There has been a lot of spirited discussion about the A's move out of Oakland on this site in the past few days, and for good reason. While the move to Fremont has the potential to do all sorts of good things for the future of the franchise, it also signals a real loss--the loss of baseball at the Coliseum.
While I couldn't be more excited for the Athletics, I'm having a hard time letting go of baseball in Oakland. And since when loved ones pass on, we memorialize them to help the living move on, it seems only appropriate that baseball in Oakland is given a proper wake.
It all began here:
The pre-Mt. Davis days at the Oakland Coliseum were momentous ones, which included, but were not limited to:
--four World Championships
--the craziest owner in the history of baseball, Charlie O. Finley (sorry, George)
--two of the most gifted athletes to ever talk about themselves in the first person, Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson
--the "Swingin' A's," who in a sense, were like a more combative version of the current A's clubhouse
--"Billy Ball" (v 1.0)
--the Bash Brothers
--Dave "Who the f$%^ you lookin' at?" Stewart, one of the most underrecognized dominant pitchers of the last 20 years
--Dennis Eckersley, who at the direction of Tony LaRussa (and paired with set-up men like Rick Honeycutt), changed the way the bullpen is used in the modern game
--the Haas family, who returned the franchise to glory and helped it recoved from Finley's lunacy
That provides a nice transition to the post-Mt.Davis days, with which many of us (myself included) are more familiar:
I moved to the Bay area in 1998, and settled in Oakland, where I lived until moving to Sacramento in 2004, necessitated by my desire to buy a house before I die. I have never enjoyed living anywhere more than I did in Oakland, and I doubt I ever will. Its independent spirit, unique neighborhoods, great diversity and cultural richness, and "keepin' it real" attitude in comparison to its cross-bay neighbor completely captivated me.
But having a team nearby that was as exciting to watch, in an environment as intense (if not always populous) as the Coliseum was what really sealed the deal. I will never forget:
--munching on tasty fish sandwiches from the controversial Black Muslim bakery
--watching the team make the transition from pretty bad in '98 to pretty damn good in '99, and marveling at how many young players like Tejada, Chavez, and Giambi were making the difference.
--the rise to stardom of three dudes named Hudson, Mulder, and Zito
--my bachelor party in a luxury box at the Coliseum in 2000, second-to-last game of the year against the Rangers, with an opportunity to clinch if the Mariners lost. My friends decided a should take a shot for every run the A's scored. How did they know that the A's were going to score nine runs in the first inning, and win 23-2? I'm glad my friends didn't hold me to it (well, to all 23, anyway).
--watching Izzy drop the hammer on Yankee batters to seal a Game 1 win in 2000
--20 wins in a row
--watching Pedro Martinez strike out 15 from behind home plate (not a happy memory, exactly, but probably the best pitching I've ever seen live)
--Nearly jumping out of 314 when Ramon Hernandez dropped a perfect bunt on Derek Lowe to win Game 1 in 2003
--AN Day 3.0, and the pandemonium that ensued when Milton Bradley stepped all aboard the walk-off train
What was common to all of these experiences is how A's fans created an atmosphere that exceeded the physical quality of its surroundings. I've been to baseball games at sold-out Phone Company Park, and the atmosphere can't hold a candle to it. For that atmosphere, I uniquely credit Oakland. They made all of those great experiences listed above seem fed, as through a kick-ass Fender amp, directly into my heart and mind.
The A's will live on, and prosper, and I look forward to watching that happen. But I am going to savor these last few years in the Coliseum, because even though Cisco Field will be a great experience in its own right, I doubt it will ever have electricity the Coliseum possessed. For that unique, thrilling experience, I say, "Thanks, Oakland," and invite you to share remembrances of your own.