Kingdome Survives 5.4 Earthquake, But Game Suspended
May. 03, 1996
SEATTLE (AP) _ The Kingdome shook like it never shook before for a Seattle Mariners or Seahawks game.
When an earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck Thursday night, Jay Buhner thought the Mariners' Moose mascot was on top of the Seattle dugout trying to help the team's seventh-inning rally against Cleveland.
Then he looked over and saw the Moose on top of the Indians' dugout, and realized he was in the middle of something bigger.
``They'll do anything to get out of a rally,'' Buhner said of the Indians. ``But I don't know how they called that one up.''
The quake had the Kingdome's giant speakers 132 feet above the playing field swaying like a child's plaything.
The Indians and the Mariners on the field scurried into their dugouts, and the 21,711 fans gladly left the Kingdome 15 minutes later after the game was suspended.
Everyone felt lucky Thursday night's quake wasn't stronger.
``You don't want to jeopardize the fans, the players and everybody who works here,'' Ken Griffey Jr. said.
The opener of a four-game series between the teams that met in the AL championship series in October was called with the Indians leading 6-3 after a two-run homer by Edgar Martinez.
Like Buhner, Cleveland's Omar Vizquel tried to take what happened lightly.
``I didn't feel anything, really,'' said Vizquel, who was at shortstop when the 30-second quake hit. ``I felt the earth quake when Edgar hit the home run.''
Home-plate umpire Jim McKean waited 15 minutes before suspending the game, which will be completed today at 5:35 p.m. PST before Game 2 of the series starts at 7:05 p.m. The umpiring crew feared aftershocks.
``I really didn't feel we should play because I don't think baseball is as important as as many lives as we had in here,'' McKean said.
The quake's magnitude was measured at 5.4 by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., and 5.3 by the University of Washington Geophysics Center in Seattle.
Jon Magnussen, a structural engineer who has been defending the Kingdome against claims by Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring that the 20-year-old structure wasn't safe in a major earthquake, did a brief inspection Thursday night. He gave the facility a preliminary clean bill of health.
An inspection of the Kingdome by engineers this morning found no damage, said Dick Gemperle, the stadium's staff architect.
``We did a complete walk-through of the whole building,'' he said. ``It was specifically designed to withstand earthquakes far stronger than this one.''
The Kingdome clock said 9:04 p.m. when the quake rocked the Kingdome Thursday night. It came after Indians manager Mike Hargrove pulled Orel Hershiser after he gave up a one-out single to Paul Sorrento.
Julian Tavares, called in from the bullpen, was on the mound getting instructions when it became evident that this was going to be a different kind of game.
``I saw the speakers moving up there,'' Tavares said. ``Then I said to myself, `Golly, what's happening here?' Then I run like everybody did.''
It was the first time a major league game was disrupted by an earthquake since Oct. 17, 1989. A 7.1 quake hit San Francisco about 30 minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 of the World Series between Oakland and the Giants at Candlestick Park. It caused major damage and the Series didn't resume until Oct. 27.
The Kingdome's capability to withstand an earthquake became a prominent issue in recent months when the NFL's Seahawks appeared on the verge of moving to Southern California.
Behring has contended the stadium is not a ``first-class facility.'' He said one of its shortcomings was its inability to handle an earthquake, a contention disputed by King County officials.
Behring was planning to move the team to Southern California, the nation's most seismically active area. Paul Allen, the billionaire owner of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, now has an exclusive option to buy the Seahawks and keep the team in Seattle.
Bill Temko, Behring's attorney, said this morning that the quake confirms Behring's argument that earthquakes pose a risk, and that the people of Seattle were lucky.
``It merely confirms what Mr. Behring was saying all along,'' Temko said. ``There is a real seismic risk in the Seattle area. People were scoffing at him and saying this was some sort of ruse to get out of the use agreement. There is a reality to it and luckily for the people in Seattle this was not a bigger earthquake.''
The Mariners are scheduled to move into a new outdoor stadium in 1999.
On July 19, 1994, ceiling tiles fell from the Kingdome roof, forcing the Mariners to go on the road for their final 20 games.
Thursday night's game between Cleveland and Seattle was the first since the teams played in last season's AL championship series that the Indians won four games to two.
Albert Belle's 11th homer, a two-run drive in the third off Bob Wolcott, put the Indians ahead.
Cleveland made it 5-0 in the fourth on Sandy Alomar's RBI double, Kenny Lofton's run-scoring single and Julio Franco's RBI double. Jim Thome doubled in a run in the fifth.
Buhner homered in the bottom half off Hershiser before Martinez hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
Alomar extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the longest current streak in the majors.
Notes: The Indians met their first AL West opponent of the season. ... Belle's homer was Cleveland's 33rd in 26 games. ... Lofton, who leads the major leagues with 18 stolen bases, was thrown out for the fifth time this season when he tried to steal second in the third inning. ... In Cleveland's last 19 games, the Indians have scored six or more runs 15 times. ... The Mariners are 4-7 since tying their club-record eight-game winning streak April 18.