I suppose it’s jealousy, but only to a certain degree.
Oakland fans and Boston fans: 2 distinctive breeds. For a variety of reasons, the Oakland A’s draw the largest crowds when three teams are in town: the Giants, Yankees and Red Sox, and at times, it might seem like there are equal numbers in attendance rooting for the visitors. I don’t remember it always being this way.
The Giants have strung together some pretty good seasons recently, the preseason Bay Bridge series has always been fun to watch from both sides of the water, same true of interleague play. The Yankees and Sox draw for different reasons: history, tradition, and fierce loyalty among them. They play in storied ballparks that are tucked into neighborhoods, the average baseball fan’s consciousness can easily conjure visions of the façade at Yankee Stadium, or the green monster at Fenway. So many iconic and defining moments have taken place there – I clearly suffer from ballpark envy. But I have my own set of iconic memories that took place on our field. Hey, it ain’t beautiful, but it’s our home.
The A’s just finished playing a series against the Red Sox, my family was in attendance for the July 3 game that featured fireworks afterward. It wasn’t quite a last minute decision, but without really planning in advance for it, we got tickets, gathered up some snacks, and found ourselves sitting in the 2nd deck near the left field foul pole. The stadium was at far less than full capacity when Coco Crisp led off the bottom of the first with a home run to stake the A’s to a 1-0 lead. People eventually found their seats, and as the sections filled up, it was easy to make note of the number of Boston faithful that were in our presence.
I like to think of myself as fairly thick skinned, but there just happened to be a few people sitting in our section who pushed my buttons. I suppose it was a source of motivation to root more vigorously for my A’s, as I found myself shouting out a coarser-than-usual “SIT DOWN” or “GOT HIM” whenever a good defensive play retired a Red Sox batter.
Let’s start with ponytail mom. Sitting 3 rows in front of us, she has the look of a well-heeled suburban soccer mom in her 40s, married to a mid-level executive, blond ponytail bouncing from underneath her weathered Red Sox cap. But what’s this? Her husband and 4 kids all have identical equally weathered caps, as though they were bought that way. OK, I own pre-faded jeans, my bad for pointing this out. What’s bothersome is seeing her jump up to celebrate a Boston batter reaching base. Sorry, but save your jumping up and down for a hard hit double in the gap, not for reaching on an error by the second baseman. I didn’t hear exactly what she was saying, but I imagine it as “Oh yay! He did something good!”
Next is Mr. Encyclopedia, who, for 2 innings sat in the row right in front of me. Fairly or unfairly, he fulfilled my own stereotype of the typical Boston fan. Wearing a Pedro Martinez replica jersey, he had a nervous energy and intense demeanor, fidgeting in his seat, rocking from side to side as he professed as to how Jon Lester would pitch successfully against Oakland hitters (pretty decent night for Lester, unless of course, you count the leadoff homer), or how Dustin Pedroia was going to rifle one into the gap (he didn’t). Clearly a smart guy, more that once I heard him recite a player’s statistic, my guess is he’s in multiple fantasy leagues. Good for you, Skippy. When Pedroia was called out on a close play at first base to end an inning, I put a little more behind my shout of “OUCH”. There go your stats.
Sitting next to Mr. Encyclopedia is yuppie girl. I had little problem tuning her out, but I did catch enough of her conversation (hey, she was sitting almost directly in front of me, I’m just trying to watch the game, OK?) about the great Boston neighborhoods she’d lived in back in the day. “You just don’t find that out here.” Thank you for the brilliant observation. You’re in California now for what reason? Be gone.
We talked about our strategy for going onto the field to watch fireworks after the game. The line forms from the first deck in the left field corner, just below our section. To land the choicest plot on the outfield grass, Nat and I decided to get in the front of the line and give cuts to Mary Ann and Eric whenever they arrived, so we headed down in the 8th inning. 3 television monitors are visible from the corridor where people are lining up, and although we couldn’t see in detail, as the fireworks line grew, we saw the events that led up to the A’s stunning comeback and victory. Joy. Elation. High fives. Hoarse voice. Before the winning run crossed the plate in the bottom of the 9th, a number of Boston fans, seemingly craving attention, would parade past the growing gathering of A’s fans, holding up their caps, so proud of their 1 run lead and expected victory, whereupon they were subjected to a chorus of booing, hand gestures, and profanity. Excuse me, but your gloating is about to come to an end.
I don’t dislike the Red Sox, honestly. There was a time when I really hated them, but I got over it long ago, probably when Dave Stewart went about OWNING Roger Clemens in truly meaningful games. I do admire their fans’ zeal, just not in OUR house.
Coming back to my memory are some other sweeps over the Sox. A couple times in the playoffs (1988, 1990), and a stunning sweep at the Coliseum that wrested the wildcard lead from Boston in August of 2001. I took an “extended lunch break” from work that day to soak in the victory under ideal bay area baseball weather conditions.