Like many of you, I'm a partial season-ticket holder. Way before the season starts, if you have a partial plan then you have to choose your games. I chose every game in the last week, other than the "businessman's special" Thursday afternoon game, because, I guess I have to work.
When I chose these games, I thought they would be meaningful. Battling the Rangers for the AL West or the Wild Card, and potentially facing off against the Giants with both teams' postseason hopes on the line. At this point...I was set to go to five absolutely totally meaningless baseball games in one week at the Coliseum.
Day 1 (Tuesday, September 22 vs. Rangers)
A couple pieces of news broke today. 1. Billy Butler hit Josh Phegley in the head with a bat. Way to put the mayo on your turd sandwich of a season Billy. 2. Barry Zito was officially going to start Saturday against Tim Hudson. That added a little wrinkle to the potential mind-numbing boredom that I was facing.
I decide I don't really need to get there on time, strolling in at the bottom of the 3rd. A surprisingly healthy crowd shows up. Free Parking Tuesday? I don't know. But it was pretty crowded for such a useless game. Somehow over 16,000 people thought this was the best way to spend their Tuesday night.
Anyway Sean Nolin was pretty awful but he managed to get through 5 innings with a 5-3 lead. We finally got to watch the Mike Napoli left field experiment pay dividends as he clanked one off his glove. Nolin looked terrible but Melvin brought him back out for the sixth. He and the bullpen made sure that the Rangers would take it.
Jake Diekman was warming up. Apparently that guy has high 90's gas, and I don't mean RJ Alvarez gas, or Billy Butler gas. A group of fans just started calling him Dick Man. Not innovative or interesting, but repeated enough and shouted at random intervals it at least broke up the monotony of bullpen collapse #900. So there ended up being about 15 people randomly shouting "Dick Man." Also some guys started heckling the Rangers bullpen coach which I thought was hilarious.
Stephen Vogt came up to bat in the 9th representing the tying run and the crowd actually got excited. That was shocking.
Day 2 (Wednesday, September 23 vs. Rangers)
Back at the Coliseum the next day for more of the same, after literally 7 hours of back to back to back meetings and phone calls. I was tired and probably would have went home and slept. But I trudged my way back out to the concrete second home instead.
This time, there was less fight. Felix Doubront was decent at first, with three shutout innings. In the bottom of the third against black magician Colby Lewis the A's manage to bat seven and get one run. Doubront eventually Doubronts 7 runs in 4⅔ innings. Stephen Vogt made his first start in forever, but the crowd was bored. Why is that one "guest services" lady always so damn particular about where people sit when there's like 8000 people in the whole damn stadium? The official attendance was similar to Tuesday, but in reality it was about half the size.
The "I Believe in Stephen Vogt" chants were at best half-hearted.
This was what a loss in the tunnel to nowhere was supposed to feel like.
But then Eric Sogard hit a home run. That's right, his first homer of the year, and I believe his 5th of his career. Was it his first ever at home? My sister jumped up and said "Expelliarmus!" That actually woke me up from the stupor.
By the time I got home it was midnight. I then realized door to door I was spending about 6 hours on this pathetic team each day. It was about this time I was thankful for my day off. The games are boring, the team sucks, and I'm tired.
Day 3 (Thursday, September 24 vs. Rangers)
Overall happy I'm missing this game. AN doesn't put up a game thread until after the game starts. Basically tells you how things are going in the A's fan base. I do check the score as I am in a lyft cab back from the meeting. It's awful. A's get swept. 8-1 loss, the 5th in a row.
Day 4 (Friday, September 25 vs. Giants)
The Battle of the Bay and Sonny Gray on the mound gets me back up off the deck after the off day. There are definitely far more A's fans than Giants fans, but having a full stadium of both fans definitely adds to the atmosphere. Also, could it be that the Giants bandwagon was suffering with the mediocre season? They were way less arrogant. Everyone pretty much was getting along. Weird.
