SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants and A's will walk into Oracle Park tonight in very different situations, but with the same overall goal. Both would like to follow the Wild Card path through the postseason and to the World Series, and while the chances are faint, there remains a possibility of a Bay Bridge Series 30 years after the first one.
If there ever is another one, the series likely wouldn't carry quite the same cachet, and the two games at Oracle Park this week show why. Thirty years ago, a World Series matchup was the only chance for the Bay Area's two teams to play competitive baseball. With interleague play, they'll place twice this week and twice next weekend in Oakland.
"I loved the fact that those unique rivalries only occurred when you went to the World Series. It was a ballclub that you never saw, and that was really special," former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky said at a 1989 reunion Sunday. "I can't really speak to what it's like with interleague play because I've never experienced it and don't know that feeling, but I just know how special it was to go up against the other league and compete against the best from that league."
Interleague play was introduced eight years after the A's beat the Giants in the World Series and over time it has become a normal part of the schedule. The Giants will visit the Twins and Indians on one early-season trip next year. After the trade deadline, they'll pop over to Detroit for two against the Tigers before returning to the National League for four against the Phillies.
But for decades the leagues were their own entities, which made it a bit trickier to match up if you actually got to the World Series. The Giants faced the A's years before there was full access to video or spin rates or exact tendencies. Nobody was looking at hundreds of games worth of at-bats and shifting seven defenders. The team's preparation for the A's was old school.
"It would have helped us so much to see them before because you get to see a guy play on a regular basis and you can figure out how to pitch to him and play him, but we just had to go by our scouting reports," pitcher Scott Garrelts said. "Who's hot? Who's not? Not having faced any of them during the season, it was a little uncomfortable."
The Giants won 92 games that year and finished first in the NL West. The A's won 99, taking the AL West. Both teams cruised through a championship series before the A's swept the World Series.
"They were strong, powerful, hit home runs, had speed, had pitching, had relief," Garrelts remembered. "They had pretty much everything that you would really want."
That description doesn't fit either Bay Area team this season, but both are still chasing postseason spots. They'll renew their rivalry tonight, starting what has become a yearly series.
Perhaps one of these years the midsummer games will be a preview of an October matchup. Outfielder Brett Butler said he didn't think a rematch would be quite as big a deal because of today's scheduling, but then he smiled and added something.
"But when you go to the World Series," he said, "That's always a big deal."