When the earthquake shook Northern California on Oct. 17, the 18 members of the SI team on hand for the Bay Area World Series found themselves in one of the safest spots in the area—Candlestick Park. But the quake drastically altered the nature of the story they were there to cover.
After consulting with SI's offices in New York, senior editor David Bauer, who was in charge of our Series staff, assigned senior writer Ron Fimrite, a longtime Bay Area resident, to do a first-person account of the quake (page 22) and senior writer Steve Wulf to cover the reaction of new baseball commissioner Fay Vincent (page 30). Senior writer Peter Gammons was sent out to report on Oakland A's pitcher Bob Welch, whose home was damaged by the quake (page 28).
Postquake conditions caused some difficulties. Most immediately, staffers had to find new places to stay. The power at their hotel had been shut off. Nine people from our photo crew packed themselves and photographic equipment worth $100,000 into a van and went in search of new lodgings. They ended up in Menlo Park, 40 miles south of San Francisco.
It wasn't always easy for the staff to work with professional detachment. "It's such a great tragedy for all those who have lost neighbors or loved ones," said photographer Richard Mackson. "But you have to show what happened. Once the shaking stopped I wanted to find a different way to show what took place." The day after, he did so by chartering a helicopter to shoot aerial photos of the damage.
October 30, 1989
Rumors created more confusion. One local paper ran a report that Gammons's wife, Gloria, had been injured when a chunk of falling concrete in Candlestick struck her on the head. Peter spent the next few days assuring concerned friends that the report was erroneous.
San Franciscans seem to roll with the punches when it comes to earthquakes. A strange yet oddly comforting scene was observed by reporter James Rodewald on the morning after the quake. While on his way to the Marina district, he walked past a Laundromat and, glancing in, saw a couple waltzing silently around the darkened room. At one point, Rodewald heard the woman tell her partner, "It should be smoother."
We hope it was an omen for the Bay Area's future.