For this weekend, the metropolitan area that opens up from the Golden Gate will be the center of the sports and entertainment universe with all that going on and more -- including two National League Division Series games, right there with all the weekend fun as the Giants and A's both begin their October quests.
Already, the Bay Area's two teams have made 2012 a year to remember, albeit in decidedly different ways. The Giants have maintained a steady course sailing through some turmoil under the guidance of the unflappable Buster Posey and Matt Cain to win the NL West going away, while the A's have been surprising walk-off wonders who proved that a rotation full of rookies can take you to the AL West title on the very last day of the season.
They're both where they want to be, and that's in the playoffs.
The Giants will be playing the first two games of their NLDS at their beautiful bayside ballpark, AT&T Park, before their full-throated, orange-coated fans, hosting the NL Central champion Reds. The A's will begin the American League Division Series miles away Saturday in Detroit -- perhaps thankfully with everything else going on around the bay -- but they will return a few days later for Game 3 at their concrete O.co Coliseum home that comes alive with flags a-flying, arms a-raging and boundless energy from the green-and-gold faithful.
Point is, they're playing ball on both sides of the bay in October -- again. With this two-team trip to the playoffs, the Bay Area continues to lead the way in playoff appearances since Division Series play began, as well as since divisional play began in 1969. With a tip of the cap to the Nationals and Orioles, who are enjoying the first possibility of a Beltways Series for all the marbles, the A's and Giants know a thing or two about the potential for a World Series featuring a commute from home throughout.
This October marks the fourth time the A's and Giants have entered the postseason together since the Wild Card came into play in 1995, and the sixth time since 1969. The Yankees-Mets combo has three, including the 2000 World Series, while Angels-Dodgers duo has three, all in the past eight years, and White Sox-Cubs rivalry had one, in 2008. It should be pointed out, of course, that the White Sox and Cubs did meet in the 1906 World Series, with the White Sox winning two years before the Cubs won their most recent one over the past 104 years and counting, and it was New York-New York a total of 13 times in the World Series from 1921-56, with the Yankees meeting either the Dodgers or the Giants.
This weekend continues an era in which Bay Area baseball, its roots dating back to the early part of the past century in the Pacific Coast League, continues to shine in the modern spotlight. Since arriving in California, both teams have made their own indelible marks on the sport, sometimes at the same time.
The Giants arrived on the West Coast in 1958 and soon made the '62 World Series, a seven-game thriller halted abruptly on Willie McCovey's scorching line drive to Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson. The A's made their move west in '68, with both Bay Area teams making the playoffs in '71 -- the first of five postseason bids and three consecutive World Series championships for the new kids in the neighborhood. The A's earned one more Fall Classic title before the Giants won their first on the West Coast in 2010, and that of course was the 1989 World Series against the Giants, a four-game sweep rocked by the Loma Prieta earthquake that delayed Game 3 for 10 days.
Circa 2012, the common denominator between the two clubs is pitching. The Giants rode their stellar staff to glory two years ago, and much of that same staff is intact -- the rotation nearly the same, the same bullpen core teaming up to fill the void left by closer Brian Wilson's injury. The A's completely overhauled their rotation, dealing proven young pitchers and taking on rookies who have since proven to be up to the task, with Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker leading the way.
There are many differences, to be sure -- differences that clash like orange-and-black clashes with green-and-gold, as those vintage split caps from 1989 showed in graphic detail. These are not twins by any stretch of the imagination, but they're blood brothers when it comes to October baseball.
Both teams have fun, the A's with the "Bernie Lean" dance craze, the Giants with the Panda (Pablo Sandoval) and the Beard (Wilson), who is still keeping the boys loose while sidelined. Both teams have managers who are at the top of their game, with Bruce Bochy juggling his closers and Bob Melvin keeping a young team focused. Both, too, have been hit with losing key players to 50-game drug suspensions, the Giants moving forward without All-Star Game MVP Award winner Melky Cabrera and the A's without veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon.
Ultimately, both exhibit qualities that make up an October team: young talent, a 27-outs mentality and a positive clubhouse environment. So with one capitalizing and one surprising, the Giants and A's go into the weekend as October stars once again.
For at least those two Giants games and while A's fans find a place to enjoy broadcasts Saturday and Sunday, there will be an amazing array of activities buzzing around the Bay Area before, during and after the games.
The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will highlight Fleet Week with their performance Sunday afternoon, the America's Cup regatta will show off 130-foot-high sails gliding along the choppy bay throughout the weekend, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will complete a third day of concerts at Golden Gate Park.
That's not all: The 49ers of the National Football League have a sold-out home game against the Bills down at Candlestick, the annual Italian Heritage Parade will march through North Beach and let's not forget the 13th annual World Vegetarian Festival.
Obviously, parking and transportation are under red alert for the weekend with so much going on at once. Somewhere in there, two baseball teams will embark on an October road they hope brings even more excitement to the Bay Area.
There remains the prospect, as unlikely as it might have seemed in March, of a Bay Bridge Series, one hopefully uninterrupted like the one before it. At the very least, the A's and the Giants are bringing postseason baseball to the party.
And nobody does it quite like the Bay Area when it comes to that department, as will be evident this weekend.