A Brief Note on the Boston Red Sox and the Daly City Earthquake of March 22, 1957

I found this little item by Art Rosenbaum in the San Francisco Chronicle of Thursday, April 18, 1985:

THIS IS THE 79th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which isn’t exactly a newsflash, but it does remind us younger fellers of another temblor that could have been as disastrous except for stronger building-fire prevention codes.

On a Friday morning in March 1957, the old town rocked through one big quake [a 5.3] and 24 aftershocks. They heard about it in Boston because the Red Sox, who at the time owned the minor league San Francisco Seals franchise, were here for a weekend of spring exhibition games.

Seals Stadium, where the Giants were later to play, had a capacity of fewer than 20,000, and after the quake there were dire forecasts that the attendance would be 900, maybe, which would be typical of the faltering Seals. After all, who could expect people to leave their families and foundations? Surprise – the overflow reached 20,099, with some people standing in the roped-off outfield.

Psychologists analyzed it as mass human reaction. The fans came to see Ted Williams, Jackie Jensen and the other Sox, certainly, but they also gathered as survivors to share this question, “Where were you when the quake hit?”

Red Sox players roomed on the seventh floor of the old Alexander Hamilton hotel. The rumble sent them flying down the stairs, leading manager Mike Higgins to observe, “We’d lead the league in stolen bases if these guys knew how fast they were.”

Bob Stevens, retired Chronicle baseball writer who now does official scorekeeping at Candlestick and the Coliseum, revives this scene:

A Boston baseball reporter, Hy Hurwitz, had interviewed Boston’s general manager, Joe Cronin, and was dictating his story on the long-distance phone to a desk man in his sports department. True to his duty, Hurwitz didn’t stop dictating even when the hotel walls seemed about to crumble, but from the other end the man in the newspaper office shouted, “My, God, there’s a terrible earthquake out there,” and hung up.

AT THE OLD Market Street Roos Bros. store (now Grodin’s), Ted Williams was on the fourth floor trying on an expensive camel’s hair overcoat. Suddenly, there was terrifying noise and quivering. Williams, hero of Air Force combat missions and a crash survivor, sped immediately for the stairs and must have taken them three at a time, because within seconds he was on the street and running. There is some question if he ever returned the coat.

Rumors that the Boston franchise would be transferred to San Francisco, since the Sox had taken over the minor league territory, died immediately after the earthquake . One report had it that Williams vowed he would never play baseball here.

However, capacity attendance over three days was heartening to onlooker Horace Stoneham. Horace correctly dismissed the tremor as something that wouldn’t happen again while he was Giants owner. Maybe nobody told him about the wind.

One year later, 1958, the New York Giants became the San Francisco Giants and played their first two seasons in Seals Stadium while Candlestick was being built.

Published in: on March 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is news to me. Never heard about this incident before. Coincides pretty well with Jeff Polman’s replay of the 1958 baseball season, “Mystery Ball.”
    Nice research, as usual.

  2. I was there in SF working downtown in the Financial District, was 22 years old and it was a scary earthquake. My cousin, my husband and I went to the Seals/Red Sox exhibition game that night. there had been aftershocks and the unspoken tension could be felt in the stands. Nevertheless, it was good to be around people who had also experienced the quake.

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