OAKLAND — At O.co Coliseum Monday for the opening game of this season's interleague series between the Giants and the A's, 25 years after the teams met in the fateful 1989 World Series, Tito Fuentes, San Francisco's Spanish-language radio announcer at the time, said he was glad the historic series was a quarter of a century in the past.
“The memories are not very pleasant,” he said in Spanish. “Because many people died and my team lost. In the last two games, you could see that the quality and the intensity was not the same. The players wanted to go home because of the disaster that was so great on Oct. 17.”
That date so etched in Fuentes' mind gave the last World Series between the Bay Area rivals the added Earthquake Series title to the names Bay Bridge Series and Battle of the Bay. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck shortly before Game 3's first pitch at Candlestick Park, the Giants' former ballpark.
Oakland had a 2-0 series lead and, after a 10-day disruption following the powerful tremor, won two more games to sweep the Giants. The A's, whose roster included Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire and Dennis Eckersley, demonstrated they were the better team that year than the Giants, with the likes of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Robby Thompson. But there was no grand celebration in the Bay Area following the World Series.
“Who was going to celebrate a spectacle with so much death that occurred with a phenomenon that rarely ever happens here in San Francisco?” said Fuentes, 70, a legendary Giants second baseman who still calls games in Spanish on the radio.
Many fans at the sold-out Bay Bridge Series game on Monday had memories of their own.
Jim Harrison, 77, an A's season-ticket holder for 38 years, remembered working at his office in downtown San Francisco when the earthquake hit and having to take a detour from the Bay Bridge because a portion of it had collapsed. When he got home to Fremont three hours later, a scene from Candlestick Park kept getting replayed on TV.
“The players were looking for their families in the stands,” he recounted.
Harrison's only nostalgic feeling from the original Bay Bridge Series was that his team won. While the Giants have won two World Series in the last four years, the A's have not won since 1989.
But the real highlight from the World Series that year was what the A's and Giants did to help the community recoup after the earthquake, A's radio play-by-play announcer Vince Cotroneo said.
“Baseball had to stop,” he said. “And these two teams had their role in making sure that the community was on their way to recovery before baseball came back.”
This year, the Giants and A's have had impressive first halves of season, fanning fantasies of another meeting in the Fall Classic for the 25th anniversary of the Bay Bridge Series. After Tuesday night’s 6-1 win by Oakland, the A’s improved their lead in the American League West to 4½ games over the Los Angeles Angels, while the Giants remained one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
The A’s have won the first two games of the four-game series, which shifts to The City and AT&T Park for the final two contests today and Thursday.
“You know that the whole Bay Area is going to be watching” this four-game series that ends Thursday, A's manager Bob Melvin said.
After losing the 1989 World Series, the Giants had one foot out the door, threatening a move to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1992 — before the construction of the state-of-the-art AT&T Park.
On the other hand, the A's last week signed a 10-year deal to extend their lease at O.co Coliseum, which includes improvements that critics say fall short of today's Major League Baseball standards.
In another 25 years, it's likely the Giants will still be in San Francisco, but the A's future home is questionable, contingent on their ballpark situation, Fuentes said.
“It would be something very special” to have a Giants-A's World Series this year, he said. “Oakland, especially, needs it to see if they can get a new Coliseum.”