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Farewell to the A's



As the old adage goes, you never know what you had until it's gone. No truer words can be said of the Oakland A's. Just this morning, it was announced that Major League Baseball had voted unanimously for the A's to leave their home of the past 55 years. While the battle has been waged for years, this is not surprising in the least, nor does it erase the memories.



Memories of the A's in Oakland have to begin with Reggie Jackson. As a second-year player playing in the recently opened Oakland Coliseum he bashed 29 home runs in 1968. The following year, he slammed 47. He never did hit fewer than 21 homers as an Athletic.



He hit his zenith in Oakland in 1973 when he led the league with 32 home runs and 117 rbi. In the midst of his MVP season, the A's provided the rollicking brand of baseball that the game desperately needed. Instead of crew cut hair and a clean cut image, the A's owner Charlie Finley allowed his players to be themselves and even financially encouraged them to grow facial hair, essentially a foreign act by professional athletes of all sports at the time.


As many of his players followed the money, they dominated on the field while Finley experimented in various promotional stunts, including bringing a live elephant and donkey to the ballpark as living mascots and orange baseballs. While the rest of baseball looked down from its ivory tower, Finley's men won three straight World Series, entrenching themselves as the Team of the 1970's.



Just 15 years after the fumes from their dynasty years had worn off, the A's were in the World Series again, sporting a much different lineup than a generation earlier. Instead of team bonding experiments with facial hair, the A's lineup consisted of raw power in the form of José Canseco and Mark McGwire. Known as the "Bash Brothers", they wrecked havoc on all of baseball while Dennis Eckersely dominated from the mound as the game's best closer.


When they met the Giants in the World Series, the world watched as the powerful Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the Bay Area and interrupted the Fall Classic, at once bringing its residents, who were usually rivals, closer together than ever before. As rescue workers worked around the clock saving lives, pulling bodies from the collapsed Bay Bridge and putting out the various fires that enveloped San Francisco, fans of both the A's and Giants needed baseball now more than ever.


While both teams responded with livelier bats, it was the A's that came out on top, winning in a sweep and providing a momentary salve for those affected by the horrific events that had surrounded the San Francisco Bay Area over the previous 10 days.



By the turn of the millennium, the A's were struggling to keep high priced players, often losing them to the wealthy Yankees. Following the lead of their general manager Billy Beane, they found diamonds in the rough, overlooked players who often came cheap. Like the A's of old, they were challenging the status quo and going against what baseball deemed was the "proper way" to win championships.


Even though this was a different generation, it was a theme that the A's thrived in. Sure enough, they made it to the playoffs in four straight years, but never made it past the ALDS. Eventually, what would become known as "Moneyball" would guide the A's to the playoffs 11 times over the next two decades. In time, it was a formula that all baseball clubs would use in some fashion, forever changing baseball while diluting the A's chances at a pennant.


As they continued to fall short in the postseason, public sentiment began to wane. After all, fans want pennants, not playoff appearances. Sensing the lack of interest in his team and watching the crowds dwindle to historical lows, owner John Fisher began to threaten to move his team to a more profitable location.


And now here we are. After years of rumors and rumblings, Fisher won over the approval of his fellow owners and earned approval for a sparkling new ballpark in Las Vegas. As the dumbstruck fanbase faces a future without their beloved ball club, all they have now is a simple question to ponder: Why?



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