The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Memorable Baseball Games in the Superdome: A's and Giants preview 1989 World Series

The primary impetus for building the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. The “father” of the Superdome Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility would be home for NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure the design for the stadium included configurations to accommodate baseball and basketball games in addition to football. After numerous attempts to entice a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials struck out in attracting a big-league team. That’s not to say the Superdome didn’t host baseball games. During 1976-2003, major-league exhibition games, a minor league team’s regular-season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of these memorable baseball games.

March 28, 1989: San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s

Ever since the Louisiana Superdome opened in August 1975, New Orleans’ efforts to attract a major-league franchise had difficulty gaining traction. In September 1988, Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer commissioned a New Orleans sports group to identify potential investors from the Deep South to finance a franchise for the Dome. Roemer was thinking that an existing team might become available in 1989. He was prepared to offer owners tax breaks or other concessions to make the Superdome an attractive home stadium.

San Francisco businessman Edward DeBartolo, who already had investments in the New Orleans Centre shopping mall, was thought to be a target by Roemer to join a regional ownership group. Without a large money-backer, New Orleans was presumed to trail behind Washington D. C., Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Denver for a team.

Roemer and his baseball task force made a pitch to major-league officials at their winter meetings in Atlanta in early December, in an attempt to improve their standing with MLB. As a follow-up to those meetings, Superdome officials were able to book the defending American League champion Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants for an exhibition series in the spring of 1989. The city hoped a large turnout for the games would help demonstrate its viability as a major-league market and improve the image of the Superdome as a baseball facility.

The A’s and Giants were natural rivals even though they didn’t play each other during the regular season. Both of the teams were from the Bay Area in San Francisco and had recent success in their respective leagues. Their spring exhibition games against each other in Arizona weren’t taken lightly, and there was an expectation the intensity would carry over to their Superdome appearances.

A’s outfielder Dave Parker said about the upcoming series, “It’s an exhibition game, yet it’s not an exhibition game. We want to beat them and they want to beat us. There’s a little extra going here.” A’s slugger Mark McGwire added, “I’m sure this is more like a regular-season game than a spring training game.

New Orleans native and former Jesuit High School player Will Clark was returning home with the Giants. Since arriving in the majors in 1986, he had established himself as one of the premier players in baseball. Jose Canseco, part the A’s “Bash Brothers” tandem with Mark McGwire, missed the series due to a wrist injury.

The first game of the two-game series on March 28 drew an impressive crowd of 32,020 on a Tuesday night. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Dave Henderson hit a solo home run for the A’s off Jeff Brantley, who had just come into the game for the Giants to relieve starter Scott Garrelts.

A’s starter Todd Burns got into the sixth inning, having allowed only a single by Jose Uribe in the third inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Brett Butler, who advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ernest Riles’ single scored Butler to tie the score, 1-1. Clark followed with a single, but the A’s snuffed out any further runs on two fielding gems by shortstop Walt Weiss.

The Giants jumped ahead in the seventh on a single by Butler that scored Andres Santana, 2-1.

Clark drew a walk with one out in the eighth and advanced to second on Kevin Mitchell’s single. Clark scored on James Steel’s single, making the score 3-1.

With a Giants win seemingly in hand, the A’s had more to say about the outcome. In the ninth inning, Oakland mounted a comeback with a walk to Terry Steinbach, a single by Weiss, and a double by Stan Javier that scored a run. Weiss scored on Luis Polonia’s ground out to Clark at first base, which tied the score again. Henderson’s single provided the go-ahead run, for a final score of 4-3. It was the third time during spring training that the Giants lost to the A’s in the ninth inning.

Before a crowd of 31,815 on Wednesday night, the A’s also won the second game, 4-2, with a solid defensive effort. The A’s Javier prevented a home run in the eighth inning with a spectacular catch at the left field wall on a smash by Riles. McGwire hit the only home run of the game in the eighth, with a shot off the facing of the second deck.

American League president Bobby Brown, a former Tulane baseball standout in the 1940s, attended the games and was impressed with the Superdome. He said, “I think it’s a very adequate park for major-league baseball. The alleys (358) are a little close, but everything else is well-suited.” On the prospect of New Orleans being able to attract a team, he noted, “I think New Orleans ranks with any other cities which has applied for a franchise.”

Will Clark would have the best season of his career in 1989, when he helped the Giants win their first National League pennant since 1962. He posted a batting line of .333/.407/.546, while hitting 23 home runs and 111 RBIs. Clark was runner-up to Tony Gwynn for the batting title. He finished second in the MVP voting to teammate Kevin Mitchell.

Oakland’s sweep of San Francisco in the Superdome exhibition game turned out to be a preview of the 1989 World Series, when the A’s swept the Giants in four games. That was the year the earthquake in the Bay Area that interrupted the World Series.

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