Dave Stewart was Oakland through and through. Being raised in the East Bay and gaining athletic fame in high school, Stewart was one of the finest athletes to come out of Oakland in his graduating class. Later, when he returned to Oakland as a professional baseball player, he helped his city heal from one of the worst natural disasters in American history while helping the Oakland A’s win the World Series. This is his story.
David Keith Stewart was born on February 19, 1957 in Oakland, California. Spending most of his youth in the Oakland Boys Club, Dave Stewart built himself into quite an athlete. He starred at St. Elizabeth High School in baseball as a catcher and football as both a linebacker and tight end, gaining All-American honors in both sports. Following his senior year, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 16th round of the 1975 MLB Draft; bypassing 30 scholarship offers to play football in college. He knew that his greatest potential was in baseball.
Early Career Struggles
After several years in the minor leagues, Dave Stewart came to the MLB to stay in 1981. During that rookie year, he won four games, lost three with a 2.49 ERA. The Dodgers won the World Series that year. Stewart played in 1.2 innings during that series, allowing a hit but no runs.
The next year, Dave Stewart won nine games and lost eight while posting a dismal 3.81 ERA. In 1983, he was traded to the Texas Rangers in the middle of the year, posting a 5-2 record for both organizations. He was a massive disappointment in Texas during 1984, posting a 7-14 record with a 4.73 ERA. After disastrous attempt as a relief pitcher in 1985, Stewart was traded in the middle of the season to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was atrocious in 1986, never starting in any of the eight games of which he appeared but still posting a ghastly 6.57 ERA for the Phillies who ultimately released him in the middle of the season. After a failed tryout with the Baltimore Orioles, Stewart signed with the Oakland A’s. Dave Stewart was coming home
After being traded to the A’s in the middle of the 1986 season, Dave Stewart’s rise began quickly. In 29 appearances with the A’s, Stewart won nine games and lost five, lowering his ERA to 3.74. He really turned things around in 1987, winning 20 games and striking out 205 batters, both career highs. Beginning in 1987, he began a streak of winning at least 20 games four straight years and was invited to one All Star Game.
Dave Stewart recorded 21 wins in both 1988 and 1989. They made the World Series in 1988 and Stewart started Game’s One and Four, losing both as the A’s lost the series in five games. In 1989, despite giving up 260 hits, he was invited to his first and only All Star Game. He came in second in the voting for the Cy Young Award as the A’s powered their way to a second straight World Series where his legacy would forever be defined.
A Defining Moment
Entering Game Three of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, the A’s held a commanding two game lead. On October 17th a magnitude 6.9 earthquake violently shook San Francisco and Oakland minutes before the game was to begin. Reminiscent of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the damage was catastrophic. Dave Stewart immediately began looking for his sister, Brenda, who worked as an underwriter at the Hartford in San Francisco. While he eventually learned that she was unharmed, Dave Stewart saw the damage done to his hometown and witnessed the efforts of the first responders by the Nimitz Freeway near his old neighborhood.
Moved by their heroics, Stewart realized that his mission was to provide for the first responders to help heal his city. After providing food and water to first responders, he went to bed at 10 am the morning of October 18th completely exhausted but inspired by his desire to bring comfort and relief to his home. He would continue this service until his team left town for Arizona to practice in lieu of playing in the World Series.
Ten days after the Loma Prieta earthquake, the World Series resumed at Candlestick Park. The A’s ultimately won the series in a four game sweep and in his two starts, Dave Stewart won both games while recording a scintillating 1.69 ERA. He was rewarded for his efforts with the World Series MVP award, but his greatest triumph was bringing comfort and healing to his community, a community that was still very much reeling from the devastation of an earthquake.
Empowered by the love he and his community shared with each other, Dave Stewart had a tremendous year in 1990, winning 22 games while recording a 2.56 ERA. The A’s returned to the World Series for a third consecutive year as heavy favorites but were upset by a hungry Cincinnati Reds team that yearned for a championship. Stewart continued to win for the A’s the next two years, totaling 23 victories for Oakland during that time.
After the 1992 season he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays who were looking to repeat as World Series Champions. Dave Stewart helped them accomplish that feat in 1993 by winning 12 games for the club while recording 96 strikeouts. After winning his third World Series in 1993, Dave Stewart split his final two years in the MLB between Toronto and Oakland, totaling ten wins between those two years. He retired following the 1995 season as an Oakland Athletic, loyal to his hometown until the end.