The 1989 World Series is remembered more for what took place off the field that what happened on it.
California’s Bay Area is home to over 7.6 million people. The region includes major cities such as San Francisco, located on a peninsula that borders the west side of San Francisco Bay, and Oakland, which lies to the east. The two cities are connected by the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge [known locally as the Bay Bridge], a four-and-a half mile long structure that carries nearly a quarter-million people a day between the two cities. The area is also served by four underwater lines–called the Transbay Tube–which run under the Bay to move passengers between San Francisco and Oakland.
The “Battle of the Bay” featured the San Francisco Giants, champions of the National League, and the Oakland Athletics, who had won the American League pennant. Oakland came into the series with the best record in baseball [99-63] and were making what would be their second of three straight World Series appearances. In 1988, they had won 104 regular season games before being upset by the Los Angeles Dodgers [Daily Dose, 10/13/16] for the world title. The A’s offense was led by sluggers Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco—the “Bash Brothers”—as well as outfielder Ricky Henderson, baseball’s all-time stolen base king. The pitching staff featured Mike Moore, who Oakland signed as a free agent before the season and led the team in ERA; Dave Stewart, who won 21 games and finished second in Cy Young Award voting; and Dennis Eckersley, who was the best relief pitcher in baseball. After winning the NL West for the second time in three years, San Francisco beat the Chicago Cubs in five games in the League Championship Series. The Giants, who were competing in their first World Series since 1962, were powered by 1989 NL MVP Kevin Mitchell, who hit 47 home runs with 125 RBI, and first baseman Will Clark, who hit .333 in 159 games. San Francisco’s pitching staff was led by right-hander Rick Rueschel, who led the club with 17 wins, and Scott Garrelts, who led the staff in ERA and strikeouts.
The “Bay Bridge Series” marked the fourth time the A’s and Giants had met in the Fall Classic, but the first since 1913. The New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Athletics in 1905, while Philly beat the New Yorkers in 1911 and 1913. Oakland native Dave Stewart took the mound for the A’s for Game One at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, October 14. “Smoke” had been overpowering against Toronto in the ALCS, going 2-0 in 16 innings of work. He was just as devastating against the Giants, tossing a five-hit, complete game shutout. Things were not much different the following afternoon, when Terry Steinbach hit a three-run homer off Rueschel to give the A’s a 5-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
The Series moved to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park—29 miles from the Coliseum—for Game Three on Tuesday, October 17. ABC, which was televising the championship, came on the air at 5:00 pm Pacific time. There was a buzz in the air as “The Stick” hosted its first World Series in 27 years. Former Giants legend Willie Mays [Daily Dose, 8/17/15] was to throw out the first pitch just prior to the 5:35 scheduled start. At 5:04 pm, there was a rumbling, then a fierce jolt that Giants pitcher Mike Krukow later said, “felt like a 600-pound gopher had rolled in from behind the right field fence.” Al Michaels, who was broadcasting the game for ABC, said, “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an earth—-“ and the live feed was lost. Candlestick Park lost power, and the scene on the field was surreal, with players being joined by their families while emergency vehicles were parked in foul territory. As pieces of concrete fell from the upper deck of Candlestick Park, MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, who was in his second month on the job following the passing of Bart Giamatti in September, postponed the game over safety concerns. Johnny Bench [Daily Dose, 12/7/15] was calling the game with Jack Buck [Daily Dose, 2/17/16] for CBS Radio and immediately ran for cover. “If he had moved that fast with the Reds,” said Buck, who was calling what would prove to be his last World Series for CBS Radio, “he’d never have hit into a double play.”
The Loma Prieta Earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.9 and an epicenter near Santa Cruz, was the first earthquake in the U.S. ever broadcast by live TV. ABC turned the event from a sporting contest to a news story, using Michaels, who had been the voice of the Giants for three years and knew the city well, as anchor while overhead shots of the Bay Area were provided by the Goodyear blimp Columbia. Michaels would later be nominated for an Emmy for his work covering the event. It was the biggest earthquake to hit San Francisco since 1906. Fires broke out in the city’s Marina District, a section of the Bay Bridge folded, and a one mile stretch of the double-decked Cypress structure of the Nimitz Freeway pancaked, killing 42. The quake lasted 17 seconds, caused 63 deaths, and produced more than six million dollars in damage. But the World Series saved it from being much worse. Many in the Bay Area left work early or stayed late with co-workers in order to watch the game. At the height of rush hour, the Nimitz would have been bumper-to-bumper, and nearly 62,000 people were in Candlestick Park. With the Bay Bridge collapsed, A’s players had to travel around the San Francisco Bay via San Jose to get back to Oakland, adding 90 minutes to the commute.
The Series could not move to Oakland, which had also been affected, so Vincent put Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park on standby. New York’s Yankee and Shea Stadiums were also asked to prepare. After ten days, it was determined that Candlestick Park was safe and the Series resumed October 27. The games seemed meaningless following the loss of lives. “I feel like I’m getting ready for an intrasquad game,” Mitchell told the media. “I just can’t get pumped up. I feel like the year is over.” Following a moment of silence for the victims at 5:04 pm—the exact moment the earthquake hit—a well-rested Stewart took the mound for the Athletics in Game 3, where he was supported by five homers in a 13-7 Oakland win. The following night, Henderson led off the game with a home run and Oakland never looked back, winning 9-6 to complete the first World Series sweep since the Big Red Machine [Daily Dose, 9/23/16] in 1976. Stewart, who won two of the four games, was named Series MVP. Out of respect for the earthquake victims, the A’s passed on the customary champagne celebration.
The Earthquake Series turned out not to be a four game series but rather two, two game sets. Oakland outscored the Giants, 32-14, and outhit them, 44-28. The return of baseball following the earthquake was therapeutic for the Bay Area, much as it had been for New York [and the rest of America] following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Games 3 and 4 seemed anticlimactic, however, and television ratings were the lowest [16.4] since the World Series went to prime-time in 1971. “The lasting memories of this series will be the earthquake,” said Giants centerfielder Brett Butler afterward. “Not the games, not the champion, nothing but the earthquake. It’s sad, but true.”
On this date in 1989, the Oakland A’s completed a sweep of the San Francisco Giants by winning Game 4 of the World Series. Oakland, who never trailed in the series, returned to their third straight Fall Classic the following year, where they were swept the Cincinnati Reds.