The Bay Bridge, baseball and earthquakes

When the Bay Bridge collapsed, I was three years old.

At that tender age, I only had the most basic of sports knowledge installed in my brain.

I knew: San Francisco Giants, “I Hate Dodger Blue,” and that when it got cold outside my dad watched football because the Giants weren’t playing. There’s a slight chance that I recognized the name Will Clark.

Beyond that, there was only enough room in my head to know that I liked Disney cartoons and Ocean Spray cranberry juice, let alone know that the big shaky earthquake thingy that I had just lived through had wrecked a bridge, hurt thousands and had left people homeless.

For almost my entire life the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee has been working to rebuild the East Span. To the point that I’m still in denial over it actually being finished, since I convinced myself that it would always-and-forever be under construction.

What’s kind of cool is that, in the weeks leading up to the 8 p.m. closure on Wednesday, people have been buzzing about the city exchanging stories about where they were during the 1989 quake.

I’ve heard quite a few tales of people who “had just made it off the bridge” or had “for some unknown reason opted to take the train into the city that day, and thank God I did.”

But, being that we live in an area where local sports has a celebrity status, there has also been a large exchange of stories revolving around the World Series.

It’s incredible how much the Bay Bridge Series is entwined in the East Span: People who were at Candlestick getting ready to watch the game when the earthquake hit, or watching it at their local watering hole, or even listening to pre-game on the radio in their cars while having “just made it off the bridge.”

Surprisingly — or maybe it’s not a surprise and I’m totally predictable — my memory of the Loma Prieta earthquake also involves the World Series.

I remember the Giants being on TV. Could I have told you that the Orange & Black were warming up before the start of Game 3, or that they were playing the A’s?

Of course not, but I knew that the Giants were supposed to start playing.

There’s even a possibility that I watched the beginning of the earthquake on live television; the only time in history that the onset of a quake was caught during a live broadcast.

Heck I might’ve seen Al Michaels and Tim McCarver get rattled as everything at Candlestick began to move. But I don’t recall.

The house started shaking, and my mom, with my year-old brother in one arm and a three-year-old me pressed up against her leg, huddled all of us in the doorway of the master bedroom for the longest 10-15 seconds of my young life.

When the shakiness stopped and I went back into the family room to plant myself back in front of the TV, the multi-colored broadcast bars plastered across the screen.

I had no idea that the game had been halted and that play wouldn’t resume for another 10 days. In my little head, there was simply something wrong with the television, so I continued to ask my mom what was wrong with the screen.

There you have it, my most-coherent first sports memory: The upper deck of the Bay Bridge had collapsed in a 7.1-magnitute quake that had also killed 63 people and injured over 3,700.

And I was the toddler in San Ramon who didn’t know where the Giants game went.

I could get all profound and say that the opening of the finished bridge is some sign of my life and time in the Bay Area sports realm coming full circle. But that’s not really my style.

Sure, I’ve grown from blankly watching baseball on the television set to sitting at the games in front of my laptop and scorecard and analyzing the batting order to the point of obsession.

Despite winning two championships in three years, the Giants still have trouble winning against the Athletics during interleague play. But all of that would happen with or without construction wrapping up of the new Bay Bridge.

Let’s just stick to: Hurray for the new East Span, may a shift in plate tectonics not ruin this bridge, take any lives, or interrupt another baseball game.


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