Saturday, June 13, 2009

1989: I've Got A Giant Attitude

The Giants are playing the A's this weekend in an interleague series, and tonight the Giants celebrated the 20th anniversary of their great 1989 team - the first Giants team to win a National League championship since the legendary 1962 team. Next week, when the teams go across the bay and play at the Oakland Coliseum, the A's will celebrate their even greater 1989 team, which swept the Giants in that year's World Series.

Although the Giants have always been my favorite team, I've also rooted for the A's over the years - except when the two are playing each other. And though I've watched a hell of a lot of baseball games over the years, I'm not sure I ever watched more than I did in 1989. 1989 was my first year in Elk Grove, and there were two friends of mine who had also made the move to the then "small, sleepy community" south of Sacramento. Back in those days, MLB didn't have the blanket cable coverage that it does now, so we pooled our limited funds together and signed up for "Giants Vision" - which meant that we would congregate at the house which we'd designated as the "house for the games."

I went to opening day that year, and still have the buttons to prove it - including the memorable "I've Got a Giant Attitude" button featuring Will Clark in with eye-black, his most intimidating look. And while there have been great Giants teams since that year, there's something about 1989 that will always make it the best - without even skipping a beat, I can name the starting lineup from that year:

Will Clark
Robbie Thompson
Jose Uribe
Matt Williams
Terry Kennedy
Kevin Mitchell
Brett Butler
Candy Maldonado

And the pitching staff...Reuschel, Garrelts, Krukow, Robinson, LaCoss, Downs, Bedrosian, Brantley...and of course, Dave Dravecky.

To this day, the most memorable live sporting event of my life was seeing the famous Dave Dravecky comeback game. Dravecky had been a great pitcher for the Giants in 1987 and 1988, but after the '88 season a tumor had been discovered in his pitching arm. A good portion of the muscle in that arm was removed during the off-season, and it seemed that Dravecky's career was over. But Dravecky persevered, and against all odds was ready - after a minor-league rehab stint - to give it a go by early August. By sheer luck, I was at that game, and amazingly Dravecky had a no-hitter going until the 6th inning. He tired and left, but won the game. [As a footnote, it was also one of the last games Pete Rose managed for Cincinnati before his banishment from baseball, and Rose was thrown out, leading to a memorable walk toward the outfield fence, with the fans serenading him with boos along the way.]

Of course, everyone knows how the Dravecky story ended. In his next start, he shattered his arm throwing a pitch; the cancer returned; and less than 2 years later his arm was amputated. But the boost he provided the team probably made the difference, and the Giants squeaked through the NL West and then - led by Clark - defeated the Chicago Cubs in 5 games to capture the championship.

Everyone also knows the story of that World Series, even if they aren't a baseball fan. The Loma Prieta earthquake hit just as Game 3 was about to begin, and after a 10-day break the A's closed out their amazing season with two easy wins against the Giants. So once again the season ended with frustration, but that didn't keep it from being a great season - one for the ages.

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