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Mike Gallego remembers 1989 quake


What are your memories of that earthquake?

It was definitely an emotional roller coaster. The fear of the unknown. And when it first hit, I was in the locker room at the time. I remember, and you could actually hear the earthquake coming. The rumbling was incredible. All of a sudden, the lights, all the power goes out -- and we're in a locker room that we're not used to. We're in the visiting locker room. And you could just see, just one door that was opened, it happened to be a throughway to the parking lot. So you saw the daylight in there, but it was pitch-black in the locker room. And as it was rocking, people were screaming, "Get the heck out of this locker room. It's an earthquake. This place is coming down." So we didn't know what was happening. We were underneath, and we were in just panic-stricken mindset. Everybody started rushing toward that light to get out of this locker room. And people were running into each other, and tripping over chairs, and running into tables, and going back and forth trying to get out of here. At the same time, the room was rocking back and forth. It was very intense. And, for some reason, I felt I forgot something. I had to turn around and go back to my locker. I was halfway out. I turned around and actually went back to grab my glove. I left everything else. My keys, my wallet, everything. … I needed my glove. And people were yelling at me, "Where are you going?" I said, "I've got to go get my glove." And they said, "You're crazy, get out of here." And I didn't. I went back for my glove. And finally made it out, obviously. And I'm standing there, and I remember standing there looking. We were 10 or 15 feet from the stadium, looking up and watching the light poles just sway back and forth like fishing poles, just waiting for them to snap. You didn't realize the intensity until, obviously, you're watching this happen. This whole stadium just rocked back and forth like it was made of rubber. And then it stopped, and people just kind of looked at each other, like, wow, there's another earthquake. That was one of the biggest ones we've ever felt. Um, let's play ball! Not realizing the damage that's been done. So that's where the emotions started rolling in, and no one knew how to act. No one knew what to think. I remember after, when we realized the game was going to be canceled. We were driving back. They stuffed everybody in as many buses, the families and the players, as many buses, we had like two or three buses, and we had, obviously hundreds of family there with us. And they stood us, kind of standing in these buses to get back to Oakland, and obviously the Bay Bridge was down, and they wouldn't let us go over the Golden Gate Bridge, so we had to go around, I believe, San Mateo. And a normal half hour drive took us about 3½ hours to get back to Oakland, with the traffic and all the lights being taken down. And we were all still in uniform. Cleats and all. And we were in a family bus standing there. And I remember my kids, my boys were being babysat back at the apartment. And there was no communication whatsoever, so somebody had a transistor radio in the back of the bus and said this building is down. The bridge is down. The Nimitz Freeway's collapsed. There was fire here. So we were on pins and needles wondering, how long is it going to take us to get back to the stadium? How long is it going to take us to get in our car to go back to our apartment and find out, is our building still standing? Is it in shambles? So there was a pretty intense three hours just not knowing what state our boys' lives were going to be in. So, pretty emotional. Pretty emotional.


Do you remember Terry [Steinbach] and his wife's reaction?

I do remember Terry and Mary. At the time, it was kind of like when I saw her, I was like, "It's OK, Mary. It's an earthquake. We've all been through earthquakes." Even though I knew in the back of my mind, this was different. This earthquake was different. And for her to react the way she did, with them being from Minnesota … they've never felt anything like that. Obviously it scared the daylights out of them. And that's when I kind of stood back and said, wait a minute. This isn't just a normal earthquake. Because we were unaware. There was no power coming in, so we didn't know what the damage was on the streets. Somebody had a portable TV, and a newscast came on and told us about the freeway collapsing and the bridge coming down, and now we were all of a sudden … the World Series was the last thing that you thought of. You thought of obviously, your family, your immediate family, your friends and family. Then you thought about the people that were trying to survive in the rubble. What were they going through right then? You started hearing different stories about what was happening out there in the city, and the emotions that were running through our minds … what can we do? What can we do? Is there another one? Is there an aftershock coming? You're walking on pins and needles. Every little aftershock we did feel, is this the next, another big one? How much can this area take? It was just chaos. You don't ask your babysitters, how are you going to react to a [natural] disaster? If we have a [natural] disaster right now, are you going to stay here with the kids? Well … you don't think about that. That's just not a human aspect of questioning you deal with prior to it. So it was something that obviously, one of those things that people were going to remember. You ask yourselves, where were you when Kennedy was shot? And people remember. And then you ask yourselves, where were you in the '89 World Series, earthquake World Series, and people remember that. And those are the type of things that are set in history now.


Why your glove?

Why my glove? Well, if anybody knew the type of player I was -- I knew the type of player I was. And it wasn't an offensive player. I was a defensive player. I was a defensive specialist. My glove was obviously the tool that helped me get to the big leagues and it was the tool that helped keep me in the big leagues. And a good carpenter takes care of his tools. That's what I considered my glove. It was my special hammer, my special screwdriver. It was my tool that allowed me to stay in the game, and I was going to take care of it because it definitely took care of me.


How long had you had the glove?

Ten years. I still have it. It's in a little, a little box, put away. But yeah, I used that glove pretty much for 10 years.


So you were on that bus back in your uniform with your glove?

With my glove … absolutely. My cleats on, my glove and my wife. And my parents, and I think my brother and sister were in there, too. But we were all just standing there. And we were all just waiting for that guy in the back that had a transistor radio on. And we were just talking about the fires here, the fires there, and it was, it was, pretty emotional. Definitely. Something that is engraved in our minds and our hearts.

Tom Friend is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.