There is no question about it. The A's-Giants World Series has taken the Bay Area by storm. People are paying outrageous sums of money for tickets. Some are even offering 49ers tickets in exchange, or dinner reservations at the Cliff House. The Bay Bridge is decked out in streamers. It's all Herb Caen can write about.
All of which goes to show what a difference 75 years can make.The last time the A's and Giants met in the World Series, they didn't even bother to stifle yawns around here. The last three times, in fact.
They weren't even sure who won for at least a week.
For one thing, they had an earthquake to dig out from under.
For another thing, they had a lot of bridges to build.
For another thing, Wells Fargo didn't dispense the news with lightning speed.
And for another, and most significant, thing, the A's and Giants didn't live here.
You want proof that California has no natives, unless you count the Redwoods? Look at the A's and Giants. Their California roots run about as deep as Marilyn Monroe, or Johnny Carson, and a lot more shallow than Levi's rivets.
They're both considerably less Californian than, say, Chinatown, or the Frisbee.
The Giants were a 75-year-old franchise when they moved to San Francisco in 1958. The A's were 67 years old when they moved to Oakland in 1968.
In '58 and '68, they were like the New Orleans Jazz when they moved to Utah; franchises on the run, looking for new leases on life, or at least on stadiums.
The Giants came to California from Manhattan, leaving the Polo Grounds, their stadium of seven decades. The A's came from Kansas City, where they had stayed for a rather anonymous 12 years after relocating from their original Philadelphia and Shibe Park, their home for half-a-century.
Today, Shibe Park and the Polo Grounds are urban housing developments.
Who would have thought, back in 1905, that it would come this far? In the 1905 World Series, in case you'd forgotten, it was the A's-Giants as well. The Philadelphia A's and the New York Giants. They played again in 1911 and 1913. They were regular doubles partners back then.
If they hadn't played in that 1905 World Series, there might never have been Fall Classics as we know them.
The first World Series was played in 1903, between Pittsburgh of the National League and Boston of the American League. But when Boston won the American League again in 1904, its supposed opponent, the National League champion New York Giants, refused to play.
The Giants had their reason, which, summed up, was a huge superiority complex.
As their manager, John McGraw, said, "Why should we play any upstarts from the American League? When we win the National League, we're champions of the only real major league."
The National League had been in existence much longer than the American League, and was therefore much snootier. So there was no World Series in 1904. This gave the Series a 1-1 record in managing to play Fall Classics, and put it in a status category, at the time, similar to World Team Tennis or Pro Rodeo.
Nineteen Oh Five, then, was a pivotal time. When the Giants won the National League again, would they still insist on not playing the American League winner, rendering useless the need for the World Series and, later, for transistor radios? For whatever reasons, they did not.
The World Series has been uninterrupted ever since.
The Giants, as you might guess, won that 1905 World Series. They beat the A's, who were managed by Connie Mack, four games to one. Christy Mathewson threw three shutouts for New York, after which the Giants smugly repaired back to the Polo Grounds.
When an earthquake almost wiped the city of San Francisco, Calif., off the face of the earth the next year, in 1906, they were completely unaffected.
The next time the A's and Giants met in a World Series was in 1911. This time, the A's were good, and they were also mad. They used a Chippewa Indian named Chief Bender, to win two games, and they got revenge on the Giants four games to two. (In fairness, it had been a tough season for the Giants. The Polo Grounds had burned down in the spring, and they didn't get the stadium repaired until midseason. Besides, Mathewson was getting older, and the A's had Home Run Baker - he led the American League that year, with 11).
They met again two years later. Again the A's prevailed, this time four games to one. The A's were loaded with their "$100,000 Infield" of Baker-Eddie Collins-Stuffy McInnis-and-Jack Barry, and Bender won twice more.
Photos and news accounts of those three Philadelphia A's-New York Giants World Series indicate that they were hardly insignificant affairs. Crowds are shown thronged outside Shibe Park and the Polo Grounds, watching the Play-o-Graph scoreboard. Back then, if you didn't have a ticket, that was your only choice. Vin Scully was yet to be invented. The same with scalpers.
Mack and McGraw, the two managers, still rank one-two, respectively, in games managed and games won. Mathewson and Baker and Collins and Chief Bender have taken their niches in the Hall of Fame.
But to remember when they played live, you've got to be at least 90.
On that score, few qualify, and nobody in California. Why, even the press guides of the two franchises fail to mention details of any World Series played prior to their immigration to the Golden State.
That was then and this is now, and, for a little symmetry, in the Shibe Park section of Philadelphia and the Polo Grounds section of New York, they're reportedly equally as worked up for this Bay Bridge World Series as the Bay Area was for those classic A's-Giants matchups just after the century turned.
When they come out to California from back East, they try to look them up and stay with them. But that's about it.