Twenty-five years after he helped the Oakland Athletics win the 1989 World Series, former A's pitcher and Series MVP Dave Stewart returned to the mound this weekend.
Although it was at the O.co Coliseum, not at Candlestick, and it was only a ceremonial first pitch capping a pregame celebration honoring heroes of that long ago series, Stewart's toss to catcher Stephen Vogt on Saturday night brought fans to their feet.
The earth didn't shake, as it had during warm-ups to Series Game 3, when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake devastated the Bay Area, but 36,067 cheering fans made enough noise to rattle the roof.
This past weekend, the team celebrated the 25th anniversary of the series (Loma Prieta occurred in October, but they decided to hold the event at the halfway mark in the season, since there's no guarantee the A's will still be playing in October). The anniversary event featured autograph sessions and appearances by 1989 World Series champions Jose Canseco, Carney Lansford, Dave Parker, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Tony LaRussa and others.
Strolling down a red carpet in center field, with the current A's team lined up on either side, the parade of players received a yellow rose from manager Bob Melvin. Placing them on the the mound beneath a large No. 35 that had been etched into the dirt, they paid tribute to Bob Welch, their teammate and former starting pitcher who died on June 9 at age 57.
Conseco, who roiled the world of baseball with his 2005 book, Juiced, in which he named names, alleging use of PED's (performance enhancing drugs) throughout the MLB, drew significant applause with his entrance. Conseco has made it clear he thinks he made a big mistake "outing" other players in his book.
Later, in an interview with a handful of writers gathered in a press suite, soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa said, about forgiveness, "We have a life's-too-short philosophy."
Asked to describe the 1989 team he coached to the sport's pinnacle position, LaRussa said they were talented "grinders" with big, diverse personalities that meshed. "What didn't it have? I'll put (that team) up against any team ever." In 1989, after a 10-day delay, the A's swept the Giants in four games to win the franchise's ninth World Series.
Retired San Francisco Chronicle sports writer Dave Bush said the addition of Ricky Henderson, during the 1989 season, sealed the deal for him. "With Henderson, they had it all," he said. At the game when the earthquake hit, Bush remembered the players, still in uniform, rushing into the stands to reach their family members. "I never saw so many different faces all looking the same -- shocked. When the series later resumed, it was still the World Series, but it was tamped down, as it should have been. There was no champagne."
LaRussa said former A's owner Walter Haas set an appropriate, subdued tone for the post-win celebrations in 1989. Because of that, the reunion this weekend was a "joyous occasion," allowing them to remember and herald the team's victory.
A's fans Ken Wright, San Leandro, and Sandy Cavender, Livermore, agreed with LaRussa's boast and his assessment of the Series post-earthquake decorum. They'll never forget the earthquake, they said, but even so, the memory of two Bay Area teams, duking it out in the World Series, fuels their hope for a repeat matchup.
With the A's at the top of the AL West and the NL West Giants hitting their way out of a June swoon with recent wins, the possibility of a rematch isn't totally far-fetched.