In the 1964 Indianapolis 500 auto race, a rookie driver, Dave MacDonald, skidded into the most terrible accident ever visited on the Speedway. He crashed into the inside wall on Turn 4 of Lap 1 and exploded into flames, which also engulfed the car of veteran Eddie Sachs. Sachs was incinerated. So was MacDonald. So were seven other cars that were wiped out in the holocaust.
And they stopped the race. For 1 hour 42 minutes.
It was the first time the race had been stopped. When I asked a race reporter there why they were restarting it, she looked startled. "Why not?" she responded. "The track's been cleaned."
In 1972 during the Munich Olympics, a hit squad of assassins broke into the Olympic Village, murdered a wrestling coach and took 11 Israeli athletes hostage. By nightfall, they were all killed in an airport shootout along with five Arab terrorists and a West German policeman.
And they delayed the Games a day.
History does not record whether there was any period of mourning for the Christians eaten by the lions, but you have to remember the lions were the home team, the sentimental favorites.
World War II was not enough to darken the ballparks or interrupt the games people play. The Rose Bowl moved to Durham, N.C., to make it hard on the Japanese pilots, but it soon came back and by 1945, even though there was still a war going on, it was restored as an intersectional rivalry (USC vs. Tennessee).
President Franklin Roosevelt himself decreed that major league baseball should keep open in war. It was important to national morale, he said.
In 1989, Super Bowl XXIII was played in Miami in the midst of a full-scale municipal riot.
In one of the instances above, the disaster was caused by the sport itself. In 1972, the Games were the target of the disaster.
It is therefore somewhat difficult to comprehend why there is any orchestrated opposition to the continuation of the 1989 World Series at all or, at least, in the city where it was interrupted. San Francisco, so the reasoning goes, has disqualified itself. It's hard to figure why. It didn't start the earthquake.
In 1906, almost the second thing the city of San Francisco did was bid for a World's Fair. The city fathers thought their town needed a diversion, a quick new image. They got one nine years later, an audacious undertaking for a town that had been all but wiped off the map a short time before.
About 3,000 people were killed in the earthquake of 1906. Far fewer perished in the one of '89. More than 28,000 buildings were destroyed in '06. Within three years, they were replaced. The argument is advanced that it is unfair to San Francisco to call upon it to play host to a World Series in the midst of a terrible eruption.
It would seem that the opposite is true. San Francisco needs immediately to reassure itself--and the rest of the world--that it is still here and here to stay.
Would it help San Francisco if its World Series were moved to Kansas City or Chicago? How?
Look at it this way: Do you know of a community more in need of a dollar influx right now than the Bay Area?
The World Series should be kept there if it has to be played in a tent.
You see, you can't bid on a World Series. If you want to minister to municipal esteem, you can lobby for a World's Fair (or even an Olympic Games or a Super Bowl). You can't buy a World Series. You make the World Series the old- fashioned way. You earn it.
San Francisco gets in one only every 27 years. And some people want them to pass on it. Throw it back.
The cynics say greed is motivating the powers into a business-as-usual policy: The show must go on because the tickets and the sponsorships are sold. I don't buy it. In the first place, the clubs do not share in the revenues until the Series goes more than four games. This one may not make it.
The players' share can be in the $80,000 range. But this is pocket money to the stars making upward of $1.5 million to $2 million. It's not even another Porsche.
ABC? The network gets the World Series wherever it is played. And if it is not played, it doesn't just go to black. It puts on movies. Soap operas. It survives.
No, San Francisco needs a World Series more than a World Series needs it. It needs to erase that image of swaying stands and screaming people and the endless backdrops of that flattened elevated freeway.
It would be a nice gesture if baseball could find a way for the Series to contribute to earthquake relief, as players from both teams have already promised to do. But just by being there, the Series does contribute. A World Series is a bonanza for hostelries, restaurants, even tourist haunts, taxis, limos, department stores and souvenir shops. You don't let loose of a World Series. San Francisco is crippled but not prostrate. No need to take it out of the lineup just yet.
World Series have been played through two World Wars, floods, financial panics, street riots. They didn't even stop one that was fixed. The last time it was played in San Francisco, it rained for five days in a row.
San Francisco can cope. It can handle anything but for you to call it 'Frisco. That makes it want to sit down and have a good cry.