My first direct memory of baseball was not with the Chicago Cubs, but with the Oakland Athletics, one of the teams in my home territory of Northern California. This probably explains why I was so disappointed when the A's crapped out in the 2014 playoffs, and also why I was thrilled when the San Francisco Giants won yet another World Series (they did sneak into the playoffs due to that second wild card, but hey, once you're in, anything goes).
But back in those days, I wasn't exactly obsessed with baseball like I was now. I was more into basketball and ice hockey. However, in the late-1980s, it was hard not to notice that one of the teams in the area was just really, really good...and we're not talking about the 49ers (they were also good).
The late-decade A's were a powerhouse, with the 1988 team winning 104 games (losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series), the 1989 team winning 99 (beat the Giants in the Earthquake Series) and the 1990 team winning 103 (swept by the Cincinnati Reds). Despite not being a baseball "expert," I knew who Tony La Russa was, and I also knew who Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco was. There was a lot of firepower on those teams, and it was surprising that they only won one World Series in that span. But as we know these days, the playoffs can be a crapshoot and the best regular season team isn't always going to win the ultimate prize.
I actually thought we went to a game during the 1989 season, but it turns out that the game I was thinking of was in the 1990 season. That summer, our local library was holding a reading program with the reward being a set of Oakland A's tickets to a game that season. Naturally, since I read a lot and my younger brother was also starting to learn to read better, we got the tickets. We were very young back then so obviously we couldn't go by ourselves, so my father took that day off and had to buy his own ticket at the box office so he could sit with us. I very much recall that both teams scored right away in the early innings and the game was tied 2-2 for the longest time, and that the opponent was the Baltimore Orioles with another guy every kid knows, Cal Ripken Jr.
That allowed me to zero in on this game, which the A's ultimately won. I don't actually remember whether we saw the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run in person, or if we found out in the box score afterwards. I do recall that we brought a small cooler but had to toss all the cans of soda because back in those days, there was no internet as we know now so my dad didn't know that the Oakland Coliseum did not allow aluminum cans in the stadium. We also ate a few hot dogs and since nobody else scored for the next 5.5 innings, we got SUPER bored.
I do remember that we did leave early, and that I had a great time even though I didn't understand the nuances of the game as I do now. Then again, we were in the high nosebleeds in a crowded stadium and it was difficult to figure out who was on base and who was at bat unless we looked at the big screen, which wasn't the best at tracking the action anyway. But it was fun to be in that kind of atmosphere where everyone expected that the home team would win, and it was fun to see the little ant-humans run around the bases and chase after the ball after it was hit. It was at this game that I realized that you could score runs without hitting a home run (yeah, I really didn't know baseball at all), and over the next decade or so, I'd learn more about the game that I would grow to love.
The fan attitude towards the 1988-1990 A's was similar to what we as Cubs fans felt in 2008, when it seemed the team was destined for greatness before their playoff fizzle. I think we are heading back in that direction again, but this time, in a much more sustainable manner. In the summer of 1990, though, having had the opportunity to go to that one random game that the celebrated home team won, I think that was when I first got much more interested in baseball than I had been before, and that started me off on this great hobby of mine.
So thanks a lot, public library system and Dad.
It is with great pleasure and a hint of sadness that I thank Jimmy, ChicagoNow and everyone who frequents this blog for supporting us all this time. We're not going away permanently or anything, but I realized that with all of Team WSD's "real world" schedules and being spread thin across multiple platforms, it simply isn't feasible to maintain TWO separate blogs. We really appreciate the readership boost and the commenters who are kind enough to drop us a line here on our ChicagoNow blog. But because of our circumstances, we will have to focus our efforts on our original blog (which you can also access by clicking the goat on the sidebar). I will still participate in the monthly Blogapalooza because it's a lot of fun, and occasionally we will post a gallery of pictures here since CN's gallery app is more functional than ours on the mothership (I'll figure that out eventually, haha). This isn't goodbye; it's more of a "We're still around, and we hope you visit us at our other place" message. We'll still answer comments on this site here and there if you leave them, and we'll keep this blog as an archive because we've done some good work here. But yeah, please do bookmark our mothership and comment there, too. And as always, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Don't be a stranger now.