When the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's play each other a few times a year in interleague games, players and managers on both sides make a point of yawning and stretching and saying it's no big deal and there's no big rivalry between the teams and we'd rather be playing teams in our own division than these fellows and, what? They play across the bay? Never noticed.
But off the field the knives are out. "While they were building a ballpark, we were building a team," read a particularly snotty A's billboard at the start of the season, a slap at the Giants and their new Pacific Bell Park, which has been sold out for every game this season while Oakland's attendance has been meager despite the fact that the A's lead their division and have a better record than the Giants. The A's were publicly miffed at the Giants in March for not agreeing to the traditional "Bay Bridge Series" of exhibition games just before Opening Day, and instead bringing in the far more glamorous New York Yankees and the not at all glamorous Milwaukee Brewers.
Now the Giants are barking at the A's over the Silicon Valley. The A's have made some noises in the past few days about moving there if they can't get a new stadium built in Oakland, and the Giants have said they'll fight the move, because Santa Clara County is their territory. "I'd be very surprised if Major League Baseball didn't defend our territorial rights," Giants owner Peter Magowan said.
But as Larry Stone of the private Santa Clara Stadium Association, which is trying to get the A's to move down to the land of industrial parks, points out, that territorial right was only established in the early '90s, when the Giants were contemplating a move south. Now that the Giants have their new downtown stadium, they're not headed for San Jose anytime soon. The Giants spent 40 years playing in 3Com (nee Candlestick) Park, on the southern edge of San Francisco, and they do have a big fan base south of the city, but with their new home it's unclear they'd be hurt that badly by an A's move south, which would likely turn a lot of East Bay A's fans into Giants supporters anyway.
The A's lease at the Network Associates Coliseum (nee "The" Coliseum) runs out next year, and they have options through 2004. Their stadium, never a very pleasant place, was turned into a baseball-unfriendly monstrosity a few years ago to lure the football Raiders back to Oakland from Los Angeles. The A's say they want to stay in Oakland, but, like so many teams, they need a new ballpark, and if they have to go to Santa Clara or San Jose and live among all those rich computer people, well, they'll consider it.
Which would just break the hearts of all those East Bay fans who stay away from A's games in droves now. "It is discouraging," the San Francisco Examiner quoted lifelong A's fan Chris De Benetti saying. "Nothing against the South Bay -- it's a fine place -- but the A's belong in Oakland."
The A's played in Philadelphia from 1901 to 1954 and in Kansas City from 1955 to 1967. There was no immediate comment from lifelong A's fans in those cities.