The depth and pain of grief is directly inverse to the strength and joy of love that we felt for whatever is no longer with us. This feels like a death in a family as the Oakland A’s are the very first thing that I remember loving.
Without given away my age I was born in the 70s in Oakland and my first A’s memories were at age 4 having my older cousins excitedly watching a post season win on television at my house. The wedding gown white, fort knox gold, and Kelly green seemed like a cartoon. My young mind was in love. This was from my home town and it was wonderful. I have never stopped loving the Oakland A’s. I shortly after fell in love with the Golden State warriors. Being from Oakland and rooting for our two teams has been a huge part of my identity as I have aged. I am not a patriotic American. I am a patriotic Oaklander and proud ex pat. Rooting for these two teams was my pledge of allegiance.
I attended hundreds of games in Oakland since that time. May I memorable. I remember Reggie’s return in 1987 and losing my mind chanting his name with every at bat. I remember Mark McGwire that summer being the talk of baseball. I remember attending Rickey’s returning game in 89 and just how that felt when he was introduced. I remember Ken Phelps breaking up a perfect game after 26 outs with his only A’s homer in 1990. Many opening days. Many memories. Many came with my father and brothers.
My father’s family was from Norway but they landed in the SF bay and my father was a giants fan. My middle brother an A’s fan and my youngest brother giants. We would, as a family, attend both the SF and Oakland bay bridge games prior to the start of every season. Those crowds to my young mind were something special. My mother, herself born in south America and landing in SF at age 10, sans parents, was a giants fan. She would rarely attend games as she was uncomfortable in crowds but she was with us in spirit. She remains a giants fan to this day.
I remember the last out in 89 and feeling what felt like the ultimate joy at the time. My youngest brother cried. I felt a sting of sorry for him but more joy. I was, and many that we knew, were deeply impacted by the earthquake and this was bitter sweet. I remember thinking it would be joy to win again without the shadow that loma prieta had cast. Of course, as we all know, that will never come.
The first game after the all star break in 1999, A’s and giants. The giants scored first and had a significant lead. My dad and younger brother gloating as was common place in in these affairs. It could be us playing each other in Ken Griffey on the SNES, as the A’s and giants, playing our constructed all time A’s and Giants rosters on Baseball stars, or of course watching or attending games. Giambi tied the game with a homer. In the 9th Olmedo Saenz hit a walk off off of Rob Nen. I lost my voice. I couldn’t talk for days.
I moved away in 2001. I attended games in Detroit and Toronto on a regular basis and my A’s and Warriors fandom continued to be a huge part of my identity. I am Oakland diaspora. As I became established in my new home area I became the Oakland guy and the baseball guy. I would be approached by others to explain whatever advanced metric they did not fully grasp. I would be a go to for analysis of a given player or pennant race. I also always had on A’s gear, either directly or hidden by "adulting" clothing. It became my trademark.
In 2003 I joined the initial ancestor of Athletics Nation, as started by Blez. My first screen name was "Jim Mecir’s knee brace." I had others but eventually settled on Athletics fan and runner. For the next few years my participation on Athletics nation became a major part of my engagement. This lasted basically until my eldest child turned 2 in 2008. I sought out the culture of A’s fandom, the connection, and the interactions. I met many in person including Nico at my eldest son’s first game in 2006. I came back to California in 2006 through 2007. Tried to make it out there. In December 2007 we decided it would be best to go back. I attended the last day of the 2007 season. Daric Barton homered. Mike Piazza’s last career game. Nick Swisher’s last game as an Athletic (coincidently I also attended his first game as an Athletic which was a September call up in 2004 with his debut in Toronto). Walk off win with Shannon Stewart pinch running for Piazza and scoring.
I left again. This time for good. Attending games in Toronto and Detroit became annual events for me. I remember in 2011 I attended on my birthday and Josh Willingham homered. It felt like a gift.
Games in Oakland became rare but still happened. The Oakland opener and the day after were attended the day after with my father. Cespedes hit monster homers in both games.
