August 26, 1989
The man with the most hits in Major League history was two days into serving a lifetime ban from the game he forever loved, frequently dominated, and ultimately betrayed.
Basketball's most prolific scorer was enjoying his second month of retirement.
On the local front, the Oakland A's were in the home stretch of what would be their last World Series triumph.
The A's had come to enjoy the month of August, and why not? Imagine your big brother leaving the nest, and you finally get the bedroom all to yourself? Such had been the case since 1981, when the Raiders loaded up the moving vans, and migrated south.
But that all changed in August 1989. Well, for one night anyway. One impossible night.
Six years before coming home for good (is it really ever "for good"?), the Silver & Black returned to its old stomping grounds for an exhibition game against the Houston Oilers, or the Tennessee Titans, as you youngsters call them.
Raider fans cheer the return of their heroes (photo from "Twenty-Five Years of Excitement")
Oakland was on a short list of possible "permanent" moves for the Raiders; Sacramento and the ever-popular Irwindale the others. Los Angeles, which had already lost the Rams, was a cinch to be the second city that Al Davis abandoned. It was Davis who in March 1989 approved of the pre-season contest to be played in the Bay Area.
If there were any doubts of the affection that fans in Oakland still had towards their football team, they were severely put to rest once tickets for the exhibition went on sale. The game sold out in less than three hours. We got our tickets, and suddenly I understood how Charlie Bucket felt.
I got a Golden Ticket! OK, it's more like a pink ticket. But it's mine, damn it. All mine.
For a 7pm game, they opened the gates at noon. The prodigal sons had returned, and we treated them like royalty. Killed the fatted calf, and all that. It was the mother of all tailgate parties, with former Raiders setting up autograph booths- in the parking lot. It was an indescribable scene, but I'll let my sister Tonianne try to put it into words:
"There were chills before the game, during the game, and after the game. And how many times do you get to say that?"
I have been to World Series games. I was there the night we beat the Titans for the AFC title. But nothing rivals the euphoria of that night. Nothing comes close actually.
The game itself? Didn't matter. It wouldn't have mattered even if it did matter, you know what I mean? Exhibition or not, we turned the House of Thrills into our own personal Super Bowl. Eight years of pent-up emotions poured out it into each and every last crevice of the Coliseum. If it was only for one night, we were going to do it right.
We did. We cheered every player, every coach, every cheerleader, every pass, every run, every tackle, every movement, everything.
We shouted until our throats ached. And then we shouted some more.
It was the most illogical behavior on display, by the world's most irrational fan base. It happened on this night, 20 years ago.
And I will never forget it.