Thousands of Oakland A’s fans thronged Jack London Square for a noon rally Monday that was supposed to have been a subdued affair saluting the World Series champions but at the same time recalling the Oct. 17 earthquake and its grim toll in Oakland.
However, as if the city were saying it was time for celebrating victory and down with gloom, the moment quickly gave way to unrestrained jubilation over the team’s four-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
“This is a great day for Oakland and the East Bay,” shouted Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson before a crowd of an estimated 8,000 fans, most wearing or waving the green and gold of the Oakland Athletics. Some waved brooms in the air to signify the A’s series sweep, while others taped the celebration with video cameras.
Such was the enthusiasm of the stirred-up fans and officials that a planned moment of silence in remembrance of the suffering caused by the earthquake was overlooked and never took place.
The rally was not wholly oblivious to the recent quake, which claimed 39 lives in Oakland when a section of the Nimitz Freeway collapsed. Five buckets were passed around to collect money to aid the families of victims. There was no traditional ticker-tape parade for the team through downtown streets.
But clearly the champion team had center stage.
“I’m very proud of our team, our city and what our region has represented,” said Oakland A’s Vice President Sandy Alderson from a raised platform, with the Oakland waterfront in the background.
Then came the players. Pitcher Dave Stewart, selected the World Series’ most valuable player, drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation from his teammates.
“From the bottom of my heart,” Stewart said, “to me, Oakland and the A’s have a lot in common, and that is: The cream of the crop always rises to the top.” The cheering level increased as Stewart held up the World Series championship trophy. “This belongs to all of us,” he said.
Teammates drew similar responses. “This is extra special because I’m from Fremont (in the East Bay),” said relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who made the final out in Game 4.
The most valuable player in the playoffs, Rickey Henderson, called winning the World Series the “greatest moment in my career.”
Although there was no parade, downtown Oakland was decorated with A’s banners, while green and yellow shuttle buses provided free rides to the rally.
Business was good for the numerous vendors who lined Broadway, peddling such wares as World Series shirts, pennants, caps and buttons. Some offered “The Great Quake” T-shirts to passers-by heading for the celebration.
“This rally and the World Series really uplifted the citizens to get their minds off the earthquake and to have something else to think about besides the damage,” said Penny Jenson, 30, of San Leandro.