OAKLAND -- A's fans jumped, screamed, high-fived and danced around the Oakland Coliseum on Friday -- and that was well before the 6:38 p.m. first pitch.

"I couldn't sleep last night, this is like Christmas for me," said Brandon Robison, a Manteca resident. "I've been waiting for this all year."

A sea of green-and-gold tailgate parties filled the parking lots before Game One of the American League Division Series, pitting the Oakland Athletics against the Detroit Tigers in a rematch of last year's thrilling five-game set.

Robison and his friends, Ted Perry and Tommy Basile, arrived at the ballpark at 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road at noon, joining thousands of die-hards lining up as the parking lot gates opened.

There, the Central Valley buddies carried out their tradition of tailgating with tons of food and drink before screaming themselves hoarse at the game, adding to Oakland fans' growing reputation for being the loudest in baseball.

"I've never seen a stadium that goes as crazy as this one," Basile said.

More than any other sport, baseball thrives on tradition, and Athletics teams and their fans have spent 46 seasons developing some of their own. In a town known for its foodies, A's tailgates had a distinctly East Bay flavor. Many a grill featured classics such as burgers, hot dogs and beer, but plenty of others offered pulled pork dripping in barbecue sauce or carne asada and al pastor stuffed in tacos and quesadillas that were washed down with margaritas.

Visitors walking through the endless rows of fan parties heard Oakland musical artists, such as M.C. Hammer and Tower of Power, blaring from portable speakers.

Alex Gil, who tended to his grill hours before the game, said he looked forward to celebrating a Coliseum feature -- the reopening of the third-deck seats, which A's officials have covered with tarps since 2006.

"The tarps are off, which means more fans and more noise," Gil said as barbecue smoke swirled around him. "It's going to make a difference."

Indeed, the game had not even begun when public address announcer Dick Callahan greeted A's fans, and included "a special welcome to those of you in the third deck." The sellout crowd of 48,000-plus fans cheered in approval.

The crowd kept roaring throughout the game, even after the A's fell behind 3-0 in the first inning.

That faithful devotion is not new, said Velma Bender, a lifelong A's fan and Vacaville resident. Through all 46 seasons in Oakland, in lean years and good, Athletics fans keep believing, Bender said.

Bender, in fact, believes a small rock she found at a Peninsula beach is the key to the A's second-half success. The silver-dollar-size stone contains an etched white symbol resembling the 'A' that has adorned A's hats for decades. After Bender found the rock, the A's went on a tear, going 21-6 before clinching the AL West division championship.

"I found it at Moss Beach and Brandon Moss got really hot after that," Bender said, smiling.

Does she really think there's a connection?

"I believe, I believe," she said. "I really believe."

Sometimes the A's have made it hard to believe, especially because they have frequently lost in the postseason's first round during the Billy Beane era.

Fairfield resident Shandretta Davenport said she hopes this is the year that the "down-to-earth A's fans who create a vibe that is family-friendly at the Coliseum" finally get rewarded.

Before the game, Davenport and many other fans noted that the team's tradition is filled with winning. The franchise has made it to the postseason 17 times since 1971. That is third-best in all of baseball, trailing only the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves. In Oakland, the Athletics also have won four World Series titles -- the second-most in MLB in that time. The most recent came in 1989, with a four-game sweep of the Giants.

A's fans on Friday said they are due for Oakland's fifth championship.

"We're ready for another World Series, so we can shut up those Giants fans across the bay," Ted Perry said as he surveyed the packed Coliseum parking lot. "It's been too long. It's Oakland's time now."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.