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[Quote: "In 30 years here, I've never seen a light blow up" ...]

Headline: Qualcomm: Let There Be Dark; Electrical explosion forces suspension of Padres game

Source: UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF [San Diego]; 19 July 2001


An electrical outage in the third inning brought a pyrotechnical end to last night's Padres-Diamondbacks game, which is to be resumed today at 12:05 p.m. as the front end of a doubleheader.

A loud boom, emanating from a left-field light bank high above Qualcomm Stadium, halted play as Padres pitcher Woody Williams faced counterpart Curt Schilling with the count 0-2, none out and Arizona ahead 1-0.

A few seconds later came another boom from a nearby 12,000-volt transformer, which belched smoke and fire. Roughly one-fifth of the stadium's rim lights went dark.

"I thought it was like a bomb or something," said Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace, a San Diego State alum. "Bin-Laden made a trip to Qualcomm."

Electricians were summoned to repair or replace the 35-year-old transformer and bus, a metal box that houses copper bars, but Bill Wilson, the stadium manager, said it's possible the Padres will have to play day games Friday and Saturday, rather than night games as scheduled. Wilson said the transformer dates to the stadium's opening in 1967.

"What they have now is probably not compatible with what was built 40 years ago," Wilson said. "We're going to work all night to see if we can get the game in Friday night."

The electrical outage was the second in two months at a big league ballpark. Last month a Brewers-Royals game at Miller Park, Milwaukee's new venue, was suspended for a day after the outage darkened half of the stadium.

San Diego's sunset came yesterday at 7:56, 22 minutes after the lights went out in Mission Valley's biggest house. Stadium officials boosted the remaining lights in an attempt to continue the game, but umpires and managers from both teams deemed the lighting insufficient. At 8:45 officials announced the game would be suspended.

"It was borderline," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "It was a difficult decision. But there were risks. It was something that I, Bob Brenly and the umpires didn't want to be responsible for. It was dimmer at the plate, too, not just left field."

Brenly, Arizona's manager, said the adjusted lighting would've jeopardized the left fielders. "Safety was a big concern," said Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn, who has played in the stadium for 20 years. "It was dark in the outfield, but it was also dark between the mound and home plate."

Sidelined the previous two games by a sore right knee, Gwynn made his first start in right field since May 9 and hit a deep flyout to center field. Gwynn's schedule called for him to sit out today's game, play tomorrow and sit out Saturday, but that all will be re-evaluated today.

"It sure was good to be out there, even if it was two innings," Gwynn said. "I was thrilled about it. I felt fine. I felt great."

Grace's home run to lead off the second inning accounted for the run. Grace was in the dugout when the boom came.

"I thought it was Roy Hobbs," Grace said of the fictional star from "The Natural." "He hit a home run, and the lights exploded an inning later."

For Padres broadcaster Mark Grant, the power outage merely extended a list of unusual postponements.

"I've been rained out, snowed out, bombed out, hockeyed out and shorted out," said Grant, a well-traveled former pitcher.

As a member of the Iowa Cubs, Grant was to play in Oklahoma City in 1995. But one day earlier, the city's federal building was bombed and the game was canceled.

The Edmonton Trappers, a Class AAA club, scuttled a game that would've involved Grant's team, because the city was far more interested in the Edmonton Oilers' NHL playoff game that night. Grant also told of seeing a transformer blow during a minor league game in Canada. Grant said the flame and smoke traced along a power line that connected outfield light stands.

"Scared the hell out of me," Grant remembered.

"That's nothing," said another baseball veteran, Jerry Coleman, the former Yankees second baseman. "We were in Columbus, Ohio, in 1947, and it was 28 degrees when the game started and 21 degrees when it ended. I was with the Kansas City Monarchs."

Even Coleman, though, hadn't seen flames shoot from a bank of lights.

"In 30 years here, I've never seen a light blow up," said Coleman, whose commemorative banner hangs within 100 feet of the two transformers that shot out flames.

While Schilling isn't expected to pitch today, Williams likely will return to the mound in what could be one of his final three starts as a Padre. The pitcher, who is guaranteed $7.25 million next season, is looking to regain his post-aneurysm form of 2000. Sidelined last season for two months by the distorted blood vessel near his right armpit, Williams came back to post a 3.32 ERA over his final 17 starts.

"His stuff is the same," Bochy said. "I do think he's put a little more pressure on himself this year, where last year he realized what he had gone through and he realized how fortunate he was to play baseball. I think at times he's gotten away from that, because I've seen him more frustrated with himself. I think he's beaten himself up a little bit. His stuff is fine. Woody will get on a roll."

-- Andre Weltman (, July 19, 2001

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