Jul 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics former pitcher Dennis Eckersley takes the field during the celebration of the 1989 Oakland Athletics World Series Champions before the game against Baltimore Orioles at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
I was so ready for this game. The sting from last year’s World Series was still raw and Oakland Athletics’ fans were ready to erase that bitter memory. You know the one. The one of that guy hitting a walk off homerun against the best reliever in baseball, Dennis Eckersley. It all went downhill from there in the 1988 World Series and now, one year later, it was redemption time. And what better way for redemption to be served up than against the team across the Bay.
I arrived home from school that day, finished my homework, and settled into my comfy spot on the couch eager for game three of the “Battle of the Bay.” The Bash Brothers and company were up two games to none on “Will the Thrill” and his Giants. It was almost five o’clock and the whole Bay Area turned their attention to Candlestick Park, with not the slightest clue of the events that were about to unfold.
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Most residents of California had experienced some sort of earthquake before. There was a pretty good size earthquake in 1984 centered in my hometown of Morgan Hill that I vaguely remembered. But nothing had prepared us for this. The violent wave launched me from the sofa and I instinctively hovered under the nearby doorway, holding onto it for dear life. Pictures fell off walls, cabinets opened and their contents spilled out. But when the trembling was over about 30 seconds later I knew I was ok and went to check on the rest of my family. My mom was back in her room and was just looking around at the huge mess, but no major damage was done. My dad arrived home just to check on us then turned right back around to head downtown and board up windows that may have broken downtown in our small community.
Slowly but surely the gravity of the situation began to sink in. I’ll never forget the images of the section of the Bay Bridge that collapsed onto the deck below. I couldn’t believe the Cypress Structure, the roadway we had traveled so many times on the way to Grandma’s house, was now a concrete death trap. The fires that lit up San Francisco were the only lights that gleamed into the night. But I will also never forget the images of people, like my dad, who went out of their way to help others. Whether it was someone you knew personally or a member of the community caught by a news camera, the Bay Area was full of heroes on October 17, 1989.
What seemed like such a momentous occasion at the time took a fast backseat to the very real events that were going on around us. Dennis Eckersley put it so well when he said retrospectively, “The difficult part was you’re so wrapped up and involved in trying to win something, and then life kicks in. The world stops.” It certainly stopped that day for Northern Californians. But we can appreciate that the bay area was so wrapped up in a sport that afternoon of October 17th. The thoroughfares like the Bay Bridge and Cypress Structure in Oakland were much less busy than a usual weekday at 5:04 pm, so who knows how many more lives would have been lost had it not been for that series captivating our attention?
The Bay Bridge series reconvened on October 27th amidst a community that was rebuilding and healing from the blow just ten days before. The series was a distraction and a comfort and served as a reminder that even in tragedy life must go on.
As much as I loved the Oakland A’s, I have to admit I don’t remember the moment they won that World Series in 1989 or really anything after game two. The memories of the much more important events surrounding that time overshadowed the subdued happiness that A’s fans felt. Maybe that’s why fans of the Oakland Athletics are even more eager to experience a World Series once again.