SPORTS: Green (and gold) with envy


Image from the late, perhaps lamented, giantsvsas blog.

By A.J. Hayes

This coming weekend, the Giants will host the A's for the 12th year of inter-league play. While San Francisco fans have typically viewed the cross bay series with a shrug and a ho-hum, to Oakland management and their fans, this cross-bay face off is serious business.

The clubs have been competitors for the affection of Bay Area baseball fans since 1968, when the A's moved to town - but over the past decade the Giants have also become Oakland's biggest rivals on the field.

Even during exhibition games, the A's have historically played the Giants with an extra spring in their step. And don't forget green and gold's four game sweep of the Giants in the 1989 World Series (A's fans certainly haven't). Since inter-league play began in 1997 Oakland and holds a 34-28 advantage against San Francisco.

These Bay Bridge series (the series moves to Oakland June 27-29) also gives the A's a chance to vent their long simmering resentment towards for all things orange and black.

Check out the copy of this promotional flyer for the A's games this month:

"June. The Month of Champions. Teams representing 16 World Series titles since 1968. The Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies...and the San Francisco Giants."

The A's and their fans never miss an opportunity to promote the fact that in the Giants have yet to win a World Series during their 50 years in San Francisco. It doesn't matter how many home runs Willie Mays and Barry Bonds hit - where are the rings?

We can understand their bitterness. Because despite winning four world titles since coming to Oakland 40 years ago, the A's have always played second fiddle to the Giants.

Since the Giants moved into their new ballpark and began filling the place on a daily basis, the A's and their own clunky Al Davis-ized of a stadium have been more like fifth tuba on the depth chart.

No matter how long the A's call the Bay Area home, be it in Oakland or Fremont or Santa Clara - bet on them staying right where they are now - they will always lag behind the Giants in attention.

The reasoning is simple; the Giants were here 10 years before the A's. During that decade the Giants were able to build up a solid fan base and brand identity that has survived through the years. The affections for the Giants are handed down to generation after generation. You can do that when your star attractions remain with the club.

Name one A's headliner - besides Eric Chavez - to remain with the club well into his prime.

The Giants may not have a championship ring since 1954, but they tap into the romance of baseball like no other franchise going. Walk into AT&T Park and the first thing you see is something about the Giants gloried past. A wall painting honoring the Giants great stars, statues depicting the great Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal. The spot where Barry Bonds all-time bashed career home run 756 landed.

Baseball fans eat that stuff up - long with the requisite garlic fries, cha-cha bowls, and monster frankfurters.

It's the total opposite in Oakland. Approach the Oakland Coliseum, and you can't tell if you're going to a ball game or visiting a nuclear plant as a disembodied monotone voice tells you all the things you can't do at the park. The grub is another story; a recent report stated that the Oakland concession had the second-most health code violation in baseball. Yummy.

Granted, the A's have some built in obstacles. It makes sense that the A's official mascot is a pachyderm; the coliseum is the biggest white elephant in major league baseball since the Giants departed Candlestick Park. The Raiders unfairly came in and added an unsightly concrete monstrosity where a beautiful view once was seen.

But the A's also haven't made it easier for themselves with the way they approach the selling of the game. When it comes to on-the-field business of the game, the A's are beyond reproach. They've developed talent arguably better than any other big league club since arriving in the Bay Area.

But as good as they've done in the scouting end of the business, with the exception of the decade or so that the Haas family owned the team, the A's have struck out in the promotion department. These days the team seems more preoccupied with moving out of Oakland than it does promoting its current product.

While the Giants celebrate their history dating back to their New York days, the A's believe history is best left in the past. The club rarely invites its star players from yesteryear back to the Coliseum for events.

Just as the A's have cared little about preserving their big stars, they are just as reticent about bringing them back when their playing days have ended.

Meanwhile across the bay you can't walk down a corridor at AT&T without bumping into Giants alumni. Look there's Johnnie LeMaster! Is that Ken Henderson? Great to see you Mr. McCovey.

Baseball fans love their heroes of yesterday. It brings them back to their youth; a chance to relive those days spent ripping open packs of baseball cards.

Though the A's are currently in their 40th season of calling Oakland home, they've done the minimum in promoting their champagne drenched past. Sure they have a few promotions dropped scattershot through the schedule, but that's about it. The only constant promotion of the anniversary has been care of Marty Lurie's exceptional pregame show feature "40 Years of A's Baseball." And Lurie came up with that idea on his own. His show is produced independently of the A's.

Until the A's relocate to Fremont or elsewhere - seriously, do you see that happening? - The A's and a percentage of their fans will be stewing in their bitterness and resentment about the team across the bay. And that's certainly not a healthy way to spend the summer.

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