October 17, 1989 - Earthquake World Series

The 1989 World Series will forever be one to remember, thanks to a powerful earthquake that struck during Game 3.

1989 world series collapsed highway pexels

Aerial view of collapsed sections of the Cypress Viaduct of Interstate 880 following the 1989 earthquake Image: USGS.

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On a mid-October day in 1989, baseball fans expected nothing more than a high-stakes game between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, when a terrible disaster struck.

"I was watching the pregame when veteran colour man Tim McCarver was recapping Game 2 when the A’s Dave Parker hit a drive into the right-field corner and then the Giants’ Candy Maldonado seemed to hesitate before throwing late to second base allowing Jose Canseco to cross home plate with a run," Weather Network presenter Chris Mei, who was watching the game at the time, recalls. "It was then when suddenly the picture scrambled and the audio went in and out...it all happened so fast."

It was a powerful Magnitude 7.1 earthquake, centred on the Santa Cruz Mountains and rocking the region from Santa Cruz to Oakland, immortalizing that particular World Series as the "Earthquake Series" among baseball fans.

But though the stadium fared well enough, the damage across the rest of the San Francisco area was substantial. Numerous buildings collapsed, and broken gas mains triggered fires that burned out of control for nearly two days.

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As for the city's iconic bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge suffered some shaking, but the Nimitz Expressway and San Francisco Bay-Oakland Bay Bridge both collapsed.

In all, some 67 people were killed, including 41 who died in the collapse of the Nimitz Expressway, and the quake caused some $5 billion worth of damage in 1989 dollars, a blow that triggered a recession lasting into the early 1990s.

On today's podcast, Chris Mei discusses his memories of watching the quake strike during a live baseball game, and how the design of the Nimitz Expressway sealed the fate of dozens of motorists driving on it when the quake hit.

"This Day In Weather History” is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.