Last year I contacted Ray Ratto, the ex-Chronicle columnist/current Comcast commentator, to ask 10 questions about the Giants' '89 season, Loma Prieta, and the Bay Bridge Series for an interview on the 20th anniversary of the quake and the Giants winning that pennant. Ratto covered the Giants beat in 1989 for the Chronicle. I posted our exchange here last year, but since the Giants are in the Series again, and Jose Uribe's cousin played a big role in getting SF there, I'm marking the occasion by reposting it. Also, I've added a few quotes from Juan on his cousin at the end:
Q: What happened to Kevin Mitchell in '89? I guess he was always a very good hitter, but his '89 season was so much better than his other seasons. I know he did very well in spring training, but I don't think people anticipated that he and Clark would carry the offense so successfully.
A: Mitchell didn't really do anything except bat in the middle of a good order and let his talent go. He saw a lot of fastballs and was an extraordinarily strong fastball hitter in the middle of a lineup with few outs or guys you could pitch around. Between him, Clark, Butler, Williams and Thompson, the lineup was simply loaded.
Q: Reading through the old news articles, you get an impression of Rick Reuschel being a grouch, or at least certainly someone who didn't like the media. He also talked from time to time about baseball not being important. But in order to pitch well into his 40s, he must have been very determined about his craft. What was your sense of his personality?
A: Reuschel didn't like writers from his time in Chicago when his weight was a constant issue, and was a contrarian so that writers here couldn't find him a go-to guy for quotes. I found him rather easy to deal with because one of the first things I wrote was about his exemplary fielding (and didn't reference his weight) but most guys never got around it.
Q: Scott Garrelts is similar in some ways to Reuschel: from Illinois, low-key, not exactly a Giant legend; but the two of them led the Giant pitchers in '89. What were Garrelts' key assets as a pitcher?
A: His real asset was good stuff when he could command it. He was never a terribly confident pitcher, though, so that even when he was going good you could never be sure how long that would last.
Q: Jose Uribe had lost his wife in 1988, and he had that tag of being a good fielding, poor hitting middle infielder. My basic memory of him is the Uuuu-reee-bay chant. I guess between being from the Caribbean and having the dead wife, maybe he wasn't one to open up to the media in '88 or '89. I believe he's the only '89 Giant to have died. Could you talk about some recollections of him?
A: He and Thompson were very close, both on and off the field, and he was one of the players who didn't need to be noticed. He was an efficient shortstop and a better than average eight-hitter, and was open enough with the media if you could speak Spanish or had an interpreter handy. He was not an effusive story-teller, though, in a room that had a lot of them, so he didn't get as much attention as he might have.
Q: I was at the Dave Dravecky comeback game vs. the Reds, and my clearest memory of the season is the intense waves of emotion running through the crowd each time he took the field. I didn't much notice at the time, but there was an obvious contrast between his miracle, as many were calling it, and the presence of Pete Rose, the fallen legend about to be banned from the game. It had already been a rough season for MLB, with the ongoing Rose saga, Donnie Moore's suicide, the Steve Garvey and Wade Boggs sex scandals, etc. Did Dravecky's comeback provide people with an inspiring refuge from all the bad stories that were circling around baseball?
A: Momentary, perhaps, but the Giants weren't really a big national story until September. He was a one- or two-day story nationally at best, so most of his inspiration was more local than national, and more among the Christian community (he was and is a devout Christian) than outside it.
Q: How do you remember the scene of Dravecky's arm snapping in Montreal? I've heard it was something you could hear all around the stadium. Also, how did the Giants respond to the injury in the following days and weeks? I mean, was Dravecky still an inspiration, or did it became a distraction, an annoyance, for the team to answer the questions and have the uncertainty about his situation?
A: It was a small crowd, but I don't believe you could hear the arm snap as much as you could hear his scream. I saw it as it happened and it looked as though his arm had simply detached itself from his shoulder. The Giants did not view it as a distraction or an annoyance, and to the best of my knowledge never tired of discussing it, or really anything else.
Q: Roger Craig had a pretty overwhelming image of being an upbeat guy, always optimistic, with that Humm Baby attitude, and a lot of Southern charm. Was that all a front, a deliberate strategy he used to handle his team and the media, or was that simply the way he was?
A: Both. He knew it won him good publicity, and he had inherited a bad team in 1985, so anyone who had a good attitude about a Giant in 1986 or thereafter was considered a blessing. By 1990, his schtick had tired with the players a bit, but in 1989 he was golden.
Q: How did the press at Candlestick handle the earthquake? What was the difference between how local media and the national/international press reacted?
A: Much of the national media fled the stadium because it thought the place would collapse or because they needed a place with power to file their stories about the event. The locals stayed longer because they knew the terrain, who to talk to, how long it would take to get reaction and information, and because more work was required of them even with the smaller papers the next day.
Q: What's your memory of the atmosphere for games 3 and 4 at Candlestick? Watching on tv, I remember the emotion before game 3, but otherwise, as a young fan, I focused on the action. I wasn't in mourning for the Loma Prieta victims, I just wanted to see some baseball again.
A: We all pretty much knew the series would be over quickly because the A's were better and because they handled the post-earthquake trauma better. A number of Giants clearly had lost the will to keep playing because they weren't used to earthquakes, because their families were freaked out, or because they all stayed in the Bay Area while the A's went to Phoenix to get away from all the earthquake news. The series had become unimportant, and we knew it would not be competitive.
Q: What was the dynamic of personalities on that Giants team? Was there any sense of the team being divided between, say, the devout Christian clique of Dravecky, Hammaker, Butler, Knepper, and the more fun-loving, outsized personalities, like Mitchell, Clark, Gossage, Brenly, Krukow, and the tighter-lipped veterans, like Reuschel, Kennedy, Speier, Garrelts? Or was '89 an example of winning being the ideal cohesive force in sports?
A: Everyone got to be who they were, because the central tenet was winning. Whatever judgments each group might have made about those not in the group were subsumed by the fact that the team was good and challenging for a postseason. Winning, after all, cures nearly everything.
After Juan Uribe hit his homer to win game 6, he talked about watching the '89 Series: "I saw it all, and I was proud of my uncle. The earthquake was scary, but I wanted to play for the Giants, anyway."
And said: "God helped me a lot, and my (cousin) helped me a lot. I love him. He taught me everything. He’s with me today."