Some big-league clubs have powerful baseball rivalries. The relationship between Seattle and Cleveland, though, is nothing less than seismic.
Tutesday (Aug. 23), during an early game between the Mariners and the Indians, play on the field proceeded uninterrupted even while guys in the broadcast booth in Cleveland were exclaiming that an earthquake was occurring.
Later it was reported that, indeed, a quake of 5.9 magnitude at its epicenter in Virginia occurred during the fourth inning, 15 years and three months after a temblor near the Kingdome sent Cleveland and Seattle players scurrying while those of us in the stands shuffled and in some cases shoved our way out of the stadium.
The May 3, 1996, event prompted the plate umpire to postpone the completion of the game to the next day. It was just as well given that the contest suddenly lacked a lead broadcaster. Dave Niehaus was said to have been among the first to sense what was happening, hurrying to an exit and scurrying out of the building.
The game also was significant in that it contradicted what then Seahawks owner Ken Behring had opined: that the 'Dome was an unfit sports facility because it wouldn’t withstand an earthquake. Actually, Behring may instead have been imagining what would happen to the structure were it to have been deliberately imploded, as was the case March 26, 2000.
In any case, it was just as well that Tuesday's game in Cleveland wasn’t postponed. As it is, the M’s were abiding a day-night double-header made necessary by inclement weather earlier this season. The Seattle franchise will have to make up yet another Cleveland postponement during a road trip in September, presumably at a time devoid of seismic activity.
As for the Kingdome, the 5.4 Richter-scale rating ironically caused less damage or consequence than what had happened two seasons earlier. Because of water leakage caused by human error, four 26-pound ceiling panels dislodged and crashed into the unoccupied stands prior to game time on July 19, 1994. The accident meant the M’s became an instant visiting team, playing all games on the road until the season ended prematurely with an Aug. 12 players’ strike.
The 1996 quake took a more personal toll with at least one Mariners “fan.” The event marked the first time that my sister had attended a Kingdome event. She immediately sensed “earthquake” because of the way the concrete flooring under our third-deck seats suddenly made it seem as if we were on a raft in rough water (Ken Griffey Jr. said to a Los Angeles Times reporter: “I thought I was having a dizzy spell.”).
My sister didn’t quite match the quickness of Niehaus in getting out of the building but she did make good on an immediate vow to have that be the last time she’d ever visit the Kingdome. No doubt there were many others in attendance that night who felt the same way. Fortunately for them, they needed only wait three more years until the opening of Safeco Field, where there haven’t yet been any games interrupted by earthquakes. If it happens, though, it’s a safe bet that a team from Cleveland will be in town.