I woke up early the morning of Sunday October 29, 1989, walked down to the 7-11, and proceeded to buy one of each newspaper on the stand that day. Who knew that the images that adorned those sports pages would be brought back to life on a blog site some 20 years later?
Who knew that I would still be waiting for a Sunday like that one?
When we began this journey back in February, we saw an Oakland A's ball club coming off a heartbreaking end to their previous season, and my oldest sister Tonianne receiving the news that she had breast cancer:
I was so looking forward to Spring Training that year. I knew we were on the verge, especially after they way things ended in '88. Sadly, I really don't remember much of it. I started chemo in April. I had my first treatment just before we took Patrick to his first A's game (he was 19 months). I know we sat in the first deck and I brought the baseball glove booster seat that you gave him for his first birthday. Everyone got a kick out of it. He didn't sit in it very long though; one of us ended up holding him most of the game. I think that was the last time things felt normal for me that year.
Things were a little left of normal for Tony La Russa's A's that season, first with the rash of injuries to key players, then with unexpected competition from the likes of the Angels and Royals, and finally an earthquake that shook the Bay Area just minutes before the start of Game 3 of the World Series, which the A's led two games to none over the San Francisco Giants before Mother Nature crashed the party.
Tonianne, who was already one of the A's biggest fans before cancer, went to great lengths to show her true colors, though not intentionally:
The first chemo wasn't too bad and I don't think I was sick much if at all. It all went downhill after that. One of the drugs I was given was a fluorescent green color. I remember thinking Lasorda may think he bleeds Dodger blue but I really do have A's green running through my veins!
While the A's slowly returned to full strength and received an extra boost of energy in the form of Rickey Henderson in June, my sister's attention turned away from the team she adored:
Meet the Hendersons: the A's really took off in 1989 when Rickey joined Dave in the outfield.
The rest of the summer, my focus was on Michael and Patrick, and getting through the chemo. Michael was working days with the Sheriff's Department so he had a somewhat normal schedule. I also continued to work at the bank full-time and worked my days off around chemo treatments. So, we made the most of the days we had together. I know we took a lot of day trips with Patrick. I don't remember going to very many games though, or even listening to them on the radio (and you know I never miss on game on the radio, even now).
After an ugly sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, Oakland won 11 of its last 14 games to win its second straight division crown, and then disposed of the Toronto Blue Jays in five hard-fought contests to become the first repeat American League champions since the 1977-78 Yankees. Tonianne was hardly able to enjoy any of it:
As the A's headed down the stretch, so did I. I was getting so sick from the chemo; it was taking me longer to recover between treatments. I was on steroids (supposedly to help with the nausea) so my face was bloated. I had my sights set on October, not because it was pennant time but because my last chemo treatment was coming up. In fact, my last treatment was on Friday, October 13 (the day before Game 1 of the Fall Classic). I popped into Safeway's floral shop just before treatment because I wanted to pick up a cactus plant for my chemo nurse. I ran into Uncle Rick who was in full A's regalia. Honestly, until I saw him I wasn't even thinking World Series. I just wanted the chemo to be over. It was pretty bad. I got sick in the office before they even brought the drugs out, and whatever they gave me after the treatment helped with the sickness but knocked me out for two days. I missed the first two games of the Series entirely. Usually if I had a treatment on Friday, I would be well enough to go back to work on Monday but I was pretty messed up so didn't go back until Tuesday, the day of the earthquake.
I have to say I was pretty freaked out by the quake, and when the Series resumed it was hard for me to get caught up in it. I so wanted to! I wanted everything to be "normal" again. I remember going to Mom's to watch Game 3. They kept showing the clip of Al Michaels getting cut off by the quake. All of the pre-game stuff was centered on the quake; mourning those lost, and celebrating the heroes. I guess looking back, it was important to recognize that and put in perspective what had happened. But we were back to baseball, at least the A's were, and it felt good to try and enjoy that.
I don't remember where we watched Game 4...
If the Giants had any ideas of extending the World Series, they were quickly laid to rest by an A's team that was simply not going to be denied. Rickey Henderson led off the game with a home run, and the rout was on. With two men on and two outs in the second, Oakland starter Mike Moore strode to home plate, trying to break an 0-for-70 skid by American League pitchers in Series play. In the ABC-TV booth, announcers Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver joked about what the scouting report was on Moore: "Has trouble with thrown ball." The Giants were the ones in trouble after Moore doubled over the head of centerfielder Brett Butler to drive in two runs, and then scurried home on a single by Rickey, sending starter Don Robinson to an early shower.
Terry Steinbach tripled home two more runs in the fifth, and scored on Tony Phillips' double to make it 7-0. A Rickey three-bagger in the sixth was followed by Carney Lansford's single to push the lead to 8-zip, before the Giants rallied.
The game hung in the balance in the seventh when SF put four runs on the board to close within 8-6, and brought up Will Clark with a chance to tie the game on one swing. Clark flied out, MVP Kevin Mitchell did the same, and that was that.
Tony Phillips made two sparkling plays in the ninth, as the A's finished with just one error in the Series- and that was by Dave Stewart in the first inning of Game 1. In a Fall Classic that saw the Bashers hit nine homeruns (by eight different players), the A's won the Series on what got them there in the first place- pitching and defense. Dennis Eckersley- just one year earlier the face of despair- gloved the final out of the 1989 World Series, and pumped his fist in celebration.
While the A's place in history was secure, they also understood their place in a different kind of history. Sports Illustrated's Steve Wulf:
Theirs was a celebration as unique and classy as they were. The Oakland Athletics had decided against staging the riotous bacchanal that these days almost always accompanies world titles, sensing, quite rightly, that the sight of players pouring champagne over each other would have been inappropriate in the aftermath of the earthquake that had claimed so many and ruined so much. So, instead, they had an impromptu family get-together, after finishing off their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants, last Saturday night in the fourth and final game of the 86th World Series. In the visiting clubhouse at Candlestick Park, green and gold balloons stood guard over the players, their wives, children and relatives.
I will let my sister put the finishing touches on a championship now two-decades old:
I don't remember being overly celebratory. I do remember that at Christmas all of the kids had World Series Champion t-shirts and that was fun! Michael gave me an A's team jacket and that was the tiny beginning of my road to recovery- from cancer, quakes and the like. I felt like the coming year would be great again and I was hoping that I would get to "celebrate" another A's championship.
I start every Spring Training thinking that we will! I don't attend as many games as I used to and we've long since given up our season tickets (1993.or so) but I never miss a game on TV and/or radio. I used to listen to every game when Bill King was around, televised or not, but I still enjoy listening to the radio. It reminds me of the old days when I kept a transistor under the pillow (games started at 8:00 back then and often didn't end until after 11:00, unless Holtzman was pitching); the same transistor I had put in my lunch bag during the ‘72 playoffs against Detroit. I still have it somewhere in the garage!
I don't know that winning a World Series again will ever feel like it did in ‘72 but I'd like to find out! I want our kids to jump up and down and go crazy and feel the pure joy that we felt. I'm glad that you can remember ‘89 differently than I do. I'm glad that you were able to experience that joy of winning it all. I'm glad that the year ended better than it began!
Twenty years a survivor, and counting: Tonianne with Eck this past summer.