When the 86th world Series began last Saturday night, it was the 16th Series between metropolitan-area rivals (the last one matched the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees in 1956), the fourth between this year's franchises (the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants played one another in '05, '11 and '13), the first between teams owned by members of the same synagogue (EMANU-EL WINS SERIES EITHER WAY shouted the headline in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin) and the umpteenth in which one club was considered Goliath and the other David.
The Oakland Athletics were cast as Goliath, much as they had been last season, when they were toppled by the sling of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But this time around, the A's were the Bash Brothers plus the Dash Brother, Rickey Henderson, and oddsmakers installed them as 2-1 favorites over the San Francisco Giants—an oxymoronic name under the circumstances.
For their part, the A's were supremely confident. Slugger Jose Canseco predicted Oakland would win in six games, or at least he did when you called 1-900-234-JOSE. (It was the only way to get a few minutes alone with the guy.) According to Herb Caen's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Canseco's wife, Esther, was spotted buying five leather dresses for the World Series. When the salesman said, "Only five?" Esther replied, "That's all I'll need."
Because both the Giants and A's had finished off their playoff opponents in five games, everybody had plenty of time to come up with names for this Fall Classic. The Battle of the Bay became the official title. However, there was also Bay's Ball, the Bart Series (after baseball's late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti), the BART Series (even though the nearest Bay Area Rapid Transit stop to Candlestick Park is about three miles away), and the Otis Redding Series (Sittin'on the Dock of the Bay).
October 22, 1989
Speaking of wastin' time, the Giants tried to liven things up last week with a little controversy. Slugger Kevin Mitchell skipped the Wednesday practice to close on a house in San Diego, thus incurring the wrath of teammates and a hefty fine. On the day Mitchell went AWOL, Will (the Thrill) Clark created another stir when out of the blue he attacked long-gone teammate Jeffrey Leonard, calling him a "tumor" and saying, "We got rid of him, now look where we are." Reached for comment, Leonard, who is now with the Seattle Mariners, accused Clark of racial prejudice. "This——doesn't need to be out at World Series time," said Leonard. "Whatever Will's reason, it's in very poor taste." On that count, Leonard was certainly right. Rather than bask in his magnificent performance against the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, the Thrill turned Shrill. On cross-examination after Leonard's charges, the Thrill became the Chill.
The Athletics also became embroiled in a miniscandal. Details filtered out about why the Toronto Blue Jays had accused A's closer Dennis Eckersley of having a foreign substance on the mound in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. According to a Blue Jays official, an attendant in the visitors' clubhouse in Toronto discovered an emery board in Eckersley's glove after Game Four and told Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston about it. The Eck issued a limp response: "I don't want to talk about it."
All this rigmarole detracted from the real appeal of the Series, the rivalry between the Athletics and the Giants, one that goes back to the days when Eddie Plank and Christy Mathewson were toeing the turtleback. Nowadays, the two clubs and their respective cities are friendly antagonists or antagonistic friends, take your pick (page 40).
Then there's the intrashul rivalry between San Francisco owner Bob Lurie and Oakland owner Walter A. Haas Jr. They're both long-standing members of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, and when Rabbi Robert Kirschner was asked which team he wanted to win, he replied, "I'm rooting for a tie."
The Series began in the Coliseum, but the weather seemed to have been imported from Candlestick Park, 10 miles across the Bay: windy, chilly and overcast. The twilight was brightened a bit by a pregame tribute to Giamatti. His son Marcus threw out the first ball, and Yale's famous Whiffenpoofs sang the national anthem.
The Giants continued the tribute during the game by playing like the Whiffenpoofs. Against A's starter Dave Stewart, they whiffed six times, poofed foul five times and didn't get a runner as far as third until the ninth inning as Oakland won 5-0. Oakland didn't even need much help from native son Rickey Henderson, who had a humdrum 2-for-5 night with one RBI and (gasp) no stolen bases; or Canseco, who went 0 for 3; or Eckersley, who didn't even have to warm up.
Who needs them when you have Tony Phillips and Walt Weiss? Combined, the two infielders weigh as much as 245-pound DH Dave Parker and a batboy, but they had a heavy influence on the offense. Phillips drove in the game's first run with a single in the second inning, and he singled again in the sixth. Weiss, who had three homers all season, sent a cut fastball from Giants starter Scott Garrelts just over the right-field fence to lead off the fourth and give the Athletics their 5-0 lead. Weiss's homer came 20 years almost to the day after a middle infielder named Al Weis hit a big homer to help clinch the World Series for the '69 New York Mets.
"I remember Al Weis," said Weiss, who was five years old in 1969. "Not much, of course, but I do know he had only one s, so he couldn't have been related." In World Series lore, though, they will be related—as members of the large fraternity of heroic little guys.
Weiss also remembers the who, what and where of every one of his six previous major league homers. "Baltimore was the first," he said. "To get the ball back, I had to get the fan an autograph from Mark McGwire. Then Minnesota. Then Detroit. I hit two on April 5 this year against Seattle, then one in late August in front of all my friends at Yankee Stadium. This one, though, has to be the biggest. A home run in the World Series is something every kid does now and again in his backyard." For those scoring at home, Weiss's backyard was on Sylvan Way in Suffern, N.Y., behind Good Samaritan Hospital.
