A piece by Pendarvis HarshawEvery time I go to the A’s game, I think of the fact the movie “Angel’s In The Outfield” was partially filmed there. That’s one of my many childhood memories at that park. I recently went to my 1st A’s game by myself. Ever. It was a “winsday”. The $2 tickets were sold out- I got duped into paying $14… It would prove to be worth every cent.
The Oakland A’s epitomize the moniker of “blue collar baseball”, year in and year out. A bunch of scrappy ballplayers with funny names and serious game; yeah, there’s always a lot of heart behind the patches on those green and gold uniforms. And this year is no different.
I’ve been a fan since the days of ICE BOX, an overweight security guard who (graciously) did the Macarena in between innings, the drummers in the bleachers who would (violently) scream “TEJADA”, and although a youngster- I was even there for the Bash Brothers (Canseco & McGwire).
I came up after the “glory years”, if you let some of the OG’s around the Town tell it. The A’s were a powerhouse in the early to mid 70’s, as they won three consecutive World Series titles. 1989 was their last title year- two years after I was born, and one year prior to my family moving from Ohio to Oakland.
They’ve had some good runs since then. The glorious years of Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley. The treacherous trio of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, and a young Barry Zito- who’s curveball had a hook only to comparable to Gonzo’s nose. And the remarkable 20 game-win streak of 2002.
I’ve also been there for the not so glorious days… When Jeremy Giambi was thrown out by Derek Jeter in the playoffs, it was the direct equivalent to the Raider’s “tuck rule” game vs. the Patriots. Equally heartbreaking.
The story of the A’s parallels many people’s stories in this town. This city is full of families who have migrated twice over, including my own. The A’s started in Philadelphia as the “Athletic club”, then to Kansas City, and finally to Oakland. The way the team got traded around like a “white elephant”, combined with a diss from one time Giants owner (in which he called the A’s a ‘white elephant’)- lead to the A’s adopting the symbolic image of their current mascot, Stomper the Elephant.
The A’s moved to the city by the Bay in 1968, and ever since, the connection between the city and the team has fit like a glove. (History of the A’s timeline). Currently, at the Oakland museum there is an exhibition called 1968. The exhibit highlights the Vietnam War, the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and how the Bay was at the forefront of a number of the social and political movements of the time. Perfect time for the boys of summer to come to the Bay.
One of my best friends once spent a summer as the mascot for the Oakland A’s. I’ll never forget the day he went to volunteer at Children’s Hospital, and locked his mascot gloves in the car, along with his keys. (I have it in the personal video archive- just in case I forget). To even out the tales of my costumed friend’s list of shining moments- his performance in the Stomper suit at the 2008 All-Star game in New York is a video I can watch time and time again…Classic. And of course- my 1st Youtube viral video came when Stomper made an appearance at E-40′s record release party… This video was one giant step for the Hyphy movement.
The personal highlight reel continued this year when I was able to play audience to Oakland’s native son, and childhood friend, Tyson Ross as he pitched in the big leagues for the home team. I was able to bring some of my students for a day out at the park, and for the second year in a row we watched the homeboy throw
I’ve been to three games this year:
- VS. the Boston Red Sox on the July 4th fireworks game (on the night of July 3rd): A’s win and a tremendous fireworks display.
- VS. the Detroit Tigers, on Mother’s Day: A’s lose. (I brought students to the park- some of them brought their mothers. Tickets complimentary of Tyson Ross, it was a win nonetheless.)
- VS. the Texas Rangers on July 18th: A walk off homerun certifies the A’s as the hottest team in the league in July.
The July 18th game proved to be a gem. A pitcher’s duel through the 6thinning- a number of questionable calls, and close plays were all overshadowed by a bottom of the 9th walk off homerun.
At the end of the game, I shook the hand of the gentleman two rows over from me- I thanked him for the running commentary from the peanut gallery- his clever vulgarity was comedy throughout the entirety of the game. Baseball games bring people together- I probably would have had no other reason to speak to the shirtless white man who’s chest flesh went from Salmon to burgundy as the game progressed. Attending the baseball game is definitely more fun now that I’m legal drinking age, and obviously my new friend/ color (colored) commentator felt the same.
As the game ended, he felt the need to express himself by giving the Texas outfields the “suck it” gesture popularized by WWF wrestler from my childhood known as X-Pac. Not exactly “Angels in the Outfield”, but a memory from my younger days- so I’ll take it with a grain of salt and count it as life coming full circle.