By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ Back in the good old days when men were men and the Marriott hotels cashed personal checks I headed to the front desk looking for cash.
It was an unseasonably warm afternoon for a World Series game so I thought.
I.D. shown, back of check stamped, the woman behind the front desk was hauling cash out of her drawer.
“Really warm for October isn’t it?”
“It’s earthquake weather, sir,” said clerk.
I don’t recall if I gave her a “harummph” in those days — 25 years ago Friday — but I walked away with the cash and shook my head.
Growing up in Canada’s first capital we took a lot of subjects, when we went to class, but Mrs. Lake never taught us the term “earthquake weather.”
About seven hours later the ground began to shake and quake, shaking and quaking a sold-out Candlestick Park of 62,038 along with it.
It wasn’t that scary in the football press box down the left field line. It was reminiscent of the tiny press box hanging off the back of old George Richardson Stadium in Kingston. After the Queen’s Golden Gaels scored a touchdown — Cal Connor, Keith Eaman, Don Bayne, Heino Lillies, Dave Hadden or Stu Lang — students would stand, lock arms, sing and dance the school song.
One row kicking left, the next row kicking right while the press box bobbed up and down.
It wasn’t scary until Larry Millson of the Globe and Mail to my right pointed up. TV sets attached to the wall looked like speed bags Mike Tyson had been banging on and one of two things was about to happen: TVs would plummet onto press row or fly across the press box. Neither did.
The Loma Prieta earthquake (magnitude 6.9) struck the San Francisco/Oakland area at 5:04 coast time, as broadcasters Al Michaels and Tim McCarver were in the midst of their live opening before Game 3 of the Series.
We heard later that it lasted 17 seconds … or “a month” as a San Francisco resident said later.
Little did I know what was going on in Mississauga. My daughter Alicia, then 11, was watching “her show” when they interrupted to show pictures of the upper span of Bay Bridge flattened onto the lower deck and the original report was 2,500 people had perished. A section of I-880 — the double-decked Cypress Structure — pancaked during rush hour. Fires raged in San Fran’s Marina District, home to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
Alicia ran upstairs in tears.
I filed my notes when the phone system finally came back and was told to hit the streets, forgetting to phone home.
We sweet-talked a police sergeant into letting us use his office phone to file stories and we headed downtown.
The Series did not resume until 11 days after. We did not see a lot of batting practice as the few writers who stayed attended commissioner Fay Vincent’s press conference by candle light, were invited into a hotel for a steak diner, along with the homeless (a new hotel lost its refrigeration so rather than have the food go bad …) visited the coroner’s office, interviewed structural experts on whether Candlestick could re-open and watched A’s Dave Stewart feed workers and help at Cypress.
The quake caused 63 deaths — far too many, not a lot less than the initial guesses — and more than $6 billion worth of damage.
Candy Maldonado, then a Giants outfielder, told us how he thought he heard drums in the distance and then the cup of coffee he was holding began to shake. He said he still thinks about that night in 1989 “every time he drives over the Bay Bridge.”
Jays manager Cito Gaston and scout Gordon Lakey were in folding chairs when the chairs began to move. Gaston thought someone had pushed a button to convert the seats for football before remembering he was not in the grandstand.
They headed for the hospitality tent in the centre-field parking lot and ordered a drink. The barmaid said: “Sir, this is no time to be drinking.” Gaston said “Ma’am you couldn’t be more wrong.”
Returning to the Hyatt they were told they couldn’t go up to their rooms, so they slept in the car.
I lost track of our Ken Fidlin and Jim O’Leary, who headed north. Eventually about 5 AM I returned to my hotel which was built strong like a bull.
The next day I opened the draped. The day before there were 15 stories of orange, steel girders railroad spike straight as an office building was going.
The day after the quake the top 10 floors were twisted like a plate of spaghetti.
The World Series opens Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
And the Series moves to San Fran Thursday for Friday’s Game 3.
Hopefully, it is not earthquake weather.