Weiss injured his knee on May 17 while turning a double play, and he had to sit out 2½ months; when he came back, he couldn't reclaim his job from Mike Gallego. But A's manager Tony La Russa, playing a hunch, made him a surprise starter for Game 1. "This goes a long way toward salvaging my season," Weiss said.
Oakland jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second. Dave Henderson walked to lead off the inning, and with one out, Terry Steinbach singled. Phillips singled, scoring D. Henderson and sending Steinbach to third. Weiss then hit a soft grounder to Clark, whose throw to the plate was low and to the right, and the sliding Steinbach kicked the ball out of Terry Kennedy's mitt. R. Henderson followed with a single to score Phillips.
In the third inning, Parker hit a solo homer—his first home run in 12 World Series games—and did his usual slow trot. Asked what he was thinking as he circled the bases, Parker said, "Wow, another point for us." Asked how he stayed warm between at bats, he said, "I called my wife down in the elevator and hugged her until it came my time to hit."
The night belonged to Stewart, who got his first shutout of the season. When asked if he thought the game was a tad boring, A's pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "Good pitching is boring. Great pitching is really boring."
All agreed that Stewart's pitching was really boring. "We ran into a buzz saw," said Clark.
"I'm a humble person," said Stewart, "but I'd have to give myself an A."
The first game was all A's.
Or, as they say, this was deja vu all over again. Singing the national anthem on Sunday evening were the Whispers, which would have again been an appropriate name for the Giants, whose bats were muffled this time by Oakland starter Mike Moore. The unexpected home run in this game was hit by Steinbach: a three-run shot in the fourth that, like Weiss's, closed out the scoring. The Giants' starter, Rick Reuschel, could get only 12 outs, exactly the number Garrelts had reached when he left Game 1. The final score: 5-1, instead of 5-0.
The Giants had tied the score 1-1 in the third when Robby Thompson hit a sacrifice fly to score Jose Uribe, who had gone to third on a single by Brett Butler after he had reached on a force play that had erased Kennedy, who had led off the inning with a single. Yes, you can fit the entire Giant offense in a single sentence.
Perhaps owing to the full moon, there were a couple of bizarre incidents to enliven the proceedings. Canseco walked to lead off the fourth for the A's, and then Parker hit a line shot off the wall, just where it meets the rightfield foul pole. It was an inch from foul and an inch from being a homer, and it ended up a double when it could have been a single. Parker, who stood at the plate to admire his handiwork, started lumbering when the ball caromed off the wall. Candy Maldonado's throw to second appeared to have beaten Parker, but second base umpire Dutch Rennert called him safe just as Canseco came home with the go-ahead run. Then several of the umpires went out to the spot where Parker's ball had hit the wall, not to confirm that it was fair, but instead to remove a fowl—a guinea hen—that had materialized on the field. Or maybe it was the Giants' team albatross.
The second bit of funny business came in the home half of the seventh. R. Henderson—who later said, Yogi-like, "I'm seeing the ball tremendously"—lashed his third hit of the night, down the leftfield line. The ball took a crazy bounce in foul territory and squirted under the A's bullpen bench. As Mitchell, the leftfielder, tried to find the ball, the A's bullpen crew sat like choirboys in a pew. "I was only trying to be nice," said Eckersley, under whom the ball had stopped. "How you doin', Mitch?" said A's utilityman Billy Beane politely.
Henderson ended up on third. "I didn't know what was going on," said Mitchell.
Indeed, all of the Giants seemed to be playing in a fog. Even Clark. He had a case of tonsillitis—no joke—and was Will the Nil for the night, 0 for 4 against Moore and reliever Rick Honeycutt. Matt Williams, who was so devastating against the Cubs, was 0 for 8 in the two games, and he probably won't see another fastball until March.
The A's hitters, meanwhile, knew exactly what to do against Reuschel: wait him out and force him to get the ball up in the strike zone. Only two of the 20 batters whom he faced swung at the first pitch. In the fourth, with two men on base and the score 2-1, Reuschel went to 2 and 0 on Steinbach, so he had to throw a strike. Steinbach connected with the ball at thigh level and sent it deep into the seats in leftfield. It was his first official World Series homer, although he, like Weiss, had hit some before in his backyard, on Jefferson Street in New Ulm, Minn.
"My brother and I had a great field set up in our backyard," said Steinbach. "We played with a tennis ball and a bat that we sawed in half. We had to hit left-handed because we had more room that way. If my mom had wash hanging, off the clothes was an out. In the garden was an out. On the roof of the church next door was a home run. Over the church was a grand slam."
New Ulm, a town of 13,000 that was settled mainly by German immigrants, was every bit as happy as Oakland was Sunday night. "There's a bar in town, Mowans, where the owner, John Mowan, buys everybody a beer whenever I get a hit," said Steinbach. "I can't imagine how many beers this homer is going to cost him."
Steinbach's homer cost the Giants plenty, but afterward at least one of them was philosophical. "I have two theories on why we're not hitting," said Kennedy. "One of my theories is Dave Stewart. The other is Mike Moore."
Not all the Giants took the loss so well. Maldonado threw a metal stool against a locker after most of the reporters had left. Mitchell looked at him and said, "What's wrong with you? Boy, it ain't that bad."
But it sure didn't look good. Canseco and D. Henderson had yet to be heard from in the Series, and as La Russa said after the game, "I think we've been playing good. But I know we can play better."
What a frightening thought for the Giants: a real Goliath.