During today's otherwise forgettable Cal vs. Tennessee college football game, the legendary Joe Starkey remarked that the 25th anniversary of "The Wave" was coming up, and that its origin dated back to the 1981 playoffs between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, when "Krazy George" Henderson first successfully encouraged fans to stand and sit in unison to create a rolling wave effect.
Though I deplore the wave and refuse to partake in it for a variety of reasons, I thought the wave's origin was worth investigating, especially following the allegations it actually started in the Oakland Coliseum!
While some at the University of Washington would like to take claim for The Wave's creation, the events of Oct. 15, 1981 are not in dispute.Joe Garagiola, former NBC sports commentator who called the game that day in Oakland, recalled the experience in a Nov. 15, 1984, article in The Dallas Morning News:
"I remember during the game that all of a sudden the fans started getting up then sitting down," Garagiola said... "As I remember, it looked the same or better than what they're doing now. Our producer, Don Ohlmeyer, was trying to get the cameraman to catch the wave, but he was always one sections behind. He (Ohlmeyer) kept pounding on him saying, `Get it. Get that thing.'
"I had never seen anything like it before. It was super."
Krazy George, or so he prefers to be called, had quit his teaching profession to become a full-time cheerleader. With the prospects of a full stadium and a national television audience, he seized the opportunity when the Yankees came to Oakland in 1981. Knowing the first attempt would fail, he told fans to boo each time it failed until they had a successful wave.'I knew the concept because I had done it at high school rallies and hockey games,' he said. 'But [at the baseball game], nobody had seen it, so I had to get everyone organized. I could only yell as far as four to five sections so I told everyone, 'Once it starts, it will die. And when it dies, I want everyone to boo.'
'The first time it went about eight sections down, and I had about four or five sections booing. The second time we started and stopped, and a huge boo went out. By the third time we tried, it went all the way around once, everyone stood up and applauded and then stopped. I had to explain to keep it going. The fourth time, all four decks did it and it kept going.
'It was a great feeling. It's so powerful.'
The wave has expanded beyond its initial roots here in Oakland worlwide, to international soccer matches, and of course, more baseball. One article on the wave says Cuban dictator Fidel Castro tried it but stopped with his hands half-way up, likely because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. The wave also had been unofficially banned from Chicago's Wrigley Field as the San Diego Padres fans mercilessly repeated the wave throughout the 1984 playoffs. The Padres eventually won that series.
So, go ahead, hate the wave. I know I do. Despise the Southern California mentality of the wave and beachballs on the field. But now you know where it all started.
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