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Quake Really Does Hit Home for Bob Welch

October 19, 1989|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Bob Welch, the scheduled pitcher for the Oakland Athletics in Game 3 of the World Series, looked with dismay at his earthquake-damaged future home Wednesday in the hard-hit Marina district.

Welch, with a pained expression on his face, turned to his wife Mary Ellen and gave a thumbs-down sign.

His wife held the couple's 10-week-old son, Dylan, in her arms and tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears. They spent the night in their nearby apartment, without water, electricity or heat. Natural gas service in the area was cut off because of the danger of more fires in the area, where a major blaze erupted after the quake.

When the earthquake struck, Welch, a former Dodger, was in the trainer's room, getting his arm rubbed.

The couple and friends who were at the stadium left later for an anxious drive to their Marina-area apartment where Dylan was with a baby-sitter. The baby and sitter were OK, and the Beach Street apartment suffered no serious damage.

"It was an ugly ride, because we heard on the radio there was a big fire on Beach Street and we had left the baby at the apartment," Welch said. "The ride took about two hours."

Normally, without traffic tie-ups, the apartment is about 30 minutes from Candlestick Park.

"I don't worry about the World Series," Welch said of the disaster that caused widespread damage in a large area of Northern California. "Anyone who thinks I do is crazy."

The couple recently bought the condominium unit in a two-story building. After the quake, the exterior of the building had large cracks, mostly around the ground-level garage door and building entryway.

"One good thing, we've got earthquake insurance," Welch said just before seeing the damaged building.

Across Jefferson Street from the condominium, a three-story apartment building was sagging. Less than a block away, firemen were pouring water on the blackened remains of a larger fire that had erupted after the quake. That fire destroyed a large apartment building, and for several hours it was feared the fire might spread to other structures in the area, which has many wooden buildings built early in this century.

Wearing a World Series souvenir cap and a red sweater during his walk through streets with quake damage visible in every direction, Welch passed dozens of people in a section where motor vehicle traffic was blocked off. No one recognized him.

The pitcher's brother-in-law, Chester Kulesza, a policeman from Warren, Mich., and Welch's friends Pat and Carol Rodgers of Vero Beach, Fla., were at Candlestick Park waiting to see Welch pitch against the Giants when the earthquake rolled through.

"Because we were with Bob, we were able to get down on the field and leave with him. We had his car," Kulesza said.

After arriving at the apartment and finding out their child was all right, Welch and his wife were able to focus on an easier problem.

"Chester, being an emergency-minded person, got some hot water out of the hot-water heater to warm up the baby's bottle," said Pat Rodgers, a college classmate of Welch at Eastern Michigan University. "The baby was fine. The rest of us had no water to drink."

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