When the 86th world Series began last Saturday night, it was the 16th Series between metropolitan-area rivals (the last one matched the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees in 1956), the fourth between this year's franchises (the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants played one another in '05, '11 and '13), the first between teams owned by members of the same synagogue (EMANU-EL WINS SERIES EITHER WAY shouted the headline in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin) and the umpteenth in which one club was considered Goliath and the other David.
The Oakland Athletics were cast as Goliath, much as they had been last season, when they were toppled by the sling of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But this time around, the A's were the Bash Brothers plus the Dash Brother, Rickey Henderson, and oddsmakers installed them as 2-1 favorites over the San Francisco Giants—an oxymoronic name under the circumstances.
For their part, the A's were supremely confident. Slugger Jose Canseco predicted Oakland would win in six games, or at least he did when you called 1-900-234-JOSE. (It was the only way to get a few minutes alone with the guy.) According to Herb Caen's column in the
San Francisco Chronicle, Canseco's wife, Esther, was spotted buying five leather dresses for the World Series. When the salesman said, "Only five?" Esther replied, "That's all I'll need."
Because both the Giants and A's had finished off their playoff opponents in five games, everybody had plenty of time to come up with names for this Fall Classic. The Battle of the Bay became the official title. However, there was also Bay's Ball, the Bart Series (after baseball's late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti), the BART Series (even though the nearest Bay Area Rapid Transit stop to Candlestick Park is about three miles away), and the Otis Redding Series (Sittin'on the Dock of the Bay).
Speaking of wastin' time, the Giants tried to liven things up last week with a little controversy. Slugger Kevin Mitchell skipped the Wednesday practice to close on a house in San Diego, thus incurring the wrath of teammates and a hefty fine. On the day Mitchell went AWOL, Will (the Thrill) Clark created another stir when out of the blue he attacked long-gone teammate Jeffrey Leonard, calling him a "tumor" and saying, "We got rid of him, now look where we are." Reached for comment, Leonard, who is now with the Seattle Mariners, accused Clark of racial prejudice. "This——doesn't need to be out at World Series time," said Leonard. "Whatever Will's reason, it's in very poor taste." On that count, Leonard was certainly right. Rather than bask in his magnificent performance against the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, the Thrill turned Shrill. On cross-examination after Leonard's charges, the Thrill became the Chill.
The Athletics also became embroiled in a miniscandal. Details filtered out about why the Toronto Blue Jays had accused A's closer Dennis Eckersley of having a foreign substance on the mound in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. According to a Blue Jays official, an attendant in the visitors' clubhouse in Toronto discovered an emery board in Eckersley's glove after Game Four and told Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston about it. The Eck issued a limp response: "I don't want to talk about it."
All this rigmarole detracted from the real appeal of the Series, the rivalry between the Athletics and the Giants, one that goes back to the days when Eddie Plank and Christy Mathewson were toeing the turtleback. Nowadays, the two clubs and their respective cities are friendly antagonists or antagonistic friends, take your pick (page 40).
Then there's the intrashul rivalry between San Francisco owner Bob Lurie and Oakland owner Walter A. Haas Jr. They're both long-standing members of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, and when Rabbi Robert Kirschner was asked which team he wanted to win, he replied, "I'm rooting for a tie."
The Series began in the Coliseum, but the weather seemed to have been imported from Candlestick Park, 10 miles across the Bay: windy, chilly and overcast. The twilight was brightened a bit by a pregame tribute to Giamatti. His son Marcus threw out the first ball, and Yale's famous Whiffenpoofs sang the national anthem.