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The End of the World Series

When the A’s finished off their sweep of the Giants on October 28, Kim Boatman of the San Jose Mercury News was there to cover the action:

“Finally, after a season that stretched next to forever, the A’s claimed what they believed was supposed to be theirs in 1988. They held the Giants at bay 9-6 to complete a tidy four- game sweep and win the 1989 World Series.

This Series will be linked forever with the tragedy that accompanied the Oct. 17 earthquake and remembered for the nine days baseball was put on hold. And the A’s paid their respects to the Bay Area by sipping beer instead of spraying champagne after the game.

But nothing could diminish their exultation, which began after Tony Phillips scooped up Brett Butler’s ball after it glanced off Mark McGwire’s glove, flipping to reliever Dennis Eckersley at first to end the game.

Long after the game had ended, Eckersley was hanging onto the glove and ball and the sheer exhilaration of the moment.

”I just started thinking to myself before the last guy got up, ‘This is the out we’ve been waiting for. And you can’t get carried away,’ ” Eckersley said. ”I’ll always remember last year, but I’ll remember this year more. You don’t always get another chance.”

”I don’t know if I’m going to be here again,” McGwire said. “I’m going to savor it. I hope people respect us. If we don’t have respect, I don’t know what will earn it. I hope they say we’re a great team.

”I’d like to see it in the headlines tomorrow, ‘The A’s were great in ’89.’ Not many teams are called great teams that never won a World Series. I hope they put that tab on us.”

The A’s demanded respect from their neighbors, who never held a lead in four games. And they received their due afterward, when the Giants were still shaking heads and wondering what had hit them.

”The A’s were awesome. I’ve been in this league a long time and I can’t remember playing against too many teams as deep as they are,” the Giants’ Ken Oberkfell said. “You hate to lose, but it’s hard to feel bad when a team plays as well as they do.”

”It seems like everything came together right for this moment,” Phillips said. “We were stunned after we lost that first game (in ’88). . . . We got hit by a Tyson right. . . . This season, we battled. We just battled.”

Nothing came as easily this season as this Series did. The A’s took repeated hits — the loss of Jose Canseco for one-half season, Eckersley for six weeks and shortstop Walt Weiss for two months because of injuries — and forged ahead. So, when the Series ended so abruptly, they seemed caught by surprise.

”I thought we needed to win convincingly for the Bay Area to say we’re a better team. I thought we were,” Eckersley said. “I still thought we needed to do it convincingly. I was surprised that we did that. I’m glad we did, but I was surprised that we did. The Giants are a good team. I didn’t expect to win that easily. I don’t think anybody did.”

It was Henderson who had turned the ignition Saturday, popping a homer over the left-field fence on a 2-and-0 count to open the game. He became the 15th player to open a Series game with a homer and the first since Lenny Dykstra of the New York Mets did so in Game 3 in 1986.

And it looked all but finished in the top of the second, leaving the A’s to wait nervously through 7 1/2 more innings.

It was one of those troublesome Hendersons who began the onslaught. Dave Henderson opened the second with a double down the left-field line. Henderson advanced on Steinbach’s fly to right. Phillips grounded out to second. Then, it was hard finding fault with Craig’s logic when he had starter Don Robinson issue an intentional walk to shortstop Walt Weiss. Waiting on deck was Moore, and the sum total of his major league hitting experience was one at-bat in 1987, when he made an out.

Moore swung and missed twice, then drove the ball over Butler’s head in center field. Butler gave chase, but the ball barely eluded his outstretched glove. Moore went into second standing up with a two-run double and the first base hit by an American League pitcher in the World Series since Baltimore’s Tim Stoddard singled on Oct. 13, 1979.

Rickey Henderson singled to left, and third-base coach Rene Lachemann sent Moore loping home. He scored, Henderson went to second on the throw and Robinson departed.

The Giants, a team that made a living off comebacks, stubbornly clung to life. And they came darned close to scaring the daylights out of the A’s and staging one of the great comebacks in Series history.

A’s Manager Tony La Russa lifted starting pitcher Moore after six innings with the A’s leading 8-2. And Gene Nelson, who owned a 54.00 ERA in the Series after failing in the ninth during the Giants’ four-run rally in a 13-7 loss in Game 3, did it again. He walked Terry Kennedy, and Greg Litton followed with a two-run homer. Nelson got Donell Nixon to fly out to right, and left-hander Rick Honeycutt came in.

Pinch hitter Candy Maldonado tripled to right on a ball that Canseco perhaps could have caught. Butler followed with a run- scoring double to left and pinch hitter Robby Thompson’s single made it 8-6. Honeycutt got Will Clark to fly out to right, and Todd Burns came in to face Kevin Mitchell.

The A’s lead looked awfully precarious when Mitchell sent a towering fly to left, but Rickey Henderson caught it on the warning track.

