It happened on September 27, 1989. The Chronicle reported:
The Bay Area’s baseball dream – a World Series between San Francisco and Oakland – moved a huge step closer to reality last night when both the Giants and the A’s clinched the championship of their divisions. The A’s won the American League’s Western Division title at the Oakland Coliseum by beating the Texas Rangers, 5-0. Hours later, the Giants won the National League West when the second place San Diego Padres were mathematically eliminated by losing to the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, in the 13th inning. The Giants actually backed into the title, because they lost their own game to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1-0 – but they made baseball history anyway. It was the first time that two teams from the same region clinched division titles on the same night.
The A’s struck early with an enormous two-run homer by Jose Canseco in the first inning of their game at the Coliseum. The ball went up into the second deck, and for all intents and purposes, the game was over right then. “When Jose hit that homer,” said starting pitcher Mike Moore, “I just went out and told myself that might be all I get tonight.”
Moore then went on and threw a one-hitter until he was relieved in the seventh inning. The outcome was never really in doubt, but the fans stood for the entire ninth inning anyway. When the last man was out, the players mobbed first baseman Mark McGwire, who made the putout, and pitcher Gene Nelson, who had relieved Moore. The crowd roared, and the players took baseballs and tossed them in the stands for souvenirs.
“This is great,” said Susan Nelson of Pittsburg. “It’s even sweeter than last year.” “Yeah, this is fun,” McGwire said in the clubhouse later, as the players sprayed champagne over each other, sports reporters and TV people. “It was a tough road, so it’s better than last year. I think a lot of people wrote us off early. . . . But through it all, we never gave up on ourselves.”
Walter J. Haas Sr., the team’s owner, was soaked with champagne. He didn’t mind. “I’m just so proud,” he said. “They say no team ever repeats, and we did.”
For the Giants, the drama was dragged out until it was almost agony. They needed only one win or a San Diego loss to clinch, but they lost their third straight at Dodger Stadium. It was the only time they had been swept in a series all season. Now their fate was in the hands of the Reds, playing at San Diego. The Reds led most of the game, but the Padres came back to tie it up in the ninth inning.
The Padres, who had been red-hot all month, had the bases loaded in the 11th inning with one out, but they failed to score. In the 13th, they had the tying run on third base when Garry Templeton struck out. All this time, the Giants sat in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger stadium, drenched in gloom, but still hopeful, listening to a broadcast of the drama in San Diego. When the Padre game was over, the Giants broke out the champagne. “You’ve got to love it,” Clark yelled. “We wanted to win it on the field, but . . . we’ll take it any way we can get it,” Clark said before the end of the Padres game. “It’s suspended animation.”
Both the Giants and the A’s will probably be favored to win their league championship series. The Giants face the Chicago Cubs, a team that has failed to win the big games so often that being a Cubs fan has become an American cult. The Cubs have only appeared in the league playoffs once – in 1984. They have not played in the World Series since 1945 and last won the series in 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was president. But this year’s incarnation of the Cubs is a scrappy young team led by Don Zimmer, a canny veteran manager who once was a coach with the Giants. Their most colorful player is relief pitcher Mitch Williams, who once said, “I pitch like my hair’s on fire.” Fans call him “The Wild Thing.”
“We should have folded,” said McGwire, “”but we didn’t. That’s what makes this year a lot more special.” A Bay Area World Series? “”It would be the ultimate baseball experience of a lifetime,” said Bobby London, who has season tickets to both the A’s and the Giants. “You cannot ask for anything more.”
[By the way, the 5-0 win was the A’s last shutout of the year: Three double plays helped the A’s register their 20th shutout of 1989, a fairly astonishing number that shows how important pitching was in getting the A’s through this championship year. Jamie Moyer would have many days ahead of him, most better than this one: he got through just the first inning and two batters in the second, giving up six hits and three runs, and closed the season at 4-9.]