Note: I wrote this piece before CSN did their poll yesterday, but pretty incredible that we both had the top moments, and the 25-year span!
I know you didn't think we were finished talking about The Perfect Game! I must say, this has been a fantastic way to get the A's on the national radar, and in a hurry! Even when the A's won 20 games in a row, it still took weeks to build, and even then, very few people outside of the sports world knew what was happening. In the last three days, I have had no less than 10 people, all of whom could not tell the difference between a football and a baseball, tell me how excited they are about the perfect game.
And when your starting pitcher shows up on Letterman, a decidedly non-baseball-world show, you know your team has made it. Green and gold fever has swept the nation, and while I'm normally one to be very proprietary about the A's outside of A's fans (they're MY small market club; get your own), I have to admit, I like the national attention. I'm not saying that I want the A's to be the darlings of ESPN (I've always thought it quite boring to be a fan of a high-profile team), but a full five minute opening segment on SportsCenter, the front pages headlines of Bay Area newspapers (not just the sports section), and the ubiquitous and strangely-effective buzz surrounding The Perfect Game has been fantastic.
This was a gift to us; a reward for all the hours we spent rooting for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 Oakland Athletics. All of us were rooting for the team two weeks ago and last Friday night, where the Rays' offense used the A's pitchers for batting practice while the Rays' pitching shut down the A's offense in embarrassing fashion. We rooted anyway. Night after night, day after day, we kept coming back to the ballpark, or back to our TV sets, or back to the internet, our phones, perhaps using nothing more than the ticker at the bottom of ESPN, because you have to watch every game, after all. You never know what might happen that day.
We didn't bandwagon onto Dallas Braden; we've been riding the wagon for a very long time; through good times and bad, and when The Moment happened, no one had to tell us to change the channel; we were already watching. And in a rare (oh so rare!) gift, we got to see/watch/listen to/blog about/experience true perfection. And that can't be taken away.
But can a perfect game be topped?
What if this is the year that the A's outlast the weakened AL West and win the division? What if they advance to the ALCS? What if they go to the World Series? What if the A's start stringing together a lot of wins in a row? And what if they win it all? Would any of those moments be just a little bit better than Sunday's experience?
And then there's A's history. I went back 25 years, because of the median age of the blog. I firmly believe that you have to experience a moment or a team yourself in order to capture the feeling, the essence of how amazing a moment is. For example, I am told that the 1970's Oakland Athletics were quite something to watch; maybe better than any team to date, yet I didn't live it. I can look up all the stats/video/highlights I want, and it's just not the same. For those of you who DID live those years, tell us how great those moments were; I want to know how you felt.
For everyone else, is there anything in the last 25 years that came close to rivaling Dallas' perfect game? I want to put this moment in perspective.
I have started a list of rivals:
More than any other moment in A's history, this still rivals the perfect game to me; instead of one perfect afternoon, we had 20 glorious days--more than three weeks of baseball--where the A's didn't lose. It came with its own benefits; because it unfolded over the month, it put some butts into the seats and also drew it's share of national attention.
With 55,528 fans filling every section of the Coliseum, the Athletics set an AL record by winning their 20th straight game.
Outside the park, fans held far more than the usual number of tailgate parties. Inside, dozens of national media members arrived, eager to tell the story of Oakland's young, carefree team.
Even those who couldn't make it were thinking about the A's.
"We talk about it. We're all fans of baseball," said Rich Gannon, the Oakland Raiders' Pro Bowl quarterback. "A lot of the guys know some of the players, and it's exciting to see them win -- not only that, but the way they've won, just kind of battled and hung in there. They're just playing with such confidence right now."
"We would have been here anyway," said Ray Andrews, who occupied his boss's season seats in the lower bowl. "But anything that gets people out to support the team is good. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something like this."
That attendance number is still unbelievable to me. And while Braden's game will, no doubt, draw in some additional fans, I think the A's should try another streak. No one can predict a perfect game; it's what makes it so magical when it happens. With a streak; however, each game builds on itself; and fans are given fair warning that they might want to show up at the next one.
If we're breaking down specific moments of the 20 games:
Miguel Tejada's walk-off hits
I still remember where I was for games 18 and 19. And no, I didn't much care if GameDay audio running on a laptop under a sales counter was unprofessional; I did it anyway.
Hatteberg's walk-off homerun that broke the 11-11 tie, after the A's had given the lead all back
I'm biased, since I was actually at this game, but despite the fact it wasn't a winning hit by itself, it was what finally broke the ALDS curse for the A's; it was the hit where all the fans realized that the A's were going to the ALCS for the first time in 14 years. Add to that the "Marco" "Scutaro" chant that raised goosebumps up and down the stadium, and it was a magical A's moment.
The 1989 World Series
For me, I can tell you that a World Series title this season would be better than a perfect game. Much more common, I understand,and not as headline-grabbing, but to see these A's as a team--the team that I have put countless time, energy, money, and parts of my soul into--win a title, no matter how unlikely, would eclipse anything I have previously felt in baseball.
The only World Series in my lifetime was 1989, and I still feel it was tainted. I was too young to really enjoy it; how rare it really is, and the earthquake cast a shadow over everything else. There isn't much rejoicing in a sporting event, no matter how important, during a tragedy.
He walked 3 (obviously Braden walked none), but he also struck out a career-high 12 batters (Braden K'd 6).
There are only four players to have ever done this, and no one has done it twice. Ironically, A-Rod is one of them.
Dennis Eckersley Wins Cy Young/MVP in Same Year
In 1992, Dennis Eckersley (as a relief pitcher), won both the AL Cy Young award as well as the MVP.
Back to Back to Back ROY's
Canseco, McGwire, Weiss all took home the honors their first year with the A's.
Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, and Jose Canseco all won the coveted award for the A's.
Cy Young Award Seasons/Welch's 27 win season
Bob Welch won 27 games in 1990; the last time any player has won more than 25 games since 1972.
For a whole year, Barry Zito was practically perfect, snagging the Cy hardware in 2002, beating out Pedro Martinez.
Rickey Henderson's Stolen Base Record(s)
Rickey holds the record for career stolen bases, as well as the single-season stolen base record (130, which was in 1982, outside of the last 25 years, but still worth mentioning!)
Canseco's 5th deck monster homerun
In game 4 of the ALCS in Toronto, he became the first player to hit a HR into the 5th deck.
Ramon Hernandez' Walk-Off Bunt
Catching the Red Sox completely by surprise, Hernandez' two-out game-winning, walk-off bunt remains one of the most famous bunts in recent Major League history.
Those are my moments; what are some of yours? Has anything the A's done in the past been better than what happened on Sunday? How good of a moment was The Perfect Game?
And what, if anything, could be better?
Athletics lead the series 1-0
WP: Tyson Ross (1 - 0)
LP: Dustin Nippert (1 - 3)
|7 - 6 win|
|Thu 05/13||11:05 AM PDT|