A’s celebrate 50 years in the Town
The Oakland A’s have won four World Series titles. The Oakland Museum of California examines one series in an exhibit that celebrates the semicentennial of the baseball franchise’s tenure in the Town.
One of the newest installments at the Oakland Museum is called “Homegrown Heroes.” It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the A’s franchise moving to Oakland.
Erendina Delgadillo is an associate curator at the Oakland Museum. “We decided to focus on one of the most exciting moments from them here in the city, which was the 1989 World Series,” Delgadillo says.
Delgadillo was in charge of designing the A’s mini-exhibit. The walls are plastered with A’s artifacts and memorabilia from the ‘89 World Series. It features three players who grew up right here: Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, and Dennis Eckersley.
Delgadillo says they chose to feature the '89 Series because it was a ground-shaking event in the Bay Area, literally. The Loma Prieta Earthquake struck just before the start of Game 3.
“A lot of people attribute the relatively low casualty rate to the fact that this game was happening,” says Delgadillo. “It hit right around 5 o'clock, so it was rush hour, and there would have been many more people on the streets if it weren't for people who attended the actual game or stayed home to watch.”
The game was postponed. The players were just as shaken up as the fans. On his way home from the stadium, A’s pitcher Dave Stewart drove by a collapsed freeway overpass.
“I pull over and I take a look at the Cypress Structure,” he said in an interview with KTVU. “I’m still in my uniform bottom. I look at it for about an hour. And then I went home. I get up at 1 o'clock in the morning and go back to that structure and just start doing whatever I can to help the people working there.”
The series started up again 10 days later. The A’s took games 3 and 4 with ease, thanks in part to Rickey Henderson’s fast feet.
Just over a dozen years earlier Henderson was a star athlete at Oakland Tech High School. Delgadillo shows me a set of blown up images of his and the other players’ high school yearbook photos.
“The funny thing is both Eckersley's name and Rickey Henderson’s name is misspelled in their yearbooks,” Delgadillo says.
The exhibit has a small monitor that shows a highlight montage of Game 4 at Candlestick Park. The A’s are up three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, with their All-Star closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound.
Delgadillo says that Eckersley’s shaggy hair and broad mustache were just as distinctive as his high legged windup.
“We have a bobblehead and a magazine cover to represent and understand the texture of his hair and mustache,” Delgadillo says, laughing.
Eckersley went to Washington High School in Fremont. His high school yearbook photo might be his only public image without his famous mustache.Eckersley actually grew up rooting for both the Giants and the A’s. Butin the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1989 World Series, he only cared about one team winning.
He sealed the deal. And that turned out to be the A’s last appearance in the World Series.
As a historian, Delgadillo says the main purpose of these mini-exhibits is to examine chapters that can shed light on contemporary conversations.
“We try to keep it very topical and remind people that what happened in the past is happening now,” she says. “It looks different, but those cycles wax and wane. And if we’re using history to its fullest, we’re paying attention to that and trying to understand the subtleties and the relationship between what’s happening then and what’s happening now, in the interest of providing ourselves more tools to change our current moment.”
It’s a provocative thought. With the Warriors and Raiders set to leave Oakland in the next couple of years, the A’s will be the last big league team left in town. And with 50 years behind them, their roots run deep.