I started following Major League Baseball at the age of 10, shortly after the A's moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, and it didn’t take me very long at all to figure out that baseball was, at least for me, the greatest sport in the history of the universe (nothing else has ever come close).
I regularly begged my parents to take me to A's games as a youngster, but it never happened often enough for my liking (Oakland was a long, arduous 90 minute drive away from our home in the central valley).
Nonetheless, I always treasured every moment of the games I did attend.
I quickly became attached to the A's in a big way, and followed their every move as if my own life hung in the balance. I remember being absolutely crushed when they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the first and (at the time) only round of playoffs in 1971... and then thrilled beyond my wildest imagination only a year later.
In those early years I watched the A's change from a team of mediocrity to one of greatness. Since then, I have seen them morph a number of times from awful to brilliant and back again. Of course I still feel disappointment when they fail to clinch a playoff berth, or lose a series in the post season (as they just finished doing), but tend to get over it much more quickly than I did as a kid.
When I moved abroad in 1981, and in the many years away from home that followed (nearly 25), I discovered that my passion for baseball and the A's did not diminish at all... if anything, it may have grown even stronger.
I still tried to attend games when making trips home to visit friends and family. In fact, I made a point of scheduling several vacations near the end of the season so I'd be able to watch the pennant races wind down, and then catch the first round of playoffs (by the way, after moving back to northern California last year, I find that a 90 minute drive to Oakland takes absolutely no time at all!)
Through the years I have been fortunate enough to attend a few post-season games, though never during a World Series (wasn't persuasive enough to talk my parents into that). And although I have never been there to see them clinch any sort of championship in person (not that they didn’t have the opportunity), I do have a handful of special baseball memories to look back on.
In addition to all the great players and games I've seen at the Coliseum, I was also lucky enough to witness George Hendrick's first career home run (a walkoff with 2 outs in the 10th inning), Sal Bando's grand slam on the 4th of July, watched Bert Campinaris fling his bat over the head of Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow after being hit by a pitch in game two of the '72 Division Series and, on the final day of the regular season in 1975, saw the quartet of Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers combine on a no-hitter to beat the Angels (I was also there to see Jeter's miracle-flip to Posada in game three of the 2001 Division Series, but as an A's fan it’s awfully hard to rate that as a highlight).
My allegiance to the A's has certainly been tested a time or two in my nearly 40 year career as a fan, most notably when former owner Charles O. Finley saw many of my favorite players heading for the exits in the mid-seventies, and courteously stood there holding the door open for them (heck, he even gave a couple of them a nudge). I threatened to start following another club at the time, but could never actually bring myself to do it.
The Oakland A's have always been my one and only team, and the fact that they always will be should come as a surprise to no one.
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