As I write this, it will be 41 years tomorrow that my dad extracted my brother and I from school to attend a baseball game. October 5, 1971 was a warm Indian summer morning in the bay area. That afternoon, game 3 of the 1971 American League playoffs would take place between the Baltimore Orioles and my hometown Oakland A’s. My classmates were envious, and I had to endure their good-natured teasing, but knew that somehow the class would monitor the progress of the game. My very first playoff experience.
Some striking similarities in the game Mary Ann and I attended yesterday. Weekday game with a playoff atmosphere, kids in attendance missing school, classic bay area Indian summer weather, Oakland Coliseum, green and gold taking the field, a palpable level of excitement. Game #162, the final game in a season full of magic and exceeded expectations. We endured a loss back in ’71, Jim Palmer threw a complete game, despite a pair of home runs by Reggie Jackson. But the O’s were a powerhouse, even though they lost to the Pirates in the World Series, their lineup was formidable up and down.
Texas has a lineup more than capable of lighting up a pitching staff, but my A’s never flinched.
To say that history was made this day is a little misleading, but it certainly marked the culmination of an incredible regular season.
A.J. Griffin was pulled after surrendering 5 runs. Unfortunate for him, the quality of his pitches wasn’t all that bad, it looked to me like he was more a victim of bad luck more than anything else. Evan Scribner relieved Griffin and ended up getting the win, but after getting a force out on one pitch in the 3rd, he did give up some loud contact the following inning. With 2 out, Beltre smashed a single, Cruz doubled and Young lined out to first. Were it not for Brandon Moss’ reach, Young probably has 2 RBIs. Scribner was sharp in the 5th and into the 6th inning.
A 4-run lead was not enough to strike fear into the hearts of the A’s and their faithful fans. Yes, the volume dropped temporarily until Scribner got the out in the 3rd, but we sensed that being as early in the game as it was, scoring 4 runs was certainly within our reach.
A’s fans are my people. It was like sitting with extended family – high fives, “Let’s Go Oakland” chants, vuvuzela blasts – the works. Lots of love in the stands.
The right field bleachers greet Grant Balfour with the boxing kangaroo move. Hilarious!
The players not only feel the love, they give it right back. The infield celebration was madness, the victory lap run by the entire roster afterward was even better. They just couldn’t get enough, returning to the field over an hour after the last out.