OAKLAND It was a massive game that didn't sell out on a sultry Monday night, but it didn't matter.
The field is like a faded patchwork of yellow grass spliced with green, not because they are the A's colors, but because this old barn of a stadium is the only one left where football and baseball are played in the fall.
That didn't matter, either. Neither did the jarring spectacle of a crowd doing "the wave" without apology, though it's decades out of date. Money is always supposed to win; the visiting Texas Rangers could buy the home A's five times over and yet?
This A's dream is really happening. With Monday's stirring, dynamic, boisterous 4-3 victory over the Rangers, the A's clinched at least a berth in the American League wild-card game Friday and still could clip the Rangers for the A.L. West title.
A's wins today and Wednesday could secure a heretofore unthinkable achievement of besting the Rangers in a division they've owned the last two seasons.
At the very least, the A's have eliminated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from playoff contention, something no one would have believed months ago. Also out are the Tampa Bay Rays, a fashionable pick by many to make some serious noise in October unlike the A's.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Oakland is tied with the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card standings. Because the A's won their season series from Baltimore, they would host the Orioles in the wild-card game if it came to that.
But as long as they've come this far, why settle for the best second-place record in the A.L.?
The big prize is right there. They long ago proved they have it in them to shock the baseball world.
A win today, a win Wednesday would do it in the biggest way so far A.L. West champions.
Baseball needs this. It's often too cool, too detached for its own good. This generation of players trips over unwritten rules discouraging emotion. Someone is always getting mad at emotional players "showing" them up.
These A's are a pie in the face to those repressed conventions.
With every achievement, the A's are messing up the hair of the baseball establishment.
They are like boys, and this is the time of year when boys are supposed to be discarded by men like the Rangers.
Professional teams aren't supposed to celebrate a generic clinching of a playoff spot as if it were the seventh game of the World Series.
But the A's did when Grant Balfour struck out Mike Napoli to end it. There were only an announced 21,162 in the stands well shy of a sellout but they exploded in emotion.
And the A's?
The unrestrained joy they showed while piling on each other was beautiful.
This is what baseball is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be passionate, exciting, unfiltered.
The Rangers could still easily win one of the next two games, win the division and leave the A's to the whims of a one-game wild-card playoff.
Such an outcome would still be a momentous outcome considering that many picked the A's to finish last in the West.
Those predictions don't matter now. The dream lives. The A's are among the big boys.