The A’s added insurance when reliever Steve Bedrosian walked in a run in the top of the eighth.”

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Cypress Viaduct Map

Here’s a picture of a Thomas Bros. map showing the location of the Cypress Viaduct, a few miles north of the Coliseum on the Nimitz Freeway, the 880, as it turns north to the approach to the Bay Bridge:

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To commemorate the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake, or really the morning of, here’s the story (and picture below) by Marc Sandalow that appeared on the S.F. Chronicle’s front page on Oct. 17, ’89:

Candlestick Park will host its first World Series game in 27 years tonight as the San Francisco Giants try to reverse the one-sided Battle of the Bay.

Trailing the Oakland A’s two games to none in the best-of-seven series, the Giants and their fans tried to put the best face on their prospects. But in Oakland, they were already planning a victory parade.

“The mood has really chilled,” said David Yachimowicz, who stood on Geary Street across from Union Square, selling Giants T-shirts. Sales were abysmal.

“It was supposed to be a battle of the Bay, not a steamroller by the A’s,” he said.

The A’s are just two victories away from winning their first World Series crown since 1974. The Giants have not won a World Series during their first 21 seasons in San Francisco, and they must win four of the next five games to triumph this year.

LONG FACES

In the East Bay, the mood was one of quiet confidence. In San Francisco, long faces revealed a begrudging acceptance that this year’s baseball bragging rights may belong to Oakland.

“The A’s are playing just as great as everyone expected,” said Mac Dunn, a Giants fan from Sebastopol. “I don’t want to be negative, but the Giants are in their late season slump. A lot of us were expecting it even earlier.”

Tonight’s contest begins at 5:35, and temperatures are expected to fall into the upper 50s. To the disappointment of some Giants fans, who had hoped a traditional Candlestick fog would dampen the A’s bats, weather forecasts call for clear skies with 10- to 20-mile-per-hour winds from the west.

Giants manager Roger Craig said yesterday that he will make some lineup changes for tonight’s game. He will play Ken Oberkfell at third base and move Matt Williams to shortstop in place of Jose Uribe and will play Pat Sheridan in right field in place of Candy Maldonado.

“THE WEST COAST WINS’

Regardless of the outcome on the field, some San Franciscans let it be known that they consider it a major accomplishment even to be hosting baseball’s Fall Classic.

“The West Coast wins again, and the East Coast loses,” said a smiling Nick Spina, a contractor putting the final touches on a new downtown store. “If the Giants lose, they lose, but we’ve got the World Series.”

The last time the Giants hosted a World Series was in 1962, when Willie Mays played center field and BART was just a concept. The Giants lost that series to the New York Yankees in seven games.

Gala Party

Last night, a gala party sponsored by the Giants filled the grand ballroom at the St. Francis Hotel, with an invitation list including Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent and the owners of all 26 Major League teams. Giants first baseman Will Clark and Williams attended a party in their honor, given by their agents, at a South of Market club.

For the record, yesterday was a travel day, and hundreds of representatives from Major League Baseball and the media staying in Oakland packed their bags and drove across the Bay Bridge, checking into San Francisco hotels.

Some Giants fans found reason for hope in the change of ballparks. They said the familiar fans, contours and winds of the park will provide their team with the winning margin.

Others said National League rules, which will be enforced in Candlestick, will favor the Giants. The National League requires the pitcher to bat, while the American League allows a team to designate another player to hit for the pitcher.

“Now the A’s will have to play real baseball,” said Keith Angerman, a civil engineer from Marin and an avid Giants fan. “No more sissy rules.”

VICTORY PLANS

In Oakland, cautious fans began preparing for a celebration. If Oakland continues its domination, the A’s could be World Series champions as soon as tomorrow.

Plans were already being made for a victory parade – much like the one that was scrapped last year after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the A’s – and a fireworks celebration.

Civic boosters announced that a parade will be held on the first business day after the conclusion of the series, if the A’s win. The parade would proceed six blocks down Broadway, from 20th Street to 14th Street, and end up at City Hall, where the team would be honored by city leaders.

“We’re not banking on it – we’re just planning for it,” said an extremely guarded Tim Gallen of the Celebrate Oakland committee. “We’re cautiously optimistic, but after last year, no one is going to break the spell, man. We’re still superstitious and hoping.”

SOME SYMPATHY

Even if most Oakland fans seemed sure that the series will soon be over and the A’s quest for a world championship will be fulfilled, in the sober sunshine of the city’s financial district, there was little in the way of rubbing it in.

“No one forgot what it felt like last year,” said Cassie Arnold, a third-generation Oakland resident. “We know what it’s like to get killed, so I’m sympathetic.”

For those who are not among the 62,000 fans with tickets to this week’s games at Candlestick, a big-screen television will broadcast the games at Oakland’s Jack London Waterfront.