My routine, which had been established years prior, was to wake up early and watch the condensed game from the day prior after avoiding all mlb coverage so as not to spoil the result. I remember the joy of the 2012 stretch drive. I got to watch the clincher live with my second child, then 4 years old, joyfully bouncing on my leg. Game 4 of the division series that year might be my favorite A’s game of the last 20 years.
2014 with my dad, at this point confined to a wheel chair and on oxygen 24 7 was a special game to attend. He and I were running late and rather than miss first pitch (sonny gray was pitching) I ran fully tilt up the required ramps to our wheel chair seating on the 200 level). He told me it was the fastest he had moved in years. We laughed fondly about this day for his remaining time.
The last game in Oakland I attended was the opener in 2018. I went with my youngest brother, a life long friend, and my father. It was his last MLB game in person. It happened to be Ohtani’s first MLB game. He singled in his first at bat. Graveman got hammered and LAA got up to a big lead. It was chipped away at, at one point Krush and Matt O went back to back, and Boog Powell (i.e., what we got in exchange for Yonder Alonso’s 2017) tripled in the 9th. Semien hit a walk off single. It was a perfect day. The next day my father and I spoke and he said it should be his last game in person. It took too much out of him. He said he welcomed watching a game on TV while playing cards in the future. It would be a fun thing to do on my next visit.
That never came.
In 2019 life got in the way and I was unable to visit. In 2020, early on when mango man said it was a hoax or totally contained or just a cold, my father caught what turned out to be covid. This was a Saturday. He was dead on Tuesday. Less than an hour after I arrived via 3 transfer flights and a hurried van ride from SFO. He was gone. Part of me thinks opening day 2018 should be my last game in Oakland. I have 4 kids, a career, a 22 year marriage (my wife is wonderful). Traveling again to Oakland without being able to go with my father is just not a priority. My home of Oakland was beginning to be moreso that of memory than actuality. Last year I attended games in Detroit and Toronto. Its not the same. Its never the same.
The news of Las Vegas was not really a surprise. If one had been paying attention the writing had been on the wall for almost 20 years. Oakland was on the precipice of being a former home of the A’s for a long time. I had hoped this would not come to pass but I knew it was significantly possible.
It feels like a death. A loss. My home is longer my home. Any pretence of being able to, in some imagined and likely not possible future, return home is lost and as a result I feel rudderless.
I had been collecting A’s hats since I was 8 years old. I have over 700 A’s and Warriors hats. Most of them are kept in dressers in my basement while I maintain a rotation of about 30 that I swap out from time to time. Wearing the hat was in essence my signature. The news hit me last Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I didn’t have time to process and wore my kelly green alternate. It was the last time I wore an A’s hat. I put them all away, Friday night, sobbing. I was trying to hide it from my kids. I ran that evening, crying for the first 45 minutes.
I don’t want anyone to talk to me about baseball. I don’t want to be seen in A’s gear for fear of casual conversation about the move. It is deeply personal to me. It is the death of a loved entity and I don’t want to have to explain that right now.
I don’t know what the future holds. I may be able to engage with baseball, or even the A’s again. I just don’t know. I think that hope is all I have left. The thought of adopting another team is impossible. It damn sure won’t be the giants. I can’t adopt the Tigers as it just seems dishonest. It can’t be the blue jays as their coverage and fan base is insulting to the game (I can’t tell you how many conversations I had explain that no, Santiago espinal is not the next fucking rogers Hornsby during the first 6 weeks of the season last year. I also can’t express the aggravation the number of times in the context of that conversation blue jays lay fan asked "who is rogers Hornsby?"). I can’t replicate that connection.
A part of me is deeply changed. Love I have given to the A’s is now in a place of being past reciprocation. A black hole crushing that love into mere nothing. A connection to a pro sports team makes no sense. That bond, in my mind, has to be formed in childhood when the mind allows magic. Meanings that the logical adult mind would dismantle can be applied and turned to love by a child. That connection and meaning is now a thing of the past.
Truth by told the only things that any of us really have can be, oversimplified to be at least, the present moment and memories. Everything else is out of reach. The present moment is bad. On field is not what I am talking about though its bad, at 4-18, a record setting -103 differential, and projected around 58-104. That is not what I mean of course. It is the end.
The memories are good. That’s all we have left.