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Review: Oakland Athletics exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California is a disappointment

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Rickey Henderson’s cleats, from 1989, are on view in “Homegrown Heroes.” (Courtesy Oakland Museum of California)

With the Oakland Athletics coming out of the All-Star break as one of the hottest teams in baseball – they’re 8-0-1 in their last nine series — you’d think a museum installation celebrating three of the A’s home-grown greats as part of the team’s 50th Anniversary would be a sure hit. After all, we’re talking archival photos, videos and the sports memorabilia of hometown heroes and Bay Area natives Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart, displayed at the Oakland Museum of California.

Noting the museum’s sprawling, immersive “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom” exhibit within bunting distance, it’s a no-brainer to anticipate a home run, or at the very least, a line-drive double in the gap. The A’s quirky, up-down antics and the spectacular athleticism of three players who took the team to victory over the Giants in the legendary 1989 Battle of the Bay World Series might be better than a stadium hot dog—with cheese.

Which is why “Homegrown Heroes: Oakland A’s at 50”results in a complete head scratcher. A guard passing through the roughly 350-square-foot gallery, when asked where the rest of the exhibit is located, spreads her arms wide and says, “This is it.”

A determined—supremely determined—A’s fan might find satisfaction in viewing Henderson’s 1989 cleats, displayed under glass, the number “24” is handwritten with a Sharpie on the heels. The left fielder — who graduated from Oakland Technical High School — had surprisingly small feet. Nearby, a replica of Henderson’s World Series ring is impressively large. Even so: a replica?

A 4:35-minute video compiles clips of winning moments from the 1989 World Series that was famously interrupted during Game 1 by the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake. High school yearbook images (Stewart attended Oakland’s St. Elizabeth High School; Eckersley graduated from Washington High School in Fremont), a 1989 World Series poster and collection of books about the team round out the offerings. Visitors post 3×5 index cards in response to a prompt: “What do the Oakland A’s mean to you?”

One written in a child’s handwriting, featuring a cluster of hand-drawn hearts, reads, “They’re a cool teme.” Another, “Scrappy ‘cause they have to be.”

A person wishes only that the exhibit had the same scrappiness the current team displays after a lackluster season last year.

In fairness, OMCA’s galleries are otherwise packed with appreciable installations highlighting wide-ranging innovations and fine art originating in the Bay Area. Ongoing exhibits and the permanent collection establish California’s history, natural sciences, contemporary cultural movements and more. Free First Sundays @ OMCAand Friday Nights @ OMCA Block Parties are frequent sellouts; school tours, teacher resources and other programs expand the community outreach by opening wide the museum’s resources.

When it comes to A’s history, though, a trip to the ballpark may be a better ticket. Tickets to Saturday’s Bay Bridge Series game are just $10, if you sit atop Mount Davis.

As the A’s host the Giants for the final three times this season this weekend at the much-maligned but never-quit Coliseum, putting your fanny in a green seat would serve you better, especially if luck puts a person next to a longtime season ticket holder, or within shouting distance of an even longer-serving usher. If it does, start a conversation cued by the museum.

“What do the A’s mean to you” will be words that launch a thousand remembered ships. That means good sports stories filled with the sights, sounds and surely, the stats from the A’s 50-year history as Oakland’s hometown team.

Homegrown Heroes: Oakland A’s at 50 
Where: Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; closes Oct. 21
Admission: $6.95 (ages 9 to 17); $10.95 (seniors and students); $15.95 general
Contact: museumca.org

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