The picturesque scene may not be comfortable for Giants fans, however. Of the 39 teams who have trailed 2-0 in the World Series, only 10 have come back to win.

“We’re down, our backs are against the wall,” Giants manager Craig conceded after the latest loss Sunday night.

“This thing could turn around at home. This game can humble you in a minute. You win a couple games and you’re riding high. I’m not saying Oakland is like this, but all of a sudden, it can turn around.”

(The game was scheduled for 5:35, with Bob Welch and Don Robinson pitching, and KSFO, KNBR, KCBS, KNTA, and KLOK all carrying the game on radio.)

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In Cleveland, Rickey gets four steals after reaching on walks: two in the
sixth and two in the seventh. Both times he scores on sac flies by Canseco.
I realize it’s easy to go on and on about Henderson’s ability to create runs by himself, but still, four steals within two innings does make an
impression. The A’s beat Cleveland 8-6. Here’s the relevant lines from the
Chronicle:

Oakland’s largest run production since September 5 owed a lot to Rickey
Henderson and Tony Phillips. For the fifth time this year and 40th overall
in his ongoing big-league record, Henderson led off a game with a home run.
He also stole four bases. The first kicked off a five-run sixth inning. The
second, in the seventh inning, provided what seemed a superfluous run. The
A’s would eventually be grateful for it.
“Every time you see what he does, it’s amazing,” said La Russa. “There is
nobody like that in the game today.”

Phillips pushed a 4-3 A’s lead to 7-3 with a bases-loaded triple that
climaxed the sixth. He hit a 3-2 fastball from ex-A’s farmhand Jeff Kaiser
into the right-field corner. Phillips is having quite a September, hitting
.447 in 16 games.

Dave Henderson has begun calling innings like the seventh, when the other Henderson walked, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly,
“a Rickey rally.” By whatever name, it came in handy.
An error by shortstop Mike Gallego opened things up for a three-run
Cleveland rally in the bottom of the seventh, and the Indians pulled within
8-6. That inning ended rather dramatically, as Matt Young came in to retire
Pete O’Brien with runners on first and second. Gene Nelson pitched a perfect
eighth and Eckersley did the same in the ninth.
“I wanted to get back out there before we left town,” said Eckersley, who blew a save here Monday night. “I didn’t want that to linger.”

Mark McGwire’s 1989

At the end of the ’89 season David Bush, an S.F. Chronicle writer, wrote up a summary of Mark McGwire’s season. What’s at least somewhat interesting about this story, aside from the picture of one slice of McGwire’s ballplaying days, is how it reflects the current attitude toward sabermetrics-type analysis by McGwire, La Russa, and the Chronicle. Some excerpts:

Mark McGwire finished the year with some very noteworthy statistics. The numbers certainly attract attention, especially all those little numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Among the American League leaders in home runs and RBIs, McGwire spent most of the season apologizing for a batting average that was snoozing in the .220s in September before finishing at .231.

“This is the most difficult year I’ve ever had,” said the 26-year-old slugger. Most players would give a lot to have a year as difficult as McGwire’s. In his third full season he hit more than 30 homers for the third time, he drove in more than 90 runs for the third time and he played in his third All-Star Game.

“Everybody is looking at my batting average, and saying I had a bad year,” said McGwire. “I’m sure I’ve gotten some heat. There is no question that my home runs and RBIs don’t belong with my batting average. But that should tell people that the hits I get are doing something.”

“My stroke has been pretty much the same all year,” he said. “That isn’t the problem. I have just been pulling my head off the ball. When I stay down, I’m all right, but I haven’t been able to do that consistently.”

“If you look at his season overall you would have to say it’s good,” said manager Tony La Russa. “His No. 1 offensive responsibility is to produce runs, and when you get over 30 in homers and in the 90s in RBIs, you are doing that. But he prides himself on being a total hitter, so he’s not satisfied.”

At season’s beginning, McGwire seemed primed for a blockbuster year. He hit .360 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in spring training, and kept it up when the regular season began.

He went 8-for-22 with three homers and eight RBIs in the first six games. This was made even more impressive by the fact that Jose Canseco was out of the lineup with his broken wrist, putting even more burden on McGwire.

“That was probably the hottest I have ever been in my life,” said McGwire. “I was on everything.”

Then, in Anaheim, he felt a twinge in his back and had to leave the game. He went on the disabled list for two weeks with an injured disk.

“When I came back I had a few good games, but all of a sudden I was trying to find something and it just wasn’t there,” said McGwire. That began the battle that he still is fighting.

A declining batting average is usually a symptom of impatience. But if McGwire has changed as a hitter this year, he has become more particular about the pitches he attacks.

“I think I have learned to be more patient in certain situations,” said McGwire. “I don’t chase as many bad balls, and my walks are up. If they are going to walk me, I’ll let them.”

