In the late 1980’s the Oakland A’s were a great. With a young skinny Mark McGuire, an amazingly strong and fast Jose Canseco, a scrappy veteran in Carny Lansford and a pitching staff with the likes of Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Storm Davis and Dennis Eckersley. This team was really good and made it to the World Series 3 years in a row (88, 89, 90). Being a kid from San Jose, about an hour south of Oakland, this was a great time to be a baseball fan. Except for one thing, I hated the A’s with all of my being. You see am a Yankees fan and in the mid to late 80’s the Yankees were not good at all.
Living in the Bay Area and only getting to see my Yankees play live when they came to Oakland, my rivalry was not with the dreaded Red Sox. My rivalry was with the A’s. I would always say; they can lose all the games in the season just as long as they beat the A’s in Oakland. My father and I would always go to at least 2 of the 3 games in each series. (back then there wasn’t interleague and we would get each AL team coming through Oakland twice a year) Dad and I would always show up when the park opened to watch fielding and batting practice. We would get there when the parking lot was empty on a Saturday morning and this is where dad taught me how to drive a stick shift. I got to practice until the gates opened or we could smell the clutch whichever came first.
When we would enter the park I would find an usher and get a stack of All-Star ballets. From the time I got to my seat to the time the first pitch was thrown I would punch All-Star ballets. Looking up to watch a young Jay Buhner put on a show bouncing balls off the back wall of the bleachers or an aging Dave Winfield stroke balls all over the park. All the while punching ballets, not just for Yankees but those who were deserving and having good years, well except A’s. Mike Pagliarulo was the Yankees third baseman at the time and I loved his approach. He was a strong fielder and had a little pop with the bat. I made it my mission in 1988 to get him a trip to the All-Star game. I would stack the ballets and use a golf tee to punch 10 at a time. I may change a vote at second base or in the outfield but first base was always Don Mattingly and third base was always Mike Pagliarulo. That year I think Pags finished 4th in the third base balloting and I swear over the course of 2-3 games I gave him 1,000 votes.
Years later my father’s birthday coincided with the Yankees visiting Oakland. This time I got to treat my dad to a day at the park to pay him back for all the games and memories he gave me. We got their early, played a quick game of catch in the parking lot (his favorite movie is Field of Dreams and you cannot over rate or under value a game of catch). We then headed into the park watched batting practice took in a few dogs and reminisced about the old days.