck shut. The concessionaires took the next bill up. We made it back to our seats (seven rows behind home plate were where my season tickets were.) People were dazed and confused. The scoreboard and PA system were not working due to the power outage.

Players and police were out on the field. A chant of "Play Ball!" erupted from the crowd. Who needs a scoreboard? Scoreboard, schmoreboard. A fan just behind us had a Sony Watchman (remember those?) He said that the Bay Bridge had collapsed. This was simply unbelievable news. A few minutes later (how can you sense time when something like this happens?), a police car with a hand held mega phone blurred something out that sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher. We were all told to go home. Go home? This is the World Series!

Once out into the parking lot, we saw a TV news van with an open door. There were many television monitors, and since it was operating on battery power, we could see the damage being broadcast by the blimp. What we saw were truly horrific pictures. A section of the Bay Bridge collapsed. A freeway had pancaked on top of itself and miles of it were laying on the ground. A massive fire broke out in the Marina district. This was a major catastrophe.

The SFPD told fans to stay close to the stadium, as bridges were out. All the other bridges in the Bay Area were closed for inspection. We had to wait. We figured that we would be there a while, so we proceeded to a mini-mart at a neighboring RV park to buy some beer. We bought a case. The door was blocked by a table, as they didn't let people in. They took orders and made sales at the door. When we turned around to leave, there was a line behind us hundreds of people deep. Suddenly we got questions about where we got the beer. Not wanting to wait in line, people started bidding on our beer! We sold to the highest bidder and walked away with eighty bucks.

After quite a while of waiting, it was getting dark. Police were being called away because there was heavy looting downtown. It was at this point we got scared. We decided to make a run for it, and anticipated heavy traffic as we headed 50 miles down to San Jose to wrap around the bottom of the bay and up the other side another 70 miles home. It was the only way home without crossing a bridge. By the time we got to the San Mateo bridge, it was open. We hit a Denny's on the way home, and it was filled with fans who were talking about the event. I eventually got home at 1:30am.

I will never forget that day or the experience of that earthquake. Hundreds of people were feared dead from the freeway collapse. Some tourists from Connecticut managed to shoot some video from the collapsed section of the bridge, with the eerie sight of a car crashing to the deck below. The replacement section had a different paving surface, a constant reminder of that day. I will write more about this event, its aftermath and what happened in the postponement of the Series. [Update: a followup post can be found here]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1989 World Series and Earthquake

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the all-Bay Area World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's, and the major earthquake that struck the Bay Area just minutes before game 3 at Candlestick Park. I was there. The World Series was more than major news here, and the earthquake caused much death and damage.

I'll be taking several posts to tell the story as I lived it.

The A's beat the Blue Jays in the ALCS, while the Giants took care of the Cubs in the NLCS. Ticket sales were simply unbelievable. Tens of thousands of tickets went on sale through a major ticket agency, and were sold out within a matter of hours. Approximately ten million calls were placed in a frantic attempt to buy tickets, jamming phone circuits. But this was no problem at all for me and some friends.

I already had Series tickets for the games in San Francisco, as I was a season ticket holder. But I pulled a major coup in accidentally discovering a back door into the ticket agency's phone system from trying to buy concert tickets months previously. The ticket agency was given a block of about a hundred phone numbers - in consecutive numerical order - by the phone company. A call to the main number, if busy, was rolled over to the next number, and so on. You received a busy signal only if all hundred lines were busy. I figured out that if I dialed a number up at the higher end of numbers, I could get in fairly easy, as higher numbers waited a fraction of a second for all the previous numbers to roll over. A direct dial on a higher number usually resulted in a connection.

So, out of the millions of phone calls made, a small five employee architecture firm was able to buy 2 percent of all tickets sold within a two hour period. I first bought my A's tickets, giving me tickets for all seven games. Other people in the office bought all their own personal tickets. We prepped for this coup by getting credit cards from friends, family, and everybody on our company softball team. We closed the office and made purchases until we ran out of friends' credit cards. We were swimming in tickets, and all of our friends were ecstatic at getting seats for the Series. Life was beautiful in October, 1989.

Coming Soon: Foul Balls and Fair

My family recently moved. As we packed, I came across my box of baseballs. I paused to go through them. I have a collection of balls over the years consisting of foul balls, home run balls, batting practice balls and other balls thrown up into the stands. The box is an empty motor oil case, full the top. Each ball had a piece of tape on it listing when and where (if I knew that info) I retrieved it.

I went through each one. I have fielded ten foul balls in four different ballparks and eight home runs in two ballparks. I put each one into a separate sandwich bag, as a few pieces of tape came loose. I was able to piece them back together based on the league president signature on each ball and when that president served crossed with the date on the piece of tape.

I'll be writing soon about each foul ball and home run ball I retrieved, plus other notable ones.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frozen Division Series

With the other three series being sweeps, the already snow-delayed Phils/Rox series now has sole attention of everybody in baseball. If this thing goes five games with another delay or two, the other teams might just go into hibernation...

Note To Giants' Marketing Team:

We're still in this thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Go Phillies?

The Phillies are the only team in the playoffs that I don't have a problem with their winning the World Series. I hate, Hate, HATE the Dodgers. I hate the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels. I dislike the Cardinals and Rockies.

So, I'll root for the Phils. First, they're playing the Not-Giants in the NLDS.

[Update: In the comments section, shallowfrozenwater asks about the Twins. I noticed this after I posted it. Shows you where the Twinkies are in my thinking. They don't nearly exist. I don't like their stupid dome and their homer hanky World Series titles. So, they are the lesser of four evils in the American League. Phils/Twinks?]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yet Another Post-Season Scheduling Absurdity

Okay, Major League Baseball has a bunch of idiots running the post-season scheduling. I've written about this before, here, here, here and here. And here and here.

What I never knew prior to this year is that the home field advantage team gets to choose which division series schedule to play in. They can make their decision up until one hour after the regular season is completed. So the Yankees got to choose, but with one problem. The regular season didn't end until the Twins/Tigers tie-breaker was completed - on Tuesday, due to a Vikings game on Monday Night Football. So the Yankees could screw the Red Sox by making them play the next day with a warning only hours before the game. The tie-breaker game went 12 innings. Instead, they chose to screw the winner of the tie-breaker by forcing them to take a red-eye to Yankee Stadium where they would play the next day on sleep they could get only on the plane.

Baseball desperately needs to get rid of the guess work and pre-schedule which divisions play which and who hosts which games. They also need to ditch the network time slot pecking order. I'd hate to be a team's traveling secretary in the month of October.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Saying Goodbye To Rich Aurelia

Today was the Giants last home game of the year. Long time Giant Rich Aurelia played his last home game today. Eleven of his fifteen years were spent wearing the orange and black. Richie was a fan favorite. He had a stellar 2001 along side a nuclear year by Barry Bonds, and a 2002 that saw him rack up 17 RBI in the post season. Back in the early 2000's, my brother-in-law sported a goatee and he looked a dead ringer for Richie. The resemblance was simply stunning. He even wore an Aurelia shirt for a while.

Rich will never be forgotten among Giants fans, and today they paid tribute with numerous standing ovations. His last at bat was followed by taking his position at short stop in the ninth inning. Manager Bruce Bochy pulled the class move by replacing him before the first pitch of the inning so he could be cheered as he came off the field. Nora had the tickets for today's game and we're sure she shed tears for fondness of Rich.

We will miss you, Rich.