1989 Oakland Athletics greatness lost in the rubble

A T-shirt celebrating the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A''s. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule/ALLSPORT
A T-shirt celebrating the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A''s. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule/ALLSPORT /

The Oakland Athletics had an incredible team in 1989, but that gets lost due to the tragedy that occurred during the World Series.

To understand the significance of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, one must understand the tale of two cities.

The reputation of San Francisco revolved around sipping wine and taking “Cable Cars to the Stars.” Oakland drank Wild Turkey at Coliseum tailgate parties and rode motorcycles through the flatlands. While San Franciscans may be found getting a manicure, people in Oaktown were getting their hands dirty.

These rash generalizations come from growing up in Oakland, a town wrongly labeled as “San Francisco’s Brooklyn” by, probably, San Franciscans. Lost is the hip, creativity, beauty, and raw talent accented by a gritty, “America’s best-kept secret” attitude that defined Oakland. But one clear advantage the East Bay had was a seismic shift in professional sports power.

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Oakland had champions in football (Raiders), basketball (Warriors), and the irrepressible A’s. Only the 49ers were emerging as champions, and the Giants had not won a crown since their move from New York City in 1962.

The 1989 World Series was important to San Francisco because it provided an opportunity to prove that the Giants could win on the big stage. For Oakland, it was about whipping the inflated backside of “The City.” The Giants never stood a chance.

While the 1972-1974 A’s – three-time World Champions – are in the conversation of baseball’s all-time elite teams, the 1989 A’s tend to be overlooked because of the Loma Prieta earthquake that put baseball on the back burner. The October 17 tremor at the start of game three of the World Series led to 63 deaths – 42 in Oakland – and forced postponement of the World Series for ten days.

Led by manager Tony LaRussa, the 1989 A’s were rock solid from top to bottom. The starting rotation consisted of Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Bob Welch, and 19-game winner Storm Davis. Games were closed by Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Their lineup featured Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Carney Lansford, Terry Steinbach, and DH Dave Parker.

San Francisco scored only one run in the first two World Series games in Oakland. Upon resumption of play at Candlestick Park, the Giants bats came alive to score 13 runs in the next two games. The A’s would score 22 runs and swept the Giants 4-0.

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As the A’s and Giants face each other this weekend at gleaming Oracle Park, interleague play has cheapened the intensity of the rivalry. In 1989, the World Series was special to Bay Area baseball fans and Oakland fans especially. It was an opportunity to leave the Giants in the rubble. While the Oakland Athletics did their part, an act of Mother Nature gets all of the credit.