On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans could connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. The A’s took their turn with the airing of a thrilling walk-off victory over the Royals that capped off a historic 20-game win streak in 2002.
“Opening Day at Home” also served as an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
After overcoming a 5-0 deficit against the Royals when Miguel Tejada hit a walk-off single to send the A’s into the history books with their 19th straight win, it would be extremely difficult to replicate such a captivating event. Somehow, they did it in their very next game.
Sept. 4, 2002. The A’s had a date with destiny. Tied with the 1906 White Sox and the 1947 Yankees for the longest win streak in American League history, the A’s had a shot at baseball immortality.
What transpired at the Oakland Coliseum that night was a roller coaster of emotions that proved to be exciting enough to base an entire movie around.
The A’s jumped out to a big lead with six runs in the first inning, one in the second and another four in the third against the Royals. With co-ace Tim Hudson on the mound, surely this game was a wrap, right? Well, things started to get a little weird.
The Royals marched back, tagging Hudson for five runs in the fourth. With Oakland still commanding an 11-5 lead, this was a small hiccup. Hudson brushed off the poor inning and settled in by completing 6 2/3 innings with the six-run lead still intact.
The A’s bullpen was in charge now. It was a relief corps that was reliable more often than not, but on this night, things went awry.
By the time A’s closer Billy Koch got the ball in the ninth, the lead was down to one run, and the right-hander was unable to make it stick, as an RBI single by Luis Alicea tied the game. The stunning development left the Coliseum faithful in shock.
The A’s were in dire need of a momentum shift, but the offense entered the bottom of the ninth without having scored a run over the previous five innings. The frame didn’t start out great when Jermaine Dye flied out, prompting A’s manager Art Howe to make a switch.
Howe pulled back Eric Byrnes for Scott Hatteberg, who had only pinch-hit five times all season to that point. He was better against righties, but the right-hander he had to face on this night -- Jason Grimsley -- was no easy task.
“The guy was a scary dude,” Hatteberg said of Grimsley, who featured a 96-mph sinking fastball. “It was a horribly uncomfortable at-bat.”
Hatteberg was only trying to find a gap, perhaps for a double that could spark a rally. He looked at one pitch for a ball, then blasted a hanging slider into the right-field bleachers for a walk-off that capped not only one of the craziest comeback wins in club history, but one of the wildest baseball had ever seen.
"It was amazing," said Steve Vucinich, the A's equipment manager who has been a fixture with the club since 1968. "Probably the most memorable home run at the Coliseum."
The joy of the Oakland fans in attendance shook the Coliseum as the A's won their 20th game in a row in the magical fashion that has defined their fun clubs over the years.
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and 2019 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.