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La Russa remembers '89 quake
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10/17/2004 3:56 PM ET
La Russa remembers '89 quake
Skipper led A's to World Series sweep over Giants
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Tony La Russa won his only World Series as a manager in 1989, with the A's. (Donald Miralle/Getty)

HOUSTON -- It lasted 15 seconds.

It's been 15 years.

For Tony La Russa, the memory is vivid and momentarily took his mind away from Sunday's business at hand in Minute Maid Park, where his Cardinals face the Astros in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

It was 15 years ago Sunday that the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck during Game 3 of the World Series at Candlestick Park, devastating the Bay Area. The quake caused an 11-day delay in that series, in which La Russa's Oakland A's beat the San Francisco Giants.

"Oh, boy -- I've got a whole bunch of memories, and it would take a day to tell them," La Russa said before Game 4. "The whole day, [I was] thinking about being two up, two wins from a world championship. I remember [Giants manager] Roger Craig had promised after the two losses in Oakland that the fans would cook up something special for us when we got to Candlestick. That's what I thought when I heard all that booming, I thought it was just fans pounding their feet. Then I saw the light stand was waving. I said, 'They're enthusiastic, they're not that enthusiastic.'"

The earthquake rumbled for 15 seconds. Although there were no casualties at Candlestick, it killed 12 people in San Francisco, buckled freeways, knocked buildings from their foundations and sent flames into the sky above hundreds of ravaged homes in the Marina District.

In Oakland, the collapse of the Cypress Structure killed 42 commuters trapped in their cars. What was a wondrous gathering of two league champions from the same market quickly turned into a lesser important fact of life there.


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"A lot of things happen where you realize you're playing a game for your living -- it's your work," La Russa said. "But still, it's not real life. And the tragedy that was involved ... it was just really distracting from the series. We were away 11 days. By the time we got back, it wasn't the same. You realize how serious the issues were -- people losing a life, losing property. It's bad stuff."

Katy Feeney, who is working at this NLCS as Major League Baseball's vice president for club relations, was responsible for MLB media affairs the day of the earthquake, and on Sunday, she remembered it clearly.

"I was on the field at the time," she said, noting that the quake hit while people were milling around during batting practice. "I just felt the earth move, left to right. I grew up there, so I knew it was a quake, but I didn't know how large until there was more information. I remember the clock stopping at 5:17 p.m., and then I remember walking people out of the park and back to their hotels in the dark."

Then-commissioner Fay Vincent sent people away from Candlestick that day because of the loss of power and uncertainty about the physical structure. Former A's catcher Terry Steinbach, interviewed on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," remembered that there were two announcements of a Game 3 resumption time and then two more postponements. La Russa took his club to the A's Spring Training facility in Phoenix to keep sharp during the delay, and finally the series resumed.

When it did, Dave Stewart, who dominated Game 1, was able to come back and start Game 3. The A's won that game and then swept the series in four. It is La Russa's only World Series championship as a manager, and now this season he has the chance to join Sparky Anderson as the only men to manage World Series winners in both leagues.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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