MLB BALLPARK #39 – THE O.CO COLISEUM, OAKLAND, CA
The highlight of my visit to this ballpark was reuniting with two of my childhood buddies from New Jersey who relocated to Oakland and the bay area shortly after their high school graduations. Believe me, visiting with them was wonderful compared to the sterile environment that is the Oakland Coliseum. Opened in 1966 to house the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, the Kansas City Athletics moved their baseball franchise here in 1968 and have called the Coliseum home ever since. The A’s have hosted six major league world series here, but the stadium will always be known as primarily a football place, with the baseball team being reduced to “second class” tenants.
The only multi-purpose stadium still being shared by an NFL team and a major league baseball team, I’m sure that in its heyday, the Coliseum was a fan favorite. But now, 47 years after it opened its doors to baseball, it sits as a reminder of the past with no real fan amenities or creature comforts that today’s modern fan has come to expect from all the new palaces that have opened in the 21st century across the country. The stadium is shaped like a bowl, perfect for football, not so much for baseball, with huge foul territory which pitchers love and batters hate. There are long walks down aisles to seats and all the food and beverage concessions stands are located on concourses away from the action on the field, so fans are apt to miss much of the game while waiting in line for goodies. The recent addition of 10,000 new seats to accommodate the football fans has completely enclosed the structure and wiped out the nice views of the Oakland hills in the background.
The Athletics do their best to pay homage to their great players of the past: Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers from the early 1970’s and icons from the 1988-90 championship teams of Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley. In fact, the team conducts a between innings race featuring characters that resemble Fingers, Henderson and Eckersley. (I was rooting for Fingers to win while I was there – must be because of the great mustache!)
Speaking of history, this franchise began in 1901 as an of the original teams in the American League, the Philadelphia Athletics and their legendary field manager, hall of Famer Connie Mack, who ran the team for an incredible 50 years! He is remembered for being the last manager to wear a suit and tie in the dugout, rather than a uniform, but his teams did win five World Series championships during his tenure. The team moved to Kansas City in 1955 and never did well enough there in terms of wins or fan support, thus prompting the move to Oakland in ’68.
I guess you can say the Oakland A’s and their ballpark are famous for one other thing: Moneyball! The best-selling book and subsequent hit movie was about the team and served as the role model for how baseball teams conduct business in today’s modern times as opposed to “old school” methods. Not only were many scenes for this movie filmed at the Oakland Coliseum, but most of the 1994 Disney movie, “Angels in the Outfield” was filmed here as well!
So, while I wasn’t that thrilled with this stadium as a good baseball ballpark, I was thrilled to hang out with Costa Luego and Moot during the game as we reminisced about the good old days of our youth!