I had the fortune of being raised an A’s fan. Like many of my generation, my father took me and my older siblings to the games in the inexpensive, easily-accessible Coliseum. This began at a time in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when, to add to it, the team that played in the Coliseum was actually pretty good. But of course, I didn’t care that much. I just liked the hot dog during warm-ups, sharing a personal pizza with my brothers in the middle innings, and (oddly enough) standing at the base of the tunnel in the ninth inning, eagerly awaiting what almost always seemed like a strike out to end the game, and a mad dash to the back of the parking lot to beat the southbound traffic.
But that was common to all my experiences at the Coliseum, and will continue to be the experience until the A’s either move or the mausoleum is razed in favor of a more modern home. What stands out as my "favorite", singular memory stands out not because of joy, not because of triumph. It stands out because of sheer heartbreak, pain that emblazoned in me a hatred of all things pinstripe, and a love of all things green-and-gold.
You might have guessed it. The day was October 13th, 2001. We weren’t allowed to bring full brooms into the Coliseum, so stashed in a duffel bag was the head of a broom. At the beginning of the game I pulled it out, waved it high the air from my third-deck left field seat. It was my cousin Paul’s birthday, so naturally he was there too. Me, my dad, my older brother and Paul, ready for sweet revenge from a year ago. Ready to put the big, bad Yankees away for good.
And yet it wasn’t to be.
Over the course of a few innings the excitement turned into tension. The A’s weren’t putting any runs across. But neither were the Yankees. Barry Zito, he with the 12-6 curve (I didn’t fully understand what that meant at the time), was doing his best to keep them at bay. Until Jorge Posada. I knew Posada from all the coverage FOX gave the Yankees. I didn’t like him. I didn’t care what Joe Buck thought. Posada seemed to have a swagger behind the plate and at bat that reminded me how much money the Yankees had. Money that the A’s didn’t have. And in that one fateful swing, that one ball hitting the top of the left field scoreboard, it came rushing back.
The tension mounted, now down 1-0. Of course, there was some hope that we’d win after tonight (we wouldn’t be the team to take a historic nosedive….), but I wanted to win today. Nip the Yankees in the bud. For gosh sakes, I was there! I needed to feel the triumph! I needed to feel revenge!
No, I needed to feel pain.
T-Long. I still remember the drummers drumming (the 12th day of Christmas?). A hit! Right field line…maybe we can score…yes!! NO!!!!! What the heck just happened? He was OUT???? WHAT??!!! I hate Derek Jeter!! Why didn’t he slide? Would that had made a difference??
Oh no, welp, here’s Mariano Rivera.
It was a long drive home that night back to Morgan Hill. But, we had games 4 and 5. And then, we didn’t. Heartbreak continued! Joe Buck, of course, later mentioning that the A’s set some sort of record. But not the good kind. October 13th, 2001 was when I really began to realize what I had signed up for in the Moneyball era. I would always have to defend my faith in my team, only to be pained by their near-misses, and made aware about it every time fair-weather types opened their mouths. Giants fans, Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, Angels fans. Yes, more pain. And yet it is pain with a purpose.
Over the next fourteen years I learned the purpose of pain in my life. Nine years of college, multiple failed attempts at love, and losing three grandparents in a year reminded me of that day in October. There were similar feelings. And like in life, I have learned to appreciate the joys as fully as I experience the sorrow that comes with being an A’s fan. A four-game sweep of the Rangers to win the division. Ken Korach’s proclamation of faith. Fosse’s scream. Stephen Vogt’s walk-off single. Six (seven) all-stars, and one starting! Sonny Gray, Mark Canha, and Tyler Ladendorf empahtically breaking the Opening Day losing streak.
And the Hot Stove. Oh, the warmth of the Hot Stove.