Tonight, I traversed the short distance from my place of employment in downtown San Francisco to the very heart of enemy territory. Pac Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. I loathe the fact that I had to endure the vile stench of garlic fries and the unholy chatter of “gamer babes” debating which furry member of the animal kingdom best resembles infielder Charlie Culberson. Nevertheless, I proudly wore my A’s regalia and while the Giants fans may have their gimmicks and kiss cams, I gleefully joined the loud contingent of A’s fans in a chant of “lets go Oakland!”, only to see my team fall short in a comeback attempt. Shucks. Better luck tomorrow.
Living in San Francisco, I can attest to the fact that there are many a fan in this fair city that is a true fan, both hip to the history of the Giants and respectful to the A’s and Bay Area baseball. Then there’s the other side of the coin. The Johnny-come-lately. The fan who can name approximately three players on their hometown team. The fan with the Posey jersey and the Panda hat. The smug, beard growing, Journey singing, bandwagon hopping fan who came aboard in 2010 and never jumped off. While I have no problem with casual fans, their sense of entitlement based on one championship in the last 50 years is disgusting. However, the lack of respect and knowledge of A’s baseball is revolting. Little do they realize, that many a player has left the cozy confines of San Francisco for the sunny side of the Bay, making their way East to the Coliseum. With Travis Blackley being just the latest example, lets take a look at a few notables.
Run Rajai Run! After his acquisition from San Francisco via the waiver wire in April of 2008, Rajai spent the better part of the next 3 seasons terrorizing the base paths stealing 116 bases in 369 games while patrolling the outfield on a semi regular basis for the A’s. With his hustle and cheerful demeanor, Davis was quickly a fan favorite and a source of excitement in a series of down years for the Athletics. Mainly a bench player for the Pirates and Giants, he received his first taste of everyday play in Oakland. Proving to be no slouch at the plate, Davis enjoyed his best year in 2009 putting up a slash line of .305/.360/.423 while nabbing 41 bases. Although he never developed the ability to walk a rate enough high enough to fully showcase his speed, Rajai proved to be a useful player who the A’s essentially stole from the Giants for no price at all. Which made his success all the more enjoyable.
Although only briefly a Giant in 1997, Foulke was a part of the controversial “white flag” trade which featured the Chicago White Sox trading pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez to San Francisco for a collection of prospects and Foulke who was the lone major leaguer in his rookie season. When White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf approved this swap at the trade deadline, Chicago was a mere 3 1/2 games off the pace of first place Cleveland. Infuriating the fan base, and essentially giving up on the season the trade was initially poorly received. Over the next 5 seasons, Foulke would mature into the best player acquired in the trade claiming the role of closer 2000 and saving 42 games in 2001. By the time he came to Oakland in 2003, he was generally regarded as one of the better relievers in the game and under the tutelage of pitching coach Rick Peterson he flourished as the A’s closer. Armed with a devastating circle change up, he spent the better part of 2003 shutting the door on the American League saving a lead leading 43 games and closing out the All Star game. Then came the ALDS. Maybe it was overuse. Maybe it was nerves. Foulke continued the line of failure by Oakland closers in the postseason and allowed a soul crushing 2 run double to David Ortiz in the 8th inning to cost the A’s a potential clinching victory against Boston in game 4. Although he would return briefly in 2008 to finish his career in Oakland, Foulke was no longer the same pitcher. Injuries and ineffectiveness would prevent him from playing a major role and he would finish out his career as an aging middle reliever throwing garbage innings in a losing season. If nothing else, Foulke like Davis, would establish himself as a productive player only after leaving the Golden Gate.
The second most heralded Giant of all time behind Willie Mays, McCovey spent the better part of 19 years entrenched as the San Francisco first basemen. Toward the end of his career he was unceremoniously discarded to the San Diego Padres, and sold to the A’s at the tail end of the 1976 season, before returning to San Francisco to close out his career. Acquired to provide depth, McCovey appeared in 11 games during the season final month hitting a paltry .208/.296./.208, with no extra base hits while playing sparingly in place of starter Gene Tenace. Even the most knowledgeable of Giants or A’s fans would be hard pressed to have any memories of Willie Mac’s time in Oakland. However, it remains an interesting piece of trivia that a man so revered with his own cove in his namesake, and a statue in his honor was once a member of the Athletics, albeit for just a moment in time.
There’s so much that separates these two teams and their respective fan bases, but for a group of players it was nothing more then a bridge and few miles.