10/01/2003 7:50 PM ET
A's die-hards say four's the charm
Coliseum tailgaters ready for Game 1 duel
OAKLAND -- It's three hours before the first pitch Wednesday, and already they're here.
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
Pouring coals into the Weber, spreading ice into the cooler, setting up the tables and absolutely certain this is their year, they're die-hard A's fans. Pumped for Game 1 of the American League Division Series between their beloved Athletics and the clearly-hated Boston Red Sox, they've arrived early and plan to stay late.
"You'll see us on the way out," says Pat Dougherty, resplendent in a dark green A's polo and a bright yellow hat. "Hopefully Pedro will see us, too, so we can heckle him after we thump him."
That would be Pedro Martinez, Boston's starting pitcher for Game 1. Martinez is taking on Oakland's Tim Hudson, who was dominant when the two squared off in the regular season.
"Huddy's 'The Man,'" says Dougherty's neighbor, Jim James. He's the one who scored their third-deck seats. And after insisting that Jim James is indeed his real name, he provides an obviously biased scouting report for the game and the series.
"The A's have the best pitching and the Red Sox have the best offense," James says. "And everyone knows that great pitching wins that battle. We'll win in three or four games because we can pitch."
Reminded that Oakland's current string of three consecutive first-round playoff losses came about despite the A's having similarly strong staffs, James laughs.
"So what you're saying is we're due," he says.
Asked why the Red Sox wouldn't then be due, given the franchise's history of postseason failure, Dougherty laughs, too.
"Because they're the Red Sox, man. They're never due," he explains.
To illustrate the point, James then points out the sign adorning an entrance at Network Associates Coliseum. It's about 100 yards from where the two men have set up camp, and it reads "You're In Playoff Country Now." It replaced the sign reading "You're In Baseball Country Now" that hung throughout the regular season.
"You know what the sign outside of Fenway says?" he asks. "It says 'Welcome to Choke Country,' that's what it says."
As he says this, a security guard saunters up and tells the men they need passes for this particular section of the parking lot. Apparently they eluded the first line of defense by arriving so early and now must move. The lot is quickly filling, so they scramble to load the cooler, table and grill back into the truck of their 1989 Nissan.
"I knew it was too good to be true," Dougherty says.
"It still is!" says James. "Huddy vs. Pedro in the playoffs? It doesn't get any better than this, my friend."
Mychael Urban is MLB.com's national writer. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.