Programming Note: Watch Game 4 of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and A's on Thursday night at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports California and streaming here.
Dennis Eckersley is infamously connected to one of baseball’s biggest home runs.
Game 1 of the 1988 World Series saw a hobbling and pinch-hitting Kirk Gibson give his Dodgers victory with one ninth-inning swing of the bat in Los Angeles.
Oakland ended up losing the series.
“I’ve never moved on,” Eckersley said laughing and recalling the moment. “Guess what, you have to accept that. I don’t like it. And luckily we won in ’89, that helped a lot.”
That’s why “Eck” recording 1989’s final out, and his own history in San Francisco, was sweet and specific redemption.
“That, for me, made up for so many things,” Eckersley recalled. “To be on the mound, and get the last out … in your glove, and the fist pump. That’s the fist pump that every player wants, what a dream come true.”
It was Eckersley’s only save needed that series, after recording three against Toronto in 1989’s ALCS.
But prior to that, even dedicated baseball fans forget what an uphill battle the entire season was. Oakland were favorites among MLB, but dealt with injuries to key players like Jose Canseco, Walt Weiss, and Eckersley.
“I missed from the end of May, to the All-Star break,” Eckersley recalled about his shoulder injury. “That plays to how much depth we had, really nobody skipped a beat. The offense was good all year long.”
[RELATED: Dave Stewart helped community after 1989 earthquake]
Ultimately the A’s swept the Giants in 1989, in a World Series that certainly wasn’t guaranteed to be completed after the Loma Prieta earthquake preceding Game 3.
“That’s why we were so fortunate to get it done,” Eckersley said. “No champagne, no celebration, who cares? There was devastation in the Bay Area, that [baseball] was secondary. We were just lucky to get it in.”
Programming Note: Watch all four games of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and A's this week at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports California and streaming here, continuing Wednesday and wrapping up Thursday.
In Northern California, dates don’t get more significant than October 17, 1989.
Just moments before Game 3 of MLB’s World Series was to get underway in San Francisco, the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck at 5:04pm.
Departing Candlestick Park that night feels like yesterday for Oakland native Dave Stewart, who was still wearing his full A’s road uniform out the door.
“I got in the car, knew we couldn’t go across the Bay Bridge,” Stewart said. “I was actually surprised we couldn’t go across the San Mateo Bridge. We had to circle all the way down to the Dumbarton.”
In total, it was a six-hour trek from San Francisco to Emeryville. He got off the freeway in Hayward and took surface streets northbound through Oakland, to get a first-hand account of the destroyed Cypress structure.
The pancaked portion of Interstate 880’s double-deck structure in West Oakland became a signature visual of the devastation.
“I could see from the street, that the freeway had collapsed,” Stewart recalled. “I got out of the car, and where my sister lived was pretty much where everything was happening, with the police officers and fire department. People that were trying to bring relief.”
Stewart stayed on location, still in his A’s uniform, figuring out how he could be of help. After a pit-stop at home several hours later, the eventual World Series MVP realized returning with food and drinks for the first responders would be his calling.
“That ended up being my mission until we went to Arizona,” Stewart said.
Stewart eventually went to bed around 10 a.m. the next morning. Several days later when MLB announced the World Series would ultimately be resumed and completed, A’s Manager Tony LaRussa took his team to Arizona.
“We went there to get our minds focused on baseball,” Stewart shared. “To make sure that we stayed in baseball shape. Pitchers and hitting with the timing, we played simulated games. It was competitive.”
That competition not only kept the A’s sharp, but it also brought them closer during a time of adversity and uncertainty across the Bay Area.
[RELATED: A's players, Bob Melvin react to MLB restart]
“Difficult as it was with everything going on at home, you don’t want to lose your edge,” Stewart said. “You don’t want to give up your edge.”
The A’s certainly didn’t, sweeping San Francisco in four games.
MLB’s 2020 season officially was green-lit by the MLB Players Association on Tuesday night, setting the A's up to play 60 games in 66 days.
The 2020 season is set to begin either July 23 of July 24. The A's will play 40 games against AL West foes and 20 interleague games against the NL West.
Coming off back-to-back 97-win seasons, the A's enter the 2020 campaign with high expectations. With the collection of talent Oakland possesses, they have a good shot to end their World Series drought.
Here’s a sampling of reactions from A’s players to NBC Sports California via text message:
"We usually play really freaking good in August and September. Good luck to anyone facing us.”
-- Pitcher Chris Bassitt
"Just ate some dinner with my family excited to be back in the bay and excited to be back with my teammates and putting on the Oakland A's uniform."
-- Outfielder Robbie Grossman
“Guys are excited and eager to play with each other because we know we have a unique group.”
-- Outfielder Ramon Laureano
"I’m just happy we’re finally going to play. Sports can be a release in difficult times. I’m hoping that’s the case again. I’m also very excited about seeing our group of guys again. They’re inspiring to be around."
-- Manager Bob Melvin
"I’m just excited to get back to baseball. It’s about time. I’m in Oakland right now knocking down the doors to get back in."
-- Reliever Liam Hendriks
"Very excited to get back on the field, been waiting for this news a long time, grateful for all the work done to get to this point. Let’s Go Oakland!"
-- Right fielder Stephen Piscotty
[RELATED: MLB Power Rankings]
"I missed baseball and I’ll be happy to be back doing what natural for me at this time of year. I will say I think as a collective we players need to be as careful as we can to keep our selves healthy during the season."
-- Outfielder Mark Canha