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A Brief History of Bay Area Baseball

| October 28, 2010
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Far before fans cheered on the Giants and the A’s, the Pacifics and the Oaklands ruled Bay Area baseball. Delve into the history of baseball in the Bay Area with the Pacific Coast League, the Nisei League and the World Series earthquake.

What are your favorite moments in Bay Area baseball lore? Tell us.

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About the Author ()

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's Senior Interactive News Producer. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive. Lisa specializes in visual journalism, including photography and data. Reach Lisa Pickoff-White at lpickoffwhite@kqed.org.
  • http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=100000154174412&notes_tab=app_2347471856#!/note.php?note_id=162890431197 Mike Rodgers

    20 Years Ago This Week, as We Waited for the World Series to Start …

    by Mike Rodgers on Wednesday, posted originally as a facebook note, October 21, 2009 at 9:40am.Note: Thanks to TV cameraman Kevin Vahey (aka as “Fenway” at http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com and elsewhere) for initiating these recollections with a similar post on his facebook page earlier today.

    Dateline Oct 17th, 1989, a couple minutes after 5PM …

    I was in the nosebleed section of center field, having bought into a ticket package with some co-workers for the following year to get seats for the ’89 Cubs-Giants playoff games. At 1st, we thought it was everyone stomping their feet (a common cheer mechanism at Candlestick) but a few extra seconds of shaking told us it was something much,much bigger.

    The engineer in me told my mind at that moment we were done for, and it was the 1st time in my few short years in CA that I was really scared by an earthquake. I really thought we’d go down from that several 100 feet in the air location, but the quake intended design of the park worked well, with only minor superficial damage at the 3 expansion joints spaced 120 degrees apart on the circle shaped structure. The structure of the park acted as a quake wave transfer function in couple of ways to make the quake sensations different for us in the stands vs someone on the ground. One, it dampened the magnitude of the strongest motion effects, so the quake didn’t seem as big to us in the stands as it was to others at home or at work in the south bay and on the peninsula when I compared notes with friends later.

    The only guy who was really shook up was the stadium workman who happened to be high in the lights doing a repair when the quake hit. The lights are essentially independent structures, steel I beams anchored outside the stadium structure, and so they were swaying wildly but safely for many minutes. If you can find it, the eyewitness account from the crewman is pretty harrowing.

    Hence, after the quake, we in the stands were still waiting for the game to get going, because we didn’t realize how big the quake actually was (after all this is CA and we’re used to a little shaking now and then). Being at the world series, some folks had mini TVs about every row and half, and we started to see the news feeds with chopper cam views of the bay bridge failure and ground cams of the marina district damage which lead us to look out the stadium and seeing the thin plume of smoke rising from the fires in the Marina district in the distance and we started saying to each other “maybe there WON’T be a game after all!”

    Secondly, the stadium structure acted kind of like an antenna for the smaller quakes waves of various sorts, and for the nearly hour after the quake that most of us remained in the stands, we could feel almost constant aftershocks through the stadium structure through the concrete at our feet. A couple of minutes after the quake, the PA system made the following announcement: “In the event of an emergency, please head to the exits in an orderly fashion…”, which kind of left us hanging, waiting for more, either follow up instructions or maybe, hopefully the game to start. Little did we know, that was the last that would be heard from the PA system that day.

    The only guy who was really shook up was the stadium workman who happened to be high in the lights doing a repair when the quake hit. The lights are essentially independent structures, steel I beams anchored outside the stadium structure, and so they were swaying wildly but safely for many minutes. If you can find it, the eyewitness account from the crewman is pretty harrowing.

    Hence, after the quake, we in the stands were still waiting for the game to get going, because we didn’t realize how big the quake actually was (after all this is CA and we’re used to a little shaking now and then). Being at the world series, some folks had mini TVs about every row and half, and we started to see the news feeds with chopper cam views of the bay bridge failure and ground cams of the marina district damage which lead us to look out the stadium and seeing the thin plume of smoke rising from the fires in the Marina district in the distance and we started saying to each other “maybe there WON’T be a game after all!”

    Secondly, the stadium structure acted kind of like an antenna for the smaller quakes waves of various sorts, and for the nearly hour after the quake that most of us remained in the stands, we could feel almost constant aftershocks through the stadium structure through the concrete at our feet. A couple of minutes after the quake, the PA system made the following announcement: “In the event of an emergency, please head to the exits in an orderly fashion…”, which kind of left us hanging, waiting for more, either follow up instructions or maybe, hopefully the game to start. Little did we know, that was the last that would be heard from the PA system that day.

    What had actually happened was the emergency backup power supplies at the park had never been completely hooked up just by themselves to all the emergency power circuits at the park, and when they made that PA announcement, they blew out the emergency power circuits, and they had no further ability to communicate to the mostly still full stadium of fans. Some folks did leave immediately after the quake. A couple of our friends returned from the bathrooms, where they had been really spooked being in a small enclosed concrete space when the lights went out and the place shook for 15 sec; they said goodbye and left right away, looking at us like we were nuts to stay. Near us in center field was one of the 3 expansion joints, and up near the top of the upper deck where the expansion joint followed the staircase, the stands were curiously empty along the stairs in a large triangle near the top 15 rows or so. Later, a co-worker who had seats there, told me the folks across the aisle/expansion joint were moving several feet away and back closer to each other during the quake’s 15 seconds, scaring those fans enough to leave immediately after the shaking stopped.

