There may be no stronger tie of identity between city and team than Oakland has with the Athletics. Known to the rest of the country as the sometimes-suffering underdog, the city of Oakland and its baseball team both benefit from the fierce loyalty of locals. This sentiment was at Frank Ogawa Plaza Monday night, when Mayor Jean Quan and representatives from the Oakland A’s held an eleventh-hour rally for fans ready to welcome home their team home from Detroit.
“The A’s are a lot like Oakland,” Quan said to the crowd on Monday, the day after the A’s lost the second of their best-of-five playoff series against the Detroit Tigers. “Under-funded, under appreciated, they’re able to come from behind.”
An improbable spirit of hope and excitement permeated the crowd of roughly 300 green-and-yellow-clad fans, who were joined on the City Hall steps by the A’s elephant mascot, “Stomper.” Fans cheered primarily for themselves on Monday, as the featured guests of the evening were mostly the longstanding season ticket holders who are fixtures at the Coliseum.
The event was organized by Sara Somers, the city’s liaison to the A’s, who said she wanted to give the fans an opportunity to show their support without worrying about the finances of the team, or the rumors and squabbles surrounding the possibility of the franchise moving out of Oakland. “I wanted to show everybody how much people love the Oakland A’s,” she said.
Somers has been a season ticket holder every year since 1988. After the A’s won their division on Wednesday, she sent Quan a picture of the scoreboard to let her know what the team had accomplished. Quan immediately suggested the rally, which drew the team’s fans, as well as local residents happy to celebrate their city beyond the fate of a baseball team.
“I’m an Oakland nationalist,” said fan Pam Drake, from Oakland, who made the distinction between being a fan of the sport and a fan of the city itself. “I care about what makes Oakland happy and feel good and look good.”In fact, when fans spoke on Monday, it was sometimes hard to tell whether they were speaking of the team specifically or the city itself. “I like that we’re the underdogs-America likes its underdogs,” said Oscar Gonzalez, an A’s fan from San Francisco. “Oakland’s a beautiful city. I don’t care if it gets a bad rap.”
Kevin Haggerty, who ran the official A’s merchandise booth at the rally, said fan support this season has surpassed anything he’s seen at the Coliseum. Haggerty works for AMARAK Sports & Entertainment, a company that works with 11 Major League Baseball tams and are contracted to run concessions at the Coliseum. He’s been with the company for 29 years, moving from park to park, and he said he hasn’t seen anything like the swell of support Oakland has shown the A’s in the last few months. “They kept coming up with wins,” he said, “and they had the crowd coming back for more. We started having to buy more hot dogs and more buns.”
No matter how unlikely their continued success may seem, A’s fans have faith this year in the atmosphere of the Coliseum to continue to propel the team to impossible victories. “The home field advantage at the Coliseum is something no other stadium has,” said season-ticket holder Anson Casanares.
Casanares has been part of the “right field bleachers” all season—a group of fans known to Coliseum regulars for their mid-game antics. He and his colleagues were called by Jean Quan to the podium to instruct the crowd on the proper way to execute Oakland fans’ strange good luck dance “The Bernie Lean,” a zombie-like shuffle taken from the film “Weekend At Bernie’s 2,” in which the title character’s lifeless body is reanimated thanks to a voodoo curse. The dance—for lack of a more accurate verb—is a sympathetic concept for a team that was supposed to fade from the playoff race early this year, only to shock the baseball community by rising from the grave of season irrelevance.
“I’ve never seen a team feed so much off the fans,” said fellow right-field regular Bengamin Christensen. “Once we come back home, we’ll get the confidence back.”
As the evening drew to a close, an unlikely source demonstrated that it may also be true that the universe itself is on the side of the Oakland A’s. “Bob Melvin is a Scorpio,” said professional Sports Astrologer Andrea Mallis. “Saturn just went into Scorpio, so it could go either way.”
Mallis has worked as a consultant on baseball astrology for KNBR radio and for 95.7 The Game, and also has clients on major league rosters. “Baseball players are always looking for a competitive edge,” she said, explaining why her services are typically sought out. “And baseball players are very superstitious.” Mallis predicted the recent struggles of A’s relief pitcher Ryan Cook (Saturn and Mars were the culprits), and even the rocky season of San Francisco star Tim Lincecum. “Timmy was having his Saturn transit,” she said. “I kept calling into KNBR to tell them ‘he’ll have a better second half.’ And in 2013, he’ll be off the charts!”
Of the A’s season, she said that although the celestial bodies hadn’t made it entirely clear how the roster would play in Tuesday’s game, the season had made her optimistic. “It renews your faith in life to see the A’s come from behind,” she said. “The second lowest payroll team has so much heart and so much soul.”