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ATHLETICS WONDERING WHY OPPOSITION NEVER BOTHERED TO SHOW UP

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The Battle By/For/With/Because Of The Bay ended last night. For their part, the Oakland A's are still wondering why the opposition never showed up. Did they get caught in traffic?

The 86th World Series will be remembered first and foremost for the 7.1 earthquake that caused a 10-day regrouping; it will be remembered second and foremost for those other masters of disaster, the A's, who did what even the earthquake couldn't do - they ended the whole thing abruptly.They beat the San Francisco Giants by scores of 5-0, 5-1, 13-7 and 9-6. The only dominating thing they didn't do was invoke the 10-run rule, and at one point in Game 3, they could have.

Only one team has ever won a World Series in more similarly abusive fashion. In 1932 the New York Yankees' four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs totaled out to 37-19. That's an 18-run edge. The A's beat the Giants 32-14 - also an 18-run differential.

Three other teams - the '50 Phillies, the '63 Dodgers and the '66 Dodgers - never led in the World Series, just as the Giants didn't this time, but none of them got behind in the first inning in three of the four games, and in the second inning of the other one.

Even the A's themselves got tired of scoring, as evidenced in the sixth inning of last night's decisive game when Rickey Henderson scored on a Carney Lansford single and Jose Canseco, standing at home plate, shook his hand. They did not bash forearms.

When the Giants decided to finally rally, it was entertaining, but it was too late.

It would be easy to alibi for the Giants, since their city did, after all, suffer a major earthquake during the Series. But so did the city that the A's represent, and with more disastrous results.

With the Series ending much as it started, the earthquake was thus reduced to a nonfactor as far as affecting the outcome. If the A's were distracted, they didn't show it; if the Giants were awakened, they didn't show it either.

By calling for the 10-day delay - the longest in the 86-year history of the World Series - Major League Baseball showed ample deference to the earthquake and its aftershocks. Perhaps, as it turned out, excessive deference. But, then, as Commissioner Fay Vincent said, "Baseball is good at dealing with rain. We're a little weak on earthquakes."

There was speculation before the Series resumed with Game 3 on Friday night that the A's might have had their momentum stopped. They did not return to Candlestick Park for workouts after the earthquake hit on Oct. 17. Instead, they chartered a plane and went to Phoenix for two days to practice against their Instructional League team in residence there.

Then, to get back to the Giants' park, they had to find a route other than the Nimitz Freeway, a portion of which had been reduced to rubble.

Amateur psychologists, and even some real ones, suggested that all this earthquake-induced adversity would most help the underdogs in this Series - namely, the Giants. Bullies wouldn't fare so well.

Besides that, the Series was in the Giants' ballpark - a much-maligned ballpark that had performed well under pressure and now stood as a kind of Giants' rabbits foot.

To all that, the A's asked where home plate was and what time could they start batting practice?

The A's led 8-0 last night going into the bottom of the sixth inning, when Candlestick was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop - at Fisherman's Wharf. Then the Giants' six-run uprising in the sixth and seventh innings seemingly reduced Oakland's dominating Series image.

But it merely gave the A's a chance to do some more showin' off. They loaded the bases in the eighth inning and scored a run via a base on balls, no less, which was about the only trick they hadn't yet displayed. That made it 9-6 and kept the rising Giants effectively at bay.

And it presented enough of a stage for reliever-supreme Dennis Eckersley, who put the Giants down 1-2-3 in the ninth, getting excellent defense from his infield on two of the outs.

Like the '32 Yankees, the A's did it both ways - with offense and defense. Those Yankees got several home runs from Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth - including the famous called shot to centerfield in Game 3 - excellent pitching, headed by Lefty Gomez, and all-around good defensive baseball.

The easiest way to tell who got home runs for the '89 A's was to count up the players who didn't. And the pitching, headed by Dave Stewart, Mike Moore and Eckersley, was superb.

Their only problem was their timing. Awesome as they were, they did all of the above in the Year of the Quake. In years to come, they'll no doubt be a famous answer to a famous trivia question: "Who won the World Series the year they had the earthquake?" It's tough to take top billing to something like that. But give the A's credit. They gave it their best shot. San Francisco won't soon forget them, either.