'It's special, man': Oakland native Stewart has jersey retired by A's

'Up until today, I didn’t think I belonged,' 1989 World Series MVP said in pregame ceremony

September 11th, 2022

OAKLAND -- As a native of Oakland who grew up in the shadows of the Oakland Coliseum, vividly recalls the excitement he felt when the A’s moved out west from Kansas City in 1968.

Stewart immediately became a regular at the Coliseum, with the seats down the right-field line his preferred spot so he and his cousins could get a glimpse of Reggie Jackson. With the Swingin’ A’s dynasty that captured three straight World Series titles from 1972-74 forming over the next few years, Stewart developed an affinity for the likes of Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers.

"Every time I walk into that ballpark, I can replay different things on a given day," Stewart said. "I remember when I was a little kid and Reggie was in right field with his back to the infield looking at me and my cousins collecting baseballs in the right-field seats. I remember when the A’s came to town and the first player I met was Ramón Webster. I remember 'Campy' Campaneris running around the bases and looking like he never touched the ground because his feet were so quick."

Little did a teenage Stewart know that one day he’d be immortalized at that same stadium alongside those same legends he idolized. After living out a childhood dream by playing eight of his 16 seasons with the green and gold, Stewart had his jersey No. 34 retired before Sunday's 10-3 win over the White Sox. He became the sixth A’s player to have his number retired, and the first since Rickey Henderson -- one of Stewart’s closest friends while growing up in Oakland -- in 2009.

On hand for the pregame ceremony was a star-studded cast of A’s royalty that included Jackson, Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Terry Steinbach, Mark McGwire and Tony La Russa, who returned to the White Sox on Sunday after being away since Aug. 30 with an ongoing health matter (though he's uncertain whether he will resume managing the club this season). Video messages from those unable to attend included current Astros manager Dusty Baker, a longtime friend of Stewart’s and former teammate with the Dodgers, and Fingers, who gave Stewart his blessing to continue donning the No. 34 jersey when the A’s originally retired the number for him in 1993.

"I don’t even remember who gave me the No. 34,” Stewart said. "But I was having my run of 20-win seasons when he was being announced to the Hall of Fame. I did call and ask him if I could continue to wear the number because of baseball superstition. He didn’t hesitate to say, ‘Of course, it’d be my honor for you to continue to wear it.’ If you know [Rollie], you love him, which I do."

In his eight seasons with the A’s, Stewart went 119-78 with a 3.73 ERA. Four of those years (1987-90) saw him win 20 games or more. His finest campaign came in '89 as he earned the lone All-Star selection of his career, going 21-9 with a 3.32 ERA. Finishing second to Bret Saberhagen in AL Cy Young Award voting that season, the ending to that year cemented Stewart's legacy in A's history, as he tossed a shutout in Game 1 of the World Series against the Giants and went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in the Fall Classic sweep to earn Series MVP honors and bring the city of Oakland its fourth World Series title.

In his retirement, Stewart has remained involved with baseball in a number of roles. After trying his hand as an agent and the general manager of the D-backs, he now provides analysis for the A’s pregame and postgame shows for NBC Sports California, often making live appearances at the Coliseum. Now, whenever Stewart walks in and looks up at the retired uniform numbers hanging over Mt. Davis, he’ll forever see his last name and No. 34 right in between Fingers and Hunter.

"All those names are memorialized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Stewart said. "To the A’s, thank you very much for putting me in a place I never thought I would be. Up until today, I didn’t think I belonged. To the fans, it was a pleasure to play here in Oakland for you. I will always be an Oakland A and a native of Oakland. Thank you."