Game One of the first World Series to be held in the same general area in 33 years is scheduled to start today here in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Not since the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees met in their last Subway Series, in 1956, have two teams within cab fare of one another been World Series opponents.
Now, the name of the game is "Baysball." The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants are separated only by the San Francisco Bay, and connected only by the Bay Bridge.It has created, as you might have guessed, quite a heady atmosphere throughout the Bay Area. Civic pride is running high. As are emotions. For the next nine days, or until someone wins four games, whichever comes first, the only baseball game in anyone's town is here, in these towns.
Hotels are booked to capacity. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system has added extra trains and a free shuttle from its stop at Daly City to Candlestick Park, home of the Giants. One local entrepreneur has already made a killing by selling almost 24,000 two-sided hats, with A's green on one side and Giants black on the other. They must have sold that many loaves of sourdough bread by now, easy.
For the most part, and especially in the beginning - after the Giants disposed of the Cubs and the A's of the Blue Jays to set up this intra-Bay showdown - there was a lot of Bay Area unification about this Series. People were doing their best not to step on anyone's toes; to treat it like everybody's party.
But inevitably the, uh, differences between these two Cities on the Bay surfaced.
About midweek, Art Agnos, the mayor of San Francisco, was asked if he planned on making one of those bets that mayors often do with opposing mayors, a loaf of sourdough for a crate of oysters, something like that.
Agnos thought for a minute and then said, "Naw, there's nothing in Oakland I'd want."
That started it. The quote made the next day's headline in the San Francisco Chronicle, and when Agnos, who insisted, hey, he was just joking, called Mayor Lionel Wilson's office in Oakland to tell him so, Mayor Wilson said he was too busy to take the call.
For decades, people in San Francisco and Oakland have had a kind of social clash, with San Franciscans, their little fingers properly extended, traditionally holding the upper hand. (Of course, San Franciscans have a similar social posture with all other cities, but all other cities are far enough away that they don't take much notice. Oakland isn't).
There's the story that San Franciscans still tell with enthusiasm, even though it happened 83 years ago.
Two men were standing atop a pile of rubble just after the 1906 Earthquake. One turned to the other and, as he looked across the Bay, said, "At least Oakland looks pretty good." To which came the reply, "Some things even the earth won't swallow."
Whether he meant it to or not, Mayor Agnos's innocent remark brought up that story, and others.
San Franciscans do not hesitate to mention that the Haas family, owners of the Oakland A's, choose to live in San Francisco. Nor do they get tired of explaining that, because you pay the dollar toll to cross the Bay Bridge on the Oakland side, that it's free to get to Oakland, but it costs you to get back in The City.
They say San Francisco was founded by a Priest, and named after a Saint. They say Oakland was founded by real estate speculators, who cut down the oak trees that gave the city its name.
Much of this, and more, has been in the papers, or on TV (did you know that seven TV stations are in San Francisco, one in Oakland?), or on radio (28 stations are in San Francisco, three in Oakland).
Oakland, as is always the case, has taken the brunt. Even though it's warmer in Oakland, and less congested, and less hilly, and there are fewer, shall we say, special-interest groups that have taken over in force, and Tony Bennett never visited there.
And even though the A's have a much better ballpark, they drew more Bay Area fans during the regular season (as they always do) than the Giants; and they have, by most barometers, the best baseball team.
So confident were people in Oakland that they set up a billboard near the Coliseum two months ago, reading, "WELCOME TO THE WORLD," after which they left a blank line - a not-so-subtle reference to what they knew would come to pass in October.
This week they lettered in "SERIES."
Little did they know the people they'd be welcoming would be those cads from San Francisco.
But at least as Baysball begins, they've got their neighbors from across the Bay where they want them: In their decidedly superior ballpark, and in their debt. It's going to cost them a dollar to get back across the bridge, at least.