When I was growing up in Washington I loved baseball. I idolized my older brother and he was a Mariners fan just like the rest of the family and so I was too. It made the most sense having Seattle be the closest team to me to cheer them on. And yet I remember mostly nothing from my childhood. I know the Mariners were bad. I knew they were bad then.
But something happened to change that...1995 when they came back from 7 games out in September to catch the Angels. I remember Luis Sojo hitting his bases loaded clearing double down the first base line that "sneaks on past Snow" and the throw to the plate was wide and Sojo himself scored. That set up the playoffs against the Yankees.
The Mariners found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the series when they got back to the Kingdome. Game 2 went into extras and I remember Jim Leyritz hitting the home run to win it for the Yankees. I remember the sinking feeling I got in my stomach when all hope seemed to be gone. This couldn't happen to my team, not after what they went through to get to this point.
For a video that shows the Mariners one game play off and their series against the Yankees follow me after the jump.
Now I know the title says why I'm an A's fan and all I have done is talk about the Mariners so let's get to it! I don't know if any of you remember the sports helmets that were filled with candies? Well my grandma got all us grand kids sports helmets with candies in it and my brother got a Mariners helmet. And what did I get? I got an Oakland Athletics helmet. I was not happy about it. I complained about it to my mom and she told me about the A's teams in the 70's and late 80's. She told me about how good that team used to be. All I had known was a Mariners team that wasn't good. I didn't care about any other team. And now out of spite to my family I became the only A's fan in the family. And it really couldn't have come at a better time.
Oakland and Seattle both struggled to have any consistency. The Mariners fell back under .500 in 1996 but ended up winning the division in 1997 while the A's were just trying to stay out of last place. I hated the Yankees and the Rangers a lot but the team I hated the most in the mid 90's was the Cleveland Indians. That's almost all to do with them beating the Mariners in the ALCS in 1995 but I never rooted for good teams to win before. I attached myself to the underdog and always wanted to see them take down the best.
When I hit middle school I was on the A's Babe Ruth league team and wore number 5. I was no John Jaha by any stretch of the imagination but he wore my favorite number so I rooted for him the most. I remember the first player on the A's I got really excited about though was Ben Grieve and I'm sure I'm not alone on this one. Although I did comment in the game thread about how excited I was for Terrence Long a few years later and Jeremy Reed (of the Mariners) when he came up. Neither one of them really panned out.
I remember the game in early April 2001 when Ichiro threw out Terrence Long at third. My older brother, who I had now grown to not idolize, was watching the game with me and was ribbing me for my guy getting thrown out. I couldn't believe it. It is still one of the best plays I have seen.
When the A's started their run of making the playoffs in 2000 those were the best years of my life as a baseball fan; they were also some of the most painful. I remember Jeremy not sliding. I remember Johnny Damon's "ground rule double" that should have been an inside the park homerun...I know that didn't have close to the impact of the slide but I was still upset about it at the time. I remember Jermaine Dye breaking his leg. But what I'll remember most is sitting at home watching playoff games with a plastic bucket turned upside down and hitting the crap out of it pretending I was at the Coliseum with the rest of the A's fans.
There was something fantastic about those A's teams and baseball during that time of my life. The Mariners record tying 116 wins. I still can't believe the A's won 102 games that year and finished 14 games out, that has to be one of the most ridiculous things in baseball. That a team that wins over 100 games finishes double digit games behind the division winner. I got to look at the newspaper and follow the 20 game win streak. I only got to see the A's play when they played the Mariners or when they played nationally against teams like the Red Sox or Yankees. One of these days I'll have to pay for MLB.TV so I can watch the Green and Gold.
The majority of my time as an A's fan they have been a competitive team. It's been a very difficult last few years for me as a baseball fan. The Mariners have been historically bad and the A's have just never been able to rebound back to where they were in the early 2000's. I'm still probably more of a casual fan. I'm not a stat head but I certainly appreciate those that are. I love coming to Athleticsnation on a daily basis and reading all of the fine work everyone puts in. I'm spoiled as far as the SB nation blogs go because I also lurk on Lookoutlanding and Jeff is one of my favorites to read.
Watching that video of the Mariners 1995 playoffs is enough to bring a tear to my eye. Part of that is remembering part of my childhood. Part of that is hearing Dave Niehaus making his calls and it sends shivers coursing throughout my body. I didn't ever get to listen to Bill King but Dave was my Bill King growing up. I think as fans of these two teams we have again been spoiled by how good our broadcasters were. Just brilliant baseball voices and like I said I didn't hear Bill King so I didn't get to listen to him do Warriors or Raiders games either but I know I missed out because I never did.
I have been an infrequent commenter on here but I know I have a lot to read and learn from everyone. I know this is a lost season and there's not a whole lot to get excited about but what's our alternative? The A's have been a part of our lives for years and while they owe us better than what we're getting I think they have given us plenty to deserve our support still. That's probably easy for me to say being an NRAF because I haven't put in the money or effort most of you have in being an A's fan. I haven't had to be invested in the stadium issue as deeply as residents in Oakland and the surrounding areas. I haven't had to sit and endure crowds of less than 5,000 people. I haven't had to sit in the Coliseum which I have mostly only heard bad things about. There's something rewarding when you feel like you're one of a handful that's with your team. I still go to Mariners games and support them every so often and my friends try to make sure I get to go to at least one game against the A's a year. I get to sit in the bleachers chanting "Let's go OAK-LAND!!!" while Safeco is quiet which usually incites the Mariners fans into cheering and getting into the game a little more.
I feel a sense of pride rooting for a team that no one else cares about. I feel like I'm part of a group here despite my lack of contributions. These A's fans here are some of the best fans out there. And it took some of these struggles to get us there. Everyone is a fan during the good years...it takes more effort to stay a fan while your team is becoming irrelevant.
Maybe my title should have just said "on why I am a baseball fan and remain one." I know it's been a struggle the last five seasons and I know our farm system isn't as highly ranked as it once was but all I can do is hope. We might still be a couple of years off, but one day Our A's will be back on top and I hope that day comes very soon.
I know I have read some other "why I became a fan" stories but I would love to read more of them. I think it's always interesting to hear how it all started. Feel free to write about how you became fans of other teams or other sports in the comments.