I grew up an Oakland A’s fan and I didn’t really invested into baseball until 1998. That was a great year for the game itself with the home run chase going on. But since I grew up in the East Bay and my heart still broken over Mark McGwire being traded, I tried to find a hero on the A’s that would comfort my sadness. That came in the form of this power hitter named Jason Giambi. He had been with the team for a few years at that point but it wasn’t until the 2000 season did I really become a huge fan.
He won the MVP that year and the A’s made the playoffs for the first time in a while. The team was ready to build upon his talents and he was going to be the core strength of this group of young talented players. The first bobblehead I ever got was a Giambi bobblehead. I recall going to a lot of games in the following season and if my non-Brian Williams memory serves me right, I was there for this game.
But that isn’t my favorite memory of Giambi. In fact, my favorite memory of his comes after he left Oakland. I was actually really bitter when he left Oakland to join the Yankees as a free agent after 2001. I was in attendance for his first game back in Oakland and I was really angry. I was actually thinking at the time that someone would jump the stands and attack him. He went for the bigger contract, bigger exposure over the team that was willing to make him the centerpiece of their franchise. He wasn’t the biggest star in New York. He would have been in Oakland. But somehow, his dream of playing for the Yankees hurt me to the core.
I ignored him during his time with the Yankees. I am still a little bitter but I can take solace that he never won a ring with them.
When he came back for that short stint the second time around in Oakland, it was a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane but it was still too fresh for me. I don’t know if I was able to let it go. The A’s could have won a title with him still on the team. The what ifs were tough and he would show that he wasn’t the same as before. Shortly thereafter, the A’s cut him and he was off to Colorado.
My favorite memory of Giambi was when he joined the Indians. By then I had seen that he was a great teammate and had a lot of wisdom to share. That was never more apparent for the Indians during the end of the 2014 season in which they had to win their last 10 games to make the playoffs. Every teammate on that Indians team praised Giambi for being such a huge clubhouse presence. Even though he was just a part-time DH, he was so vital to that team. And his amazing season capped off with this home run.
That is my favorite Giambi moment. He had a lot of great ones with Oakland. But that what ifs still get to me. But it was only later on his career I saw how valuable of a player he truly was. When his body gave out, he still gave his wisdom. That revitalized a franchise. That was amazing.
I hope he gets to coach some day. He’s good for the game. I wish he won a title in Oakland, but it’s not always a fairy tale ending. But at least in the end, he gave what he had left and that ending was pretty good also. Thanks for the memories, good and bad, Jason. You were a big part of the reason why I love the game.