The Series--Does Anyone Still Care?


A week ago, the Bay Area was giddy at the prospect of the great San Francisco-Oakland baseball war.

All of that has changed. Tickets are being sold at face value. Many people simply don't want to go the game. There's no prospect of the usual celebration and civic outpouring that usually comes with victory.

And then there's the more serious business of making sure Candlestick Park is safe for the game.

San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos met with Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent on Saturday to consider whether the series can or should resume at Candlestick on Tuesday, as planned.

Reacting to rumors that the series might be canceled, Vincent said: "We're not going to cancel it. That's a bum report. The only way we would cancel it is if it was clear we couldn't play here, and that is not at all clear."

But the decision to play at the city-owned Candlestick rested with Agnos.

Before the games can go on, Agnos must authorize deployment of 150 police officers and other emergency services at the stadium--services that otherwise are needed to help with the earthquake relief effort. He also must certify that the stadium is safe, even as crews on Saturday repaired what the stadium manager said was minor damage to the 28-year-old park.

A decision on the game's start-up plans had not been announced on Saturday. The meeting included representatives of both baseball teams in the series.

One baseball insider said the players' sentiment was building against continuing the series. "A lot of players wouldn't mind if it were (canceled)," said players' agent Dick Moss. "This earthquake has taken the heart and joy out of it. Very few players have any taste for it at this point."

As for Agnos, he said: "I am concentrating on the crisis. The World Series is irrelevant to this crisis this week."

Given the deaths and damage in the San Francisco Bay Area, at least one lingering question remained: even if the series were to proceed at Candlestick on Tuesday, would people here care?

One of Oakland's biggest baseball fans, Mayor Lionel Wilson, was unsure he would go to a game played on Tuesday. Neither team planned to have the traditional champagne victory celebration, and officials in both cities had no plans for parades for the winning team.

"I share their (the team's) feelings that there not be any victory celebrations," Wilson said.

Some local sportswriters also began to question whether the games should go on: "I don't even care. The people here (in the Marina) don't either. The World Series is the furthest thing from their minds," San Jose Mercury sportswriter Bud Geracie wrote in a Saturday column.

"We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. I sure don't know what the answer is," said Corey Bush, vice president of the Giants. If the series goes on, he agreed, there will be "a different environment."

How different it was just a few days ago. A's and Giants fans had their dream: Bay's Ball, a BART series, the Battle of the Bay. Gary Sterling of the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau anticipated rightly that national and international media would focus on his city's charms as the games approached.

"The PR value is tremendous," he beamed then.

When the series opened, fans jammed the Oakland Coliseum. Tickets were nearly impossible to find. On a lark the week before the series began, Bill Shine placed a classified ad in a local paper offering prime seats to all seven games for $15,000. As it turned out, nobody met Shine's price, although one fan did offer $13,500.

Now, like other fans of the game, Shine is somber, sorry that so many people suffered, thankful his restaurant a few blocks from the destruction in San Francisco's Marina District was spared.

"Baseball is a game. It's a nice game. But there are a lot more important things going on now," Shine said.

At Candlestick Park, Giants fans who waited 27 years for their team to get into a World Series are now selling their tickets at face value. There were buyers, but even those die-hard fans agreed that the Fall Classic would not be the same.

"How can you enjoy the game?" asked Al Ratto, who drove to the park Friday to sell six $40 tickets to the three games scheduled to played at Candlestick. He and his wife, Josephine, had been at Candlestick on Tuesday and recalled their fright when they saw the light towers sway and concrete fall.

"It should be called off," Ratto said. "There's too much grieving. They're still digging people out of Cypress Street. It's not appropriate."

For every seller, however, there was more than one buyer. "It can be a cornerstone of getting back to normal," said John May, a lawyer, who showed up at Candlestick to buy tickets.

"Stopping the World Series will not bring anybody back. It's not going to change anything," said Ricky Ricardo Jr., of the family owned Ricky's sports bar in San Leandro.

Ricardo said that although enthusiasm has waned, it would return when the series restarts. He also predicted that his bar will be packed for today's football games.

"I spent a little time in Vietnam. I saw a little death there. I know life must go on," Ricardo said.

San Francisco undertook a multimillion-dollar seismic repair project in 1984 at Candlestick. Officials suggested that one result of the work was that there were no injuries at the stadium when the earthquake hit. But while stadium and baseball officials say Candlestick suffered no major damage, work crews and engineers spent the weekend repairing the structure.

San Francisco City Architect Norm Karasick, who hired structural engineers to check the stadium, said officials asked that the 49ers football team play today's game somewhere other than at Candlestick so work could proceed. The football game is to be played at Stanford University's stadium.

Work focused on two large A-framed steel braces that support sections of the upper deck overlooking right and center fields. The braces appear to have separated slightly from concrete columns. Crews also poured concrete to replace portions that fell loose in isolated parts of the stadium.

"These people aren't about to say it's safe unless it's safe," said John Lind, a San Francisco city employee and stadium manager whose job it is to market Candlestick. Lind, noting that structural engineers were busy working on the stadium, refused to let them speak publicly about what they detected.

"We've got major work to do," Lind said, explaining why he was too busy to talk at length.

As for the Oakland Coliseum, where the first two series games were played, architects and structural engineers declared it sound during inspections Wednesday. The only hint of damage was a crack under a ramp connecting the coliseum to a BART station.

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