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Oakland A’s made a surprise cameo at end of Saturday Night Live

Is SNL’s Heidi Gardner an A’s fan? An investigation

Screenshot from NBC broadcast

Ever since I was in 7th grade in the late-1990s, I’ve been a huge fan of the show Saturday Night Live.

A year of pandemic quarantine allowed plenty of time to revisit old clips online, and there are some classic baseball sketches. Just to name a few, they’ve had Will Ferrell impersonating Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, a Ken Burns mockumentary about mid-90s strike replacement players, teased Barry Bonds and the Giants for cheating, featured Jose Altuve sitting on Leslie Jones’ lap, and did a 2015 sketch about playing in front of an empty stadium that still feels painfully relevant in multiple ways.

Of course, for A’s fans specifically it’s slightly less thrilling to see the likes of the Giants, the 2017 Houston Asterisks, and Manny Machado getting fun national attention. At least we have The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience by SNL alum and Berkeley native Andy Samberg, though that wasn’t from the late-night show itself.

SNL has been able to continue producing new episodes during the pandemic, and the latest one came out last night. There weren’t any baseball sketches, but the A’s did manage to make one extremely brief appearance.

At the end of each episode, the cast gathers on stage while the host gives thanks and bids farewell to the audience, and then everybody stands around hugging and chatting while the camera pans out and the credits roll. Lately, as you would expect, everyone on the stage is wearing a face covering. See if you can spot something interesting on Heidi Gardner’s mask.

Screenshot from NBC broadcast

What is that??

It appears Gardner is wearing two masks, and indeed here’s a photo of her with just the top (non-A’s) one. So, we’re talking about an A’s mask, hidden underneath another mask, but sticking out enough to see the logo. Still counts!

But wait, you might wonder. Since we can’t see the entire thing, what if it’s a general MLB mask with a bunch of team logos, and the A’s part just happens to be in the one spot that’s visible in this photo? We’re used to getting shoved into the corner, after all.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, though. Here’s another angle that shows the A’s green and gold extending across to the other side. Even if there are other teams represented beneath, there sure isn’t room for all 30 of them.

Screenshot from NBC broadcast

Obviously we must investigate this, to an unreasonably excessive extent.

According to Wikipedia, Gardner is from Kansas City, and moved to Los Angeles for around a decade before joining SNL. That doesn’t offer a direct connection to being an A’s fan, unless her grandparent had a dedicated love for Charlie Finley’s KC A’s, or perhaps she spent enough time around Angels fans to see them for the monsters they are. Her fandom of basketball is on the record (and she was a brief member of the Cleveland Cavaliers), but none of her public bio info mentions baseball as an interest — which doesn’t mean it can’t be, but at least it’s not something she appears to have shared with the world.

Perhaps there could be influence from others in her life? Her time on the cast didn’t come close to overlapping with noted A’s fan Samberg, but she does share a professional connection with SNL alum Will Forte, an East Bay native who identifies as an A’s fan. Among the current cast, Chloe Fineman is from Berkeley and has publicly repped both the A’s and Raiders on Instagram.

Or, there’s that other possibility. Gardner wanted to double-mask and it didn’t matter what the bottom one looked like because it would be hidden, and this A’s one was sitting around for some reason, and it’s a coincidence that it was showing on-screen at all. Or maybe the actual fan is Fineman, and Gardner just got a spare mask from her.

I need answers. Do we have fans of my favorite baseball team repping the Bay from across the country on one of my favorite TV shows? Or does this moment just land somewhere on the spectrum from coincidence to wardrobe malfunction?

And then maybe a sketch about Rickey Henderson stealing world landmarks like a Carmen Sandiego character, or Rollie Fingers as the target of the ring-toss game at a carnival, or Billy Beane trying to barter for undervalued merchandise at a supermarket, or Coco Crisp advertising his new cereal line, or Stephen Vogt starring in a preview for a gritty origin story movie about Stomper, or Mark Canha Baseball Food Critic adding sunflower seeds or nacho cheese to every dish, or Sean Manaea running a hair salon, or ...