On the eve of the 2022 World Series:
Fall is a great time of the year for sports fans. College and pro football are the big draws. But it is also time for the Fall Classic, the Major League Baseball World Series, a uniquely American event that has no equal in the world. As a kid, the games were rarely on television, and certainly not in prime time. I was fortunate to get to attend several World Series over the years.
In the 1970’s, I lived and worked in the City of Alameda. Many of the Oakland Athletics players came into the pharmacy where I worked. The most frequent customer was Dagoberto “Campy” Campaneris, the shortstop of the 3 times world champions in 1972-1973-1974. He came in about weekly and gave game tickets to us whenever we wanted them. The crowds were never very big during the season, since the owner was Charlie Finley, a wild and crazy promoter, who happened to make a fortune selling insurance in the Midwest.
As the team started getting better, we got a little more interested in his free tickets. When Oakland won the American League Playoffs in 1972, we finally had our chance. But our ticket source said he had to give the tickets to his relatives who came in from the Dominican Republic to see the World Series. So, we went with Plan B. We bought from a scalper at the game, after waiting until the first pitch was thrown. We were always able to get our tickets for less than face value. In addition, we would ride my roommate’s Harley over to the game, park up close, and leave the parking lot at game’s end with no problem.
The 1972 Series was against the Cincinnati Reds, and the dreaded Pete Rose. Our tickets were near the left field foul line. We let him know, even back then, that he was a bum. I think Oakland won the Series in 7 games, and without the team’s big star, Reggie Jackson. The most memorable side bar of this Series was the ball girl out in left field. It was Debbie Sivyer, who would become Debbie Fields, of Mrs. Fields Cookie fame. A World Series game produced much more excitement than a regular season game. We went to games 3 and 4, won by Oakland.
The 1973 Series was against the New York Mets, who also had an aging star, the greatest player of all time, Willie Mays. The Giants had traded Willie to the Mets during what would be his last season in baseball. Though he was a mere shell of himself, it was a thrill getting to see him play in the World Series. The Designated Hitter rule was in effect for the very first time. And crazy Charlie Finley fired the Manager, Dick Williams, after he WON the World Series for Oakland. It was also the last World Series that sold separate programs for their home games. Though not as exciting as winning the previous year, it was still a big thrill for us fans, who had to put up with the eccentric owner.
In 1974, the opponent was the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. The Series went to only 5 games, and the big star for Oakland was Rollie Fingers, the ace reliever who would become a Hall of Famer. After several years of Finley’s ownership, the team was in constant turmoil. They fought in the clubhouse but won on the field. It was hard to explain. The Dodgers’ starting pitcher was Andy Messersmith, a fellow Cal graduate, and a successful challenger to the baseball free agency rule. This would be the last of the World Championships until 1989.
By 1989, the Oakland Athletics were very different. They were owned by the Haas Family, of Levi fame. The Manager was Tony LaRussa, who made a name rescuing animals, as well as managing the baseball team. Our dog Buddy is a rescue from his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). The big stars were Dave Stewart and Mark McGwire. This unique World Series was known as the Bay Bridge Series, since the opponent was the San Francisco Giants. It lasted a record 14 days, due to the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17. It was the last World Series televised from start to finish by ABC. Al Michaels, the ABC announcer, was nominated for an Emmy for his eyewitness account of the earthquake. Fortunately, I went to Game 2 that was held in Oakland. Little did we know what would happen a few days later. It was probably the weirdest World Series on record.
Oakland made the World Series the next year as well but were swept by Cincinnati in 4 games. We were not able to attend the World Series in 1988 against the Dodgers. But the excitement of attending a World Series game has no equal. I don’t know if it is the television and newspaper coverage, or the stadium decked out in flags and banners. All the fans seem energized, buying souvenirs and food. The field looks greener, and beer is colder, and peanuts seem more fragrant. It is the Fall Classic for a good reason. It excites all of us. I will leave it up to you to decide if it measures up to the Super Bowl, Olympics, or the Masters.
I also went to Game 2 of the 2010 World Series, won by the Giants. I bought from a scalper, for only $500. We were in the 5th row behind Third Base!!!
Fast forward to today: Sadly, the Oakland Athletics may end up in Las Vegas. But in fairness to them, I think they have always taken a back seat to both the Giants, Niners, Warriors, and the Raiders. Yet they field a very competitive team every year and develop great players over the years.
See you in front of the TV!!!