Another leg on my more-than-a-decade-long survey of Major League ballparks was the “West Coast Swing” of 2010. This involved a flight from Boston to San Francisco, a road trip to Anaheim, to San Diego, the Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Los Angeles, to Oakland for a Sox-A’s game, a flight from San Fran to Seattle for a weekend Sox-Mariners series, then a red-eye home.
We arrived at the Oakland Coliseum (current corporate moniker: O.co Coliseum) for a 12:37 first pitch after driving deep into the night (and nearly meeting our end on a highway exit ramp) following a Dodgers game the evening before. Kettleman City was our brief stop-over. Clay Buchholz was on the mound for the Red Sox and didn’t look like he slept well, either; the Sox fell, 6-4.
Eight years after visiting the Vet in Philadelphia, the Coliseum continued to uphold the “cookie cutter” era of ballpark construction and the stadium experience mirrored the one at the cement bowl in the City of Brotherly Love: deeply discounted. Tickets were cheap. As in Philadelphia, it was dollar hot dog day, and patrons returned to their seats with the maximum amount of processed meat and suds they could handle. I also picked up a Nomar Garciaparra A’s t-shirt (he closed out his career in Oakland in 2009) for $5 at an off-the-beaten-path souvenir nook.
One major difference: the A’s had tarped off much of the upper deck, so the 30,000 in attendance was close to a “sellout” in Oakland terms. Also, despite bright sunshine in mid-July, it wasn’t exactly warm. The weather in the Bay Area that week brought to mind a quote often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain: “the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”
Despite its run-down appearance and septic issues (it’s currently the fourth oldest stadium in the Majors) the Coliseum is home to several volumes of baseball history, including the most dynamic team of the 70’s – the A’s of Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter – who won three consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74. By the late 80’s, the team had rebuilt into a monster again and participated in three Fall Classics, winning the 1989 edition over the Giants. And in the Billy Beane era, the low-budget A’s haven’t advanced to the World Series, but they’ve been the subject of a major motion picture as well as in contention most seasons since 1999.