Bay Area quake memories return

Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Don't say it too loud, but the last time both Bay Area baseball teams made the playoffs the earth quaked so furiously that bridges buckled and freeways collapsed.

On Oct. 17, 1989, the magnitude 7.1 Loma Prieta quake killed 63 people, injured another 3,000 and caused $10 billion in damage to the shaken region. It also forced a 10-day postponement of Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants.

With both squads in this year's postseason, they're talking about the quake once more.

``Guys have mentioned it _ that it would be a pretty horrible thing if it happened again,'' said Brian D'Arcy, a city police patrolman who was on duty during the World Series. ``You have to assume you will have another one at some point.''

D'Arcy also worked the opening game Wednesday between the Giants and the New York Mets. Across the bay in Oakland, the A's were hosting the New York Yankees.

Playoff baseball in the Bay Area wasn't always linked with earthquakes. In 1971, both the Giants and A's made the playoffs, and the earth stayed put.

One earthquake in two joint playoff appearances is an average not bad for a leadoff hitter. But it doesn't have locals shaking.

``I'd probably win the lottery before that would happen,'' Steve Arbogast of Palo Alto said with a laugh.

Still, wary of a jinx, Arbogast hedged: ``If the stars align and the earthquake gods decide, then it might happen.''

The closest thing to an earthquake god is David Schwartz, the U.S. Geological Survey geologist whose specialty is predicting quakes in Northern California.

``It's about a one chance in 10,000,'' he calculated.

Schwartz is not surprised pennant fever has locals drawing the parallel, but says no one should worry.

``There is no scientific basis for correlating the two Bay Area teams in the World Series with earthquakes,'' he said.

Much has changed in the region since 1989. At the time, California's economy was limping toward recession. Since then, the Internet has set off a latter-day gold rush in the region.

For sports fans, there are more important differences.

The Giants now play in new Pacific Bell Park, not the boggy confines of Candlestick _ now 3Com _ Park. That's where both teams were warming up when the Loma Prieta quake sent fans streaming onto the field.

The new ballpark helped make the Giants the city's hottest ticket. Meanwhile, the youthful A's struggled this year to generate anywhere near the excitement they enjoyed during their late '80s heyday, when Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire filled the stands.

Now it's the Giants who field marquee players, like left fielder Barry Bonds and second baseman Jeff Kent.

That makes the team a favorite with Las Vegas oddsmakers.

But those same bookies won't offer odds on a quake hitting during a game.

``You can't put something like that on the board,'' said Kelly Downey, who sets betting lines for the Imperial Palace, a casino known for offering wacky wagers. ``It probably wouldn't be in good taste.''

Closer to home, San Francisco native John Lyons is willing to throw out some odds. As a fan who survived the 1989 quake at Candlestick, he might be worth a listen.

``On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put it at a 6,'' Lyons said, pausing to roar with the crowd as the Giants mounted a rally Wednesday in a 5-1 victory over the Mets. ``Just a little one, a little excitement.''

Still, Lyons wasn't concerned about taking the Bay Area Rapid Transit train _ through a tunnel under the bay _ to the night game in Oakland, where the Yankees beat the A's 4-0.

``I've lived long enough to let it roll,'' Lyons laughed. And then, a dramatic pause and an impish grin: ``Hang on ... Did you feel that?''