If you tried to write a script for a movie on the 2012 Oakland Athletics team you’d get rejected by ever major movie company in Hollywood. Their story was something that even the craziest writers in the world couldn’t dream up. The team defied so many odds, so many injuries and gave the city of Oakland and the baseball world one of the most improbable seasons in history.
Unfortunately the season ended last night in a 6-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers. But the scene following the game was one of the most beautiful things ever seen in baseball. As the Tigers celebrated, the Oakland A’s fans stood, gave their players a “Let’s Go Oakland!” chant. The standing ovation for their beloved Oakland team led to what I consider a pure moment of appreciation. The fans stayed to thank the players. The players in return gave their curtain calls to the fans. Even the Tigers tipped their caps to a worthy opponent. Then right there on the field, the A’s players embraced each other — acknowledging a truly amazing adventure through the summer of 2012 that they would never forget.
It was a very odd start to the baseball season. The A’s entered Spring Training with hopes of bringing back Manny Ramirez to their roster in May. Scott Sizemore’s injury forced the A’s to turn to Josh Donaldson at the position and the roster was filled with rookies and some players that the fanbase barely knew. And stranger was the season began a week before everyone else — and it was in Tokyo.
I remember being excited about the season. Opening Day is always an exciting time for me but this was different. The A’s now had Bob Melvin as their manager for the beginning of the season. The team had a lot of new names that could be great, but had to prove themselves. But there was this optimism at least that the team might be competitive. And right from the get go, I saw a glimpse of potential with this team.
On Opening Day, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning at around 2AM to listen to the A’s on the radio. The game wasn’t broadcast and I didn’t know how to find game streams online, so this was the only option for me. This is something I’ve done before. The last time the A’s were in Japan, I woke up for both games. But this season there was less optimism for the team to succeed, so why would I wake up so early for this team? I just felt that I had to be a part of this team. I care about this team too much to not be there for them. It was all well worth it.
And for the first couple months, we didn’t know what to expect from this team. New rookie starting pitchers were starting to find their niche. Brandon Inge would end up being the third baseman and Bandon Moss would join Chris Carter as part of the platoon at first base. A nine-game losing streak on top of that made it feel like the Bob Geren days all over again. The A’s could have thrown in the towel right there in June and just call it a rebuilding year. But something clicked and the team never stopped winning.
Great pitching. Clutch hitting. Pies from walk-offs. It was an amazing journey starting from July. This team brought an identity that was simply amazing and the cast of characters on the team really made it fun. For a team that wasn’t supposed to do well, they continued to play well. It was like the movie “Major League” and with every win, the team of no names made believers out of me.
You have the wrestling nut Josh Reddick and his pies. You have speed demon Coco Crisp flashing leather over the field. The Cuban Yoenis Cespedes emerged himself into a future superstar. And somewhere down the line, everyone did the Bernie Lean.
The dance itself was something I started back in 2011 when the team was struggling. But it grew into something else this season. It was the team’s rallying call. It was also what I think made this team fun. Unlike the strict clubhouses of teams like the Yankees, the A’s were just a bunch of fun loving guys. They didn’t know any better and the Bernie was their way of keep loose, having fun, and loving baseball. Never has a dance overtaken the Oakland community so much. It fit the city of Oakland perfectly.
And somehow someway, the wins against the top teams started to pile up. A sweep of the Yankees (featuring two walk-offs), a battle in Baltimore and improbable wins in Anaheim propelled this team into the playoff race. The A’s 13-game deficit in July was now into single digits in August and by September, the playoffs actually was a possibility.
The entire journey was filled with memories that will never be forgotten. Those walk-offs (all 14 of them during the regular season) showed the world that the A’s weren’t backing down. The constant changes to the lineup and roster also gave Bob Melvin a lot of credit for being a very intelligent manager. With an owner that doesn’t want to keep the team in Oakland and the lowest payroll in the American League, the A’s were defying everything thrown their way and still winning.
This team meant more to me than just a baseball team. Even though I’ve followed this team since I started learning the game of baseball in the mid-90s, this season meant more to me than anything else. It was in May, a month into the season, I had to move away from the Bay Area. I love the Bay Area but a new job called me to Los Angeles. It was a tough transition for since I had never lived there and didn’t know anything about the area in which I was moving.
My new job had me working at strange hours, meaning that I couldn’t do too much in terms of getting acclimated because I was working all the time. I didn’t know anyone in the area so I was by myself most of the time and it was kind of scary. I was getting homesick and the only thing that kept me connected back home was the Oakland Athletics.
I made an effort to follow every single game this season. I watched it through my MLB.TV app or listened to the radio on my phone. For those days when I had to go to sleep early or had very little time because of work, I always could turn to the A’s to be there for me. Because of that, my transition was easier. I got a piece of home with me every day. I had my “security blanket” if you will.
The wins meant a lot to me because it brought joy to a very tough moment in my transition. I have been dealing just with a lot of emotions with the move and uncertainty of my future. But the wins, especially the walk-offs were amazing. That final week against Texas, when the A’s won the division, it made me feel like the king of the world. The team that was battling all the challenges overcame them all the win the AL West. It reminded me that no challenge is too great to overcome. This team kept me close to home and now I knew that because of them, I had to go home.
Jonny Gomes said that the A’s might have saved baseball in Oakland with this playoff run. I hope he’s right. After struggling so long to find a home with the owner’s intention of going to San Jose, the A’s needed to win to at least beat it for the moment. Owner Lew Wolff said that A’s couldn’t build a competing team in Oakland. What the A’s did was give the owner a big middle finger and win the AL West.
The three home games were all sellouts. Even though there were bandwagon fans, I knew that I had to fly back from LA to see my team. I had to see the team that not only revived Oakland baseball, but saved my summer of misery in LA. I had to be a part of it.
Rocking the Coliseum like I had never before, the A’s fans brought an intensity unmatched. Unlike other fanbases, this place was so loud. Oakland is a town that loves their team. Even though the stadium is never filled most of the year, the city loves this team. During the playoffs, that was what we showed.
And the scene after the final out was recorded was something so beautiful. The fact that the A’s fans stayed, cheered “Let’s Go Oakland!” as the players said their goodbyes to everyone in the stands was amazing. I stood there cheering on my team and my eyes started to water. Because I knew that this was more than just baseball for me. The city of Oakland was revived. This team was my support this entire summer. This A’s team meant more to me than any other team I’ve followed.
It was sadness, but it was also joy because what we experienced could never be duplicated. A team of unknowns took the identity of the city and clawed and fought its way to the top despite very few resources. It was a working class attitude with a Bay Area swagger that drove this team. It was what reminded me why I love baseball and why this team will always be more than just a game to me.
The memories from this entire season will never go away. I might go back and re-watch some of the games that were saved up and feel that joy again. And I will look forward to next spring when this team gets back to work. Most of the core players are returning and this team has nowhere but up to go. The West now will be a tougher battle but now the A’s are part of the top dogs. They captured the entire city, the entire country with their improbable run. They changed lives and maybe saved their future in Oakland.
And how appropriate was it that the final A’s win of the season was a walk-off?
I don’t know if they would make a movie about this season. The story is much better than the Moneyball one and I look forward to reading the first book written about this team. It didn’t have a fairytale ending but who needs one when the journey was so great? This is only the beginning of something special for next year.
The season may have ended but the excitement is stronger than ever for this team. Thank you Oakland A’s for bringing back the funk to the Bay. You provided me a safety net that I needed so badly. This was one hell of a ride.
Let’s Go Oakland… Forever.