Outlaw's Outtakes -- Dave Stewart

8-26-19 - Athletics
A's pitcher Dave Stewart (1986-92), (1995)

The Best Birthday
by Pete Elman

Last Monday I turned 68. That's more than six decades of loving baseball; playing it, coaching it, writing about it--but most of all, just being a fan.

Overall it was a terrific birthday. In addition to a wonderful dinner at my all-time favorite place, Chez Panisse (upstairs, of course), my wife and kids stepped up and got me, among other gifts, the Bruce Springsteen trifecta; a Boss t-shirt, his new CD, Western Stars  (incredible!) and I got to see the wonderful new film, Blinded by the Light,  the true story of an English-Pakistani teenager who found salvation--and his calling as a writer--from Bruce's music, something I can totally relate to.

But it was after I dropped off my wife to get perfect seats in an empty theater in Orinda, walking back from the parking place, that I had one of the highlights of my life as a baseball fan. There, striding down the sidewalk with a sense of calm and purpose was Dave Stewart, he of the "death stare," slayer of Roger Clemens, vanquisher of all foes, All-Star, author of a no-no, 8-0 in the LCS, World Series MVP, four straight seasons a 20-game winner, an East Oakland native, and one of the most beloved Oakland A's ever.

"Stew, my man," I instinctively blurted out, grasping his hand. Gracious to a fault, he was pleasant, engaging, clear, and friendly--in other words, everything we've always known about the guy. What you see is what you get. Dave Stewart, a high school all-American in both baseball and football at little St. Elizabeth's in Oakland. The well-traveled journeyman who, in the middle of a career crisis, came home to lead the A's to their last championship. Is there an A's fan alive who does not absolutely adore this man? The nickname, "Smoke," fit him perfectly. He was the ultimate competitor and he was our guy.

We spoke for maybe five minutes, about how the team is doing, his post-game TV gig, and our prospects for the playoffs. I then realized I had better get inside the theater or my wife might call the cops but I could have stood out on the sidewalk for an hour and talked to the man, and he probably would have.

When we got home from the film I thought about my late brother Joe, who died tragically in 1996. Birthdays--mine and his--are always a bit rough on me. Joe had season tickets during the glory years, 1988-92, and many an afternoon we would spend out at the Coliseum together. He's still with me at every game.

And boy did he love Stew. If only he were still around I could call him up and just like a star-struck little kid who can't wait to tell his big brother what he got for his birthday, I would have said, "Man, you're not gonna believe who I ran into today--Stew!! And he was so cool and we talked, and...boy was it great!"

And so it would go. If Joe were here, together we'd relive those glory days and reminisce about all the times Stew beat Clemens, all the clutch victories where he'd hand it off to Eck after eight innings of  grinding the opponent down and carrying the team on his back.

So tonight I'll go out to the Coli with a couple of friends and root my heart out for the A's to crush, demolish and beat up the hated Yankees, whom my brother loved as a kid but left in the dust when he came out to the Bay Area and adopted the A's as his team--our team. Thanks for everything, Stew. It was a great birthday.

Pete Elman
August 21, 2019
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From 2000-2005 I wrote a column for the late great Oakland Athletics Fan Coalition (OAFC) entitled  Elman Swings,
a play on the fact that I'm a musician. Some of you may remember the OAFC, an East Bay organization that at its peak had several thousand members devoted to keeping the A's in Oakland and guess what? They've succeeded. Perhaps one or two of you might remember my articles (more like rants) about baseball and society. So when the Ultimate Sports Guide asked me to compose regular screeds called Outlaw's Outtakes, how could I say "No?" ('Outlaw' is their nickname for me.) -- Pete Elman