McGwire walked 76 times in 155 games last year. This year he has 83 in 143, which is the reason his on-base percentage is .340. That’s nice, but no substitute for bigger digits in the batting average.

“It would be interesting to see what my season would have been if I hadn’t been on the disabled list for those 15 days,” he said. “But you can’t live on “what ifs.’ If I average 30 homers and 90 RBIs a year for the rest of my career, that’s pretty good. I’d take that.”

As the ’89 playoffs were about to begin, the folks at Electronic Arts (aka EA Sports) were asked by the San Francisco Chronicle to put together a simulation of a Bay Bridge World Series, or at least its first game, by inputting the A’s and Giants season stats into the “Earl Weaver on Baseball” video game. It was a little sign of the growth of the video game and fantasy realm for the sports fans over the next two decades. So, here’s what the Chronicle’s Glenn Dickey said. It’s absolute trivia, sure, but also shows how sports and technology were combining in the Bay Area:

Happy Keller, who wears a Giants cap and sweatshirt to work, was selected to manage the Giants team. Rich Hilleman managed the A’s. Both approached their jobs with enthusiasm and aggressiveness, possibly calling for even more pitchouts than Roger Craig and Tony La Russa will during the real Series.

We had to make some assumptions. Though Scott Garrelts has had an outstanding season, for instance, Reuschel was picked as the Giants starter; all of us remember Garrelts’ shakiness in clutch situations in past years. Dave Stewart was the A’s starter, even though it could be argued that Mike Moore pitched better this season, because of Stewart’s reputation as a big-game pitcher.

And, though Mike Gallego has played surprisingly well at shortstop for the A’s this year, we assumed that Walt Weiss would be the starter in the Series.

Because the opener would be played at the Oakland Coliseum, the designated hitter was to be used, so we made Ernest Riles the Giants DH and batted him fifth, between Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams.

That behind us, we played the game as honestly as we could, considering that the company president, Trip Hawkins, is a Giants season-ticket holder and was watching our game avidly. Not saying the game was fixed, mind you, but . . . IN MANY ways, the game mirrored what is likely to happen in a Bay Bridge Series.

There was, for instance, Steve Bedrosian coming in and throwing a two-run homer, just as he did to Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves on September 12. There was Rickey Henderson stealing two bases.

And Walt Weiss got three hits.

Walt Weiss? The same player who has hit under .240 this season? Yes, because the Series often produces unlikely heroes. Remember Buddy Biancalana? Gene Tenace? Don Larsen? Howard Ehmke?

The matchups? Reuschel put Jose Canseco in his hip pocket, striking him out four times. Again, the kind of thing that could happen, because Reuschel could keep a too-eager Canseco off balance.

Stewart gave up a single to Will Clark in the first inning but struck out Clark with two men on and two outs in the third. He pitched very, very carefully to Kevin Mitchell, walking him twice.

The scoring went like this:

The A’s scored first in the bottom of the fourth when Tony Phillips walked and came around on a double by Weiss.

The Giants evened it in the fifth. Jose Uribe led off with a triple – speaking of unlikely heroes – and scored on a successful suicide squeeze by Brett Butler.

In the seventh, the Giants took a 3-1 lead when Pat Sheridan doubled and, after a strikeout by Uribe, Butler and Robby Thompson followed with singles. Because the throw went to the plate on Butler’s single, he moved up to second and was in a position to score on Thompson’s single.

Singles by Sheridan, Butler and Thompson provided another Giants run in the top of the ninth, but that 4-1 Giants lead became very shaky in the bottom of the inning.

When Weiss led off with a single, Keller took out the tiring Reuschel, who had thrown 137 pitches, and brought in Bedrosian. On a 2-1 count, Henderson hit a 395-foot shot over the left-field fence to bring the A’s back to 4-3.

Carney Lansford followed with a drive that backed Mitchell up to the fence for the first out. Canseco, finally seeing a real fastball, drove one of Bedrosian’s right to the fence in left-center, but again, Mitchell caught up to it. Finally, Dave Parker hit one off his fists that the busy Mitchell caught for the third out.

A shaky outing for Bedrosian, but a save nonetheless, and a Giants win.

Before the ALCS with Toronto started, Rickey Henderson said: “I can say I was the final piece of the puzzle. They were missing a leadoff hitter, they were missing a left fielder. When I used to look at the Oakland team, I’d think about what was holding them back from being a great team. Maybe they were waiting for me to come back and fill that.

“I can create things and be a very productive player. I watched this team from the stands during the last playoffs (in 1988) and noticed that they lacked something exciting at the top of the order. I can give this team excitement at the top of the order. If we win the championship, I think I’ll be a difference because I can get on base and make things happen.

“When I played against them [in 1988], I didn’t think they were that good at all. I never thought they had that great a group of guys. Now, I think we have a tremendous team.”