NEW YORK – The New York blackout forced the evacuation of workers and players from Shea Stadium hours before Thursday night’s game between the Mets and the San Francisco Giants.
The game was postponed about an hour before the scheduled 7:10 p.m. start, and before the stadium gates had opened.
It was the only major league baseball game that was affected by the blackout that stretched from the Northeast to Ohio and Michigan. Elsewhere, two WNBA games were postponed, and Yonkers Raceway canceled its card.
By nightfall, the Giants were still waiting in a darkened parking lot beyond the right field bullpen for a second bus. It was still unclear whether they were going to drive to Montreal for a series starting Friday night, or head to Philadelphia for a flight.
“You know what? We are all together, seemingly safe. There are a lot of people worse off than we are right now,” Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti said as his team waited outside the ballpark. “Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s not just a baseball team trying to get someplace. There’s millions of people trying to get someplace.”
The Mets were trickling out to take batting practice in the empty stadium when the lights went out in their clubhouse, just after 4 p.m. Reporters were cleared out of the stadium at about 5:10.
“We spoke to the mayor’s office and the police department, and they advised us to call the game,” Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.
After 6 p.m., Giants rookie Jesse Foppert popped out of the ballpark to chat with about a dozen relatives who had come to see him start the game. Eight more family members were stuck on the subway while trying to get to the ballpark.
“We are beyond disappointed,” said Foppert’s aunt, Pat Ustick of Jamestown, R.I., adding that they were planning to drive up to Montreal to watch him pitch Friday night. “Of course. We’re his family.”
The scene at Shea was very different from the last major New York blackout, which struck after dark in 1977 when the Mets were hosting the Chicago Cubs. Fans in the upper decks were able to watch as the city’s lights winked out block by block.
At gametime Thursday, the stadium was deserted except for a few lingering Mets employees and workers loading Giants equipment bags onto a truck. The Giants had one bus to take them to Philadelphia, where they planned to catch a flight to Montreal, but they couldn’t all fit.
An hour after gametime, and two hours after the game was canceled, they were still waiting for the second bus.
“This is part of the glamour of the business,” Colletti said. “In this business, there are always inconveniences two or three times a year. It’s just freaks of nature. It happens in everyday life.
“There are one or two a year that are like this,” he said before correcting himself. “Not like this, obviously.”
Giants star Barry Bonds was not with the team, having returned to the Bay area earlier Thursday to spend time with his ailing father. “We could have used the off-day, as it turned out,” Colletti said.
Former major leaguer Bobby Bonds has been ill with lung cancer and numerous other ailments. Last month, Barry Bonds missed a game to be with his father when he had open-heart surgery.
Barry Bonds was officially placed on baseball’s bereavement list.
No makeup date for the Giants-Mets game was announced; it was the final game of a three-game series, and San Francisco’s last trip to New York this season.
Elsewhere in the majors, players watched the news on clubhouse televisions. Cubs reliever Joe Borowski, who’s from Bayonne, N.J., was planning to call home to check on his family.
“We’re 10 minutes out of Manhattan, so if they’re down, we probably are too,” he said.
Karen DiOrio arrived at Shea at 4:30, so her two children could watch batting practice; her husband, who works in Manhattan, was supposed to come straight from work and meet them at the ballpark.
Unable to take the commuter train, Rob DiOrio walked across the 59th Street Bridge from Manhattan into Queens, where he hailed a taxi, “With a 20 (dollar bill) sticking out,” he said. It took him about two hours.
“You can’t get out of Manhattan,” he said, adding that the traffic was “worse than 9-11.”
At a midtown Manhattan hotel, the Colorado Rockies had already checked in for the start of a series against the Mets on Friday night.
Outfielder Jay Payton was among several players milling around the lobby, waiting for news updates.
“You just have to hang out. Hopefully, we’ll play,” he said.
It was the second blackout in as many days for the Rockies. On Wednesday night, they were playing at Montreal when a power failure briefly plunged Olympic Stadium into darkness. The rest of the city was not affected by that outage.
“The lights went out on us last night, too,” Payton said.
Also Thursday, the WNBA games between the New York Liberty and the Houston Comets at Madison Square Garden, and between the Cleveland Rockers and the Connecticut Sun at Gund Arena were postponed. No makeup dates were announced.