    Finally, in the range of about 45 minutes after the quake, the authorities realized they could drive SFPD squad cars onto the field via the service entrances and use the PAs off the squad cars to ask everyone to quietly leave the park. Hard to imagine, but we were still waiting hopefully for the game we really knew was not going to start. In quiet fashion, we all headed to the exits and out into the parking lots.

    There were many learnings on how to handle such events from an emergency response standpoint. At the time, I was the ERT building coordinator for one of our largest office buildings on the largest Santa Clara campus for Intel. In the weeks and months after the quake, as a group, the site safety direct management teams and the ERT coordinators had a very difficult time pushing upper management into actually doing a simple test during the holidays on each of our campuses: turning off the main power supply grids and actually powering up all the emergency power nets with our local backup power supplies and UPS battery banks. This was a very difficult thing to do, as at the time, the Mission College Intel campus also contained the world’s 1st 8 inch wafer production chip fabrication plant (which ran 24/7), Intel’s world headquarters and largest office building, as well as several other facilities (including one building that held most of the major compute hardware for all of Santa Clara). There were also a lot of other learnings on how to establish local communications, and regional chains of command and control centers and many new company internal and regional plans were initiated or updated as a result.

    Leaving the park with my friends about 50 minutes after the quake, we mulled around and hung out by some of the local TV trailers watching news feeds. I quickly realized trying to go anywhere was useless, as all bridges and the BART tunnel were shut down until safety assessment inspections by structural and civil engineers were completed. Essentially, there was massive traffic gridlock in a circle around the bay, as many desperate folks were even trying to get to places like Marin, by heading south and wrapping all around the bay. I later heard stories of folks taking 8 or 10 hours or more to get home that night.

    My friends and I got separated in the hullaballo in the parking lots and I just hung out at the park with small groups of folks and the media teams for several hours until I could see traffic at least starting to clear out by the stadium parking lot entrances. I of course, had dashed to the park at the very last minute from work, and had arrived on literally fumes left in my gas tank. When I finally got in my car a few hours after the quake, I needed to find a gas station quick or be really stranded. Getting off 101 south at the 1st exit, I headed into the neighborhood a few blocks from the Cow Palace and had to aggressively drive like the most obnoxious Boston or Mexican taxi driver to get through the local traffic snarls and next to a pump at the 1st gas station which was mobbed like it was the ’73 oil crisis all over again.

    Fully fueled again, KCBS announced the San Mateo bridge was reopening just as I got a few minutes south of the park, and I was one of the very first cars onto the span as I headed homeward in sparse traffic over the Bay (while CA237, 20 miles south at the bottom of the bay remained a gridlocked mess). Even I580 over the hill home to Dublin was relatively light at that point and I arrived home easily about an hour after leaving the park, My first wife (now “the ex”), who tended to the overly dramatic, was certain I had perished in the quake, and I arrived home to a funeral vigil of candles lit all over the house, while she was heavily started on the drinking phase of a traditional Irish wake. Needless to say she was very glad to see me, as was my sister in Phoenix, who was also certain I was trapped and dead in the Cypress structure, until I reached her by phone about 48 hours later.

    Many days later, I was able to finally attend 3 of the 4 games as the A’s swept the, to this day, still title starved Giants, who have yet to win in more than 50 years on the left coast. I swapped one of my Candlestick tix with a buddy at work who had connections with the AL league office, and also attended one of the games in Oakland. My fellow ticket package owners, most of whom were local native Giants fans, were appalled I was rooting for the A’s and “pizza faced cheater” McGwire & co., as I’ve always preferred the AL over the NL, even through the lean 70s when the NL really had the better batters. It was actually the 1st World Series I attended since heading to Milwaukee in ’82 with no tickets in hand for game 4 with Tom and Eden Elieff (who didn’t know each other at the time). A few years later,Tom and Eden surreptitiously met again via chance meetings with me and some months later, they were married in a ceremony at the seats Tom sat at in game 4, after we miraculously managed to get seats after arriving very late to County Stadium that day in ’82. But that’s a whole ‘nuther story altogether …
    .

  • Amanda

    I’ll never forget Will Clark’s first major league at-bat. He homered off of Nolan Ryan. In that one swing, you could tell there was something special about him. I got the same feeling watching Buster Posey’s first at-bat.

  • Lizzy

    Maybe not favorite but most memorable: listening to the ’89 World Series on the radio when the earthquake happened and my poor little 5-year-old brother having a massive panic attack because he thought baseball was over forever.

  • Jeanne

    My dad took me to see the NY Yankees play the A’s when they were in Kansas City and I got to meet Mickey Mantle! I was 4 years old and had a huge crush on him. He signed a baseball for me that I still have to this day.