I have countless Coliseum memories in my almost five decades of following the A’s: Mickey Mantle’s last appearance in Oakland in 1968; one of Vida Blue’s few home losses in 1971; about 15 playoff games; the 1987 All-Star game; Rickey breaking Brock’s record; Jose Canseco being called back from the on-deck circle when he was traded; Ranger reliever Frank Francisco hurling a chair at hecklers behind the bullpen; and the A’s improbable 2012 pennant clincher against Texas, to name a few.
But my most memorable game came in August, 2005. My friend and fellow A’s fan Gerry, who was going through a divorce, asked me to join him at a singles event at the Coliseum, a pre-game wine tasting that included tickets to that night’s contest. I was recently divorced myself, and hadn’t had much luck dating, but had studiously avoided singles mixers: the idea depressed me, and I figured that the odds of meeting anyone interesting in an artificial setting like that were extremely low. Still, Gerry really wanted me to come along: and I figured the silver lining was that I could focus on the ballgame after suffering through an hour or two of small talk. So I said OK.
The opponent that night was the Royals, who were terrible: in fact, they had lost nineteen games in a row coming in, one of the longest losing streaks in major league history. The A’s were sending their ace, Barry Zito, to the mound against a journeyman former Athletic named Mike Wood. It had all the makings of an A’s blowout.
We arrived at the Coliseum in the late afternoon and went to the appointed location—a fenced off area between the ballpark and the Coliseum Arena—to sign in. The men in line were given a bolt and instructed to find a woman with a matching nut. I groaned—this was going to be even worse than I’d feared. I approached the first person I spotted, a pretty woman about my age, and apologetically displayed my hardware. She laughed and we started chatting.
Her name was Mary: she had two kids about my daughter’s age and was also recently divorced. It turned out we did similar work, and had similar senses of humor—at least she laughed at all my jokes, though it may have been the wine. Even better, she lived in Vacaville, far away from my home in Walnut Creek. The geographic challenges made any future dating impractical, so there was no pressure on either of us. We had a pleasant, wide-ranging conversation, and before I knew it, it was game time—it hadn’t been that bad after all! As we made our way into the stadium, it seemed natural for Mary to take a seat next to mine in the leftfield stands.
As it turned out, the evening had its highlights and lowlights, just not the ones I would have predicted. The easy A’s win I’d expected never materialized, as Wood outdueled Zito for a 2-1 Royals victory. But the Royals weren’t the only ones to break a losing streak that evening: ignoring the logistical challenges, Mary and I agreed to meet for dinner the next night, and despite the fact that she turned out to be a Giants fan, we soon fell in love. We’ve been together for ten years now, and finally made it official a few weeks ago by tying the knot.
A memorable day at the ballpark, indeed.