THE Bay Bridge series. That's what they're calling the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, which opens tomorrow. The name comes from the span over San Francisco Bay that links the two cities. For the next week or so, baying Bayers will honk back and forth across the bridge, waving their black-and-orange or gold-and-green pennants. (Picking up on the old New York City subway-series image, some call this the BART series, after the Bay Area's rapid-transit system; they note also that the series is dedicated to former baseball commissioner A.Bartlett [Bart] Giamatti, who died last month.)
The cities the teams represent are a study in contrasts. You've got elegant, glistening San Francisco, Baghdad by the Bay, a city of high hills and higher culture. Then there's gritty, blue-collar Oakland, the city of which Gertrude Stein complained that ``There's no there, there.''
There's plenty of there on the A's, though. Ricky Henderson swipes bases slicker than a Nob Hill pickpocket. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire can each hit a ball out of Alameda County. And relief pitcher Dennis Eckersly has more saves than Karl Malden in his TV-cop heyday.
Speaking of hey, the Giants have always done well with sluggers named Willie (Mays, the Say Hey Kid, and McCovey), and this year they're close enough with Will Clark. Outfielder Kevin Mitchell led the major leagues in home runs. And under the tutelage of manager and former pitcher Roger Craig, Giant hurlers use more ``forks'' than a Mark Hopkins place setting.
Each team wants to bury the ghosts of recent disappointments: the A's after their stunning five-game loss to the Dodgers in last year's series (they won't have to face Orel Hershiser this year), and the Giants after losing the 1987 National League playoff. Will the players be intense? Could Oakland's Jack London write?
The Boys of Summer are down to the Men of October. From Maine to Managua, Havana to Hiroshima, they'll be watching what truly has become the World Series. Next week all of us will leave our hearts in, or near, San Francisco.