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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Network Associates Coliseum (O.co Coliseum)
Oakland, CA
Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics
July 1, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

As coincidence would have it, I got to Oakland just in time to pick up Marty Giaramita at the Oakland airport, which is conveniently located right by the stadium.  Marty is family without the blood relationship, so it was really great that this was the day he returned to California to join me for the game after working several months on the East Coast in DC.  It was also a break for his wife Kelley, who didn’t have to Drive from Stockton to pick him up, since I can drop him off on my way down to see games in Southern California. 

Marty got to relax after the long flight while I worked on my articles.  Then we did something unique for this trip…we decided to walk to the stadium from the hotel since it was only a short, maybe 5-minute, walk away.  Only it wasn’t as easy as we thought.  The Coliseum apparently has a moat around it like some ancient castle or fortress that we had to find our way around..., which ended up being a long walk to the BART station and a walk over the train tracks (and moat) to the stadium.  We thought about hopping over a barbed-wire fence to save time, but cooler heads prevailed and we just walked around.

The interesting part of the walk though was that we got to see all the extra seats left in the parking lot since many seats have to be removed for baseball that are used for football.   It was kind of surprising how those seats were just hanging out in the parking lot like they were waiting to be picked up by a garbage truck.

Once inside, we learned that we were in “Baseball Country” now or at least that’s what the new A’s slogan says.  I guess based on the last several seasons of watching the A’s make great second half runs to make the playoffs, they must not be too far off.  The A’s have been a fun team to watch, especially considering how they have managed to keep winning in spite of losing key players like Jason Giambi and Billy Koch due to financial reasons.  I don’t have to add that GM Billy Beane has been lauded for his style and effectiveness, but as a baseball fan I’m glad I got to benefit from his success by seeing the A’s two straight games against two of their biggest rivals (the Giants and Mariners).

I’ll start off with the fans.  I got to witness the spunk of the A’s fans a couple of days ago when they beat the Giants at Pacific Bell Park.  It was apparent to me that the A’s fans were a lot more fun than the Giants fans.  They were pretty vocal and rambunctious in routing for their team in enemy territory.  Things weren’t any different at home in Oakland as they supported the A’s against the first place Mariners.  The only disappointing thing was that the Coliseum was less than half-full.  I’ve been here before and unfortunately each time the stands were pretty empty, but those that do come are there because they are baseball fans and are not there just for the atmosphere, like it is on the other side of the bay.

The surprising thing about the empty Coliseum is that it’s pretty easy to get there.  There is a BART stop at the stadium (which I have taken to the game both before and after this trip) and the highway runs right by the stadium.  I’m not sure if it’s because it’s in Oakland instead of San Francisco or if it’s just because it’s not in a nice downtown location. 

As a beer enthusiast, this is a special place to visit.  There is an abundance of beer options here, so you don’t have to settle for some awful Coors or Bud product.  There are several different kiosks throughout the stadium offering a broad variety of suds.  You can settle for the general watered down stuff previously mentioned or some local micro brews, Corona, anchor steam, and more.  The beer also helped me wash down my linguista sausage from Sways, which was also quite good.

Although this stadium was built for the football Raiders in 1966, when it was simply called the Oakland Coliseum, the baseball history is not lost here.  The A’s started playing here in 1968 after moving from Kansas City, while the Raiders left in 1981, but came back in 1995.  Therefore, the A’s have shared the stadium with the A’s for most of their tenure in Oakland.  As in most dual-purpose stadiums, many of the seats have sightlines that may not be the best for baseball (or football).  For instance, the towering decks beyond centerfield that leave the spectators very far away and above home plate, so sitting there would not be the best place to see the game, but fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, there are plenty of seats in good locations that are always available.

I love when teams embrace their history, and the A’s do.  The have retired numbers of players such as Rollie Fingers (34) and Catfish Hunter (27) on the walls, Loads of photos of past players outside of the West Side Club, and plaques of past greats by the West Side Lounge (including the Raiders).  Their Elephant mascot is even a tribute to their days of Philadelphia, when they were more commonly known by their full name, the Athletics.  They were given the moniker of “White Elephants” by John McGraw of the New York Giants during the 1905 World Series, and Connie Mack embraced it and kept it as part of the A’s traditions.  The stadium itself also gives an old time feel with the overabundance of green for every seat in the stadium.  The out-of-town scoreboard is manual and they have an organist playing during the games instead of a loud overbearing music sound system.

Once you finally take your seat, you notice how this stadium has way more foul territory than other stadiums, which is a big benefit to pitchers.  The pitcher’s advantage came through on this day too.  Tim Hudson and Gil Meche staged a traditional pitcher’s duel holding their opponents to one run a piece with Meche going 7 innings and Hudson 8.  Eric Byrnes couldn’t repeat his heroics from the previous game in PacBell park, going from a 5-5 game with the cycle to an 0-5.  I did get to see Ichiro, who is one of my favorite players go 2-4 with a double, a run and a sacrifice bunt though.

The biggest excitement in those early innings was the storm fusion dot race, where the fans cheered ecstatically for their colored dot to win the electronic race on the two jumbotrons.  For the record, the white dot was victorious on this day!  The other in game excitement came from the 2 fans in the upper deck dressed as an elephant and a moose (Mariners mascot), with the elephant pounding the moose with a giant hammer.  There is also, no way to miss the fans beating drums throughout the game to cheer on their A’s. 

After 9 innings, the game was all tied up at one.  The 1oth inning was quiet, but the Mariners got things going in the top of the 11th when Carlos Guillen led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a Ben Davis single.  The A’s came right back in their half of the inning though.  Erubial Durazz led off the inning with a single and reached second on shortstop Guillen’s error.  Terrence Long followed with a pinch-hit single to plate Durazzo, moved to second on Menechino’s sacrifice bunt, to third on a Jeff Nelson wild pitch, and on to score the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Jermaine Dye.  So after a slow moving ten innings the 11th was quite exciting and capped off a great day at the ballpark!

Bottom line – Keep an open mind and enjoy a baseball game at this under-rated baseball stadium!

Basic trip facts:
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Stadium # 12
-Old Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 8)
-Miles traveled – 20 via Car (Totals: Driving – 7,246, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total – 10,482)
-States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through – California  (Totals: States – 24, Provinces – 0, Commonwealths - 1)

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Seats –Section 121, Row 30, Seat 18 – Field Level between Home and 3rd
-Prices: Parking – Not Sure (We walked from Hotel), Beer - $7.00 - $7.50, Pizza - $6.00, Linguista (Portuguese Sausage) - $5.25, Program (including pencil) - $5.75, Souvenir Soda Cup – 4.50

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Credit Card giveaway – A’s T-shirt or canvas stool
-First Pitch -  7:07 PM
-Attendance – 20,233
-Results – A’s 3, Mariners 2,  W – Keith Foulke, L –Jeff Nelson, S – None
-Home team record to date – 8 wins, 7 losses

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Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 4 wins, 11 losses
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Lodging – Oakland, California

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