Theirs was a celebration as unique and classy as they were. The Oakland Athletics had decided against staging the riotous bacchanal that these days almost always accompanies world titles, sensing, quite rightly, that the sight of players pouring champagne over each other would have been inappropriate in the aftermath of the earthquake that had claimed so many and ruined so much.
So, instead, they had an impromptu family get-together, after finishing off their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants, last Saturday night in the fourth and final game of the 86th World Series. In the visiting clubhouse at Candlestick Park, green and gold balloons stood guard over the players, their wives, children and relatives. World Series MVP Dave Stewart (page 28) proudly showed off his mother, Nathalie. Mike Moore, whose pitching and—gasp!—hitting led the A's to victory in Game 4, carried around his two-year-old twin daughters, Amanda and Jessica. Club executive Bill Rigney, 71, grateful that after 51 years in the game he was finally with a world champion, wiped away a tear and said, "This is wonderful." Oh, there was a little bubbly here and there, but mostly the players sipped beer and soft drinks while graciously answering the questions of the intruding reporters.
The low-key bash seemed right in another way. too. In these days of forgettable champions, of teams that burst on the scene with the pop of a cork and then go flat, these A's are a team to savor—like vintage port—by the fireside.
On a night when America would turn back the clock, so did the Athletics. By defeating the Giants 9-6 in Game 4, Oakland became the first team to sweep the World Series since the Cincinnati Reds did it against the New York Yankees in 1976. Oakland outscored the Giants 32-14, tying the '32 Yankees (who outscored the Chicago Cubs 37-19) for the highest run differential ever in a four-game Series. The A's did it with pitching (Stewart and Moore had two wins apiece and a combined ERA of 1.86); fielding (several dazzling plays and only one error); and hitting (a record eight different players homered to help Oakland to a Series-high .582 slugging percentage). They also did it with an NBA-like flair that some baseball purists found irritating. But as Johnny Bench—a member of the last team to sweep the Series—said, "That's show-time! That's entertainment. Joe Morgan was like that for us. And Pete Rose—he was a quiet player, wasn't he?"
Stewart was the MVP, but the A's had a whole slate of bona fide candidates. Rickey Henderson hit for the cycle in the Series, batted .474 and stole three bases. Dave Henderson cemented his reputation as the new Mr. October (and nearly Mr. November) with two doubles, two homers and a .923 slugging percentage. Terry Steinbach drove in a team-high seven runs. Carney Lansford hit .438 and had a .688 slugging percentage. Moore pitched nearly as well as Stewart, and he broke the American League pitchers' 0-for-70 hitting slump in the Series with a two-run double in the second inning Saturday, the key hit of Game 4. And Tony Phillips made three sensational plays at second in the final game. If it weren't for the unexpected generosity of Oakland's middle relievers, who gave up eight runs in the last two games, the '89 A's would seem as imposing as, say, the '27 Yankees. Come to think of it, both teams were managed by lawyers, Tony La Russa and Miller Huggins. and had right-fielders with a penchant for speeding, Jose Canseco and Babe Ruth. (Hmmm, wonder how a 1-900-234-BABE number would have done.)
The poor Giants. Kevin Mitchell, with 47 homers and 125 RBIs, and Will Clark (.333, 23 homers, 111 RBIs) had carried them all year, but in the Series the team's biggest RBI men were Bill Bathe (!) and Greg Litton (!!), with three apiece. Scott Garrelts, the National League ERA leader (2.28), was 0-2 in the Series, with a 9.82 ERA. San Francisco's team batting average was .209, and its team ERA was 8.21. Thank goodness the Giants mounted a threat in Game 4, or they might have had to apologize for being in the Series.
In the comfort of their own clubhouse after the game, the Giants seemed more impressed than depressed. "I've played in two Series in this decade, against the two best teams of the 1980s, the '84 Tigers and the '89 A's," said San Francisco catcher Terry Kennedy, who was also a member of the '84 Padres. "They're similar teams. They had the same look in their eyes. The A's were a tidal wave, and we just couldn't get out of the way."
It was a natural disaster of a different sort, however, that will forever mark this World Series. At 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17—half an hour before the start of Game 3—an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale shook northern California and brought the Series to an abrupt halt. Postponed for 10 days while the Bay Area recovered, this became the longest Series on record even though it ended in the minimum number of games. How long was the layoff? Well. Steinbach became the first player in Series history to grow a beard between Games 2 and 3. Asked if any of the A's had requested counseling after the quake, team physician Dr. Allan Pont, said, "No, that's what we've got Dave Parker for."
By the time the Series was resumed last Friday, it was permissible to joke a little about the circumstances. The Battle of the Bay had become the Rattle of the Bay, and Candlestick Park was dubbed Wiggly Field by columnist Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle. Early arrivals checked out the park, and the only thing they could find awry was that the A's were missing. The team bus had been stuck in traffic on the San Mateo Bridge—the alternate route they had to take because of the damage to the Bay Bridge—and they arrived at Candlestick nearly an hour late for batting practice. "I wasn't worried," said first baseman Mark McGwire. "I'm from Southern California, so I find traffic relaxing. Besides, they weren't going to start the game without us."
The A's rushed through BP, and Dave Henderson looked ineffective. "I feel like———," he told Parker. "That's good." replied Parker. "You're supposed to feel like———at a time like this."