Sonny Gray started off rough but gritted out 6 innings of 2-run ball. Ryan Dull caught the A's bullpen disease and gave up a massive homer to Jarrett Parker, the longest I can remember seeing in the post-Mount Davis Coliseum. It was above the luxury boxes in centerfield...it literally went into the seats in the abhorrently awful plaza outfield section that should never be open for baseball. I saw entirely too much of this man-beast over the weekend.
Of course we had our own man-beast, Billy Burns. Somehow Burns hit a three run homer. It was a line drive no doubter bounced off the out of town scoreboard. The A's won 5-4! Sonny Gray saved me from complete demoralization.
Day 5 (Saturday, September 26 vs. Giants)
Zito vs. Hudson. Party like it's 2002!!!
The excitement for this game was palpable. In San Francisco I was wearing my A's gear, heading to the store to get some snacks for the game. Multiple people want to talk about the Zito-Huddy matchup. Roxy Bernstein is playing old Big 3 commercials on 95.7 as I slightly tear up on my way to the Coliseum. I wanted to get there super early to watch Huddy warm up. I got there way earlier than I have ever been to a game and even caught a couple rounds of batting practice on the field. That was cool. I get suckered into buying a program to get the game notes that say "Zito vs. Hudson." The game notes don't bother talking about the unique matchup at all. Sigh.
I'm sitting there with my beverage by myself waiting for Hudson to warm up, and they start showing the documentary There is an A in Streak about the 20-game win streak on the giant video boards.
I had to answer so many questions to Giants fans about the old A's players. The worst was about David Justice dating some Hollywood actress and didn't he play with the Yankees after the A's? Seriously this is the type of question I am being asked. Just let me reminisce alright? Man, all those guys look so young in that film. The calls from Korach and King and Greg Papa take me back. Good times. Fighting back tears. If there was anything that could get me super hyped for this nostalgic matchup...it was that.
Standing ovation when Huddy comes out to the bullpen mound. Another when Zito does the same. I have the feeling I'm witnessing something special.
Then the game starts and Zito's curve is definitely breaking...but a couple of slow-ish grounders juuust get through the infield. I felt that the first inning should have been scoreless, but for some bad luck. In my heart I knew he would not be able to pitch out of a jam, but he limited the damage to 2 runs. Zito got through two innings and then came out for the third for one batter, just so Bob Melvin could give him a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, Bruce Bochy was managing to try to win the game. After Hudson somehow allowed three runs in the second inning on no hits (watching the Giants fans panic as he imploded was amusing), Boch pulled him with two outs in the second. So...Zito managed to outlast Hudson in the old timers' game.
PA Announcer Dick Callahan does one last ovation for each of them, and they oblige with the curtain call from the dugout. The feels were strong. Everyone was standing. And you could see that to those die hards in the stadium, the moment meant a lot. And of course the bittersweet feeling knowing they never won it all. I loved those teams as they got me really into the A's, but every memory of them has the slight twinge of frustration that I just can't shake. So all those feelings are coming up at once as we're all cheering and clapping and drumming and vuvuzela-ing.
The rest of the game was a terrible example of baseball. The A's took an 8-4 lead, then it was 10-7, but of course they blew it and lost 14-10. Each team used eight freaking pitchers and the game took forever. Like...nearly four hours. Nevertheless, in hindsight I was still glad I was there for the ovations. Nothing else really mattered, and nothing else should have mattered. It's about the most meaning you can find in a thoroughly meaningless game.
Day 6 (Sunday, September 27 vs. Giants)
I manage to get there somewhat early. My sister, who made it to all the games with me, couldn't make it, and my wife and her friend joined instead. They are chit chatting during the tribute to the "Big 3" but I can't take my eyes off the spectacle. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were together one last time, and a nice honor for the true fans. Roy Steele and plenty of others from the A's family were on hand to witness the spectacle as well.
I really had to give props to A's management. They took a couple of meaningless games at the end of a bad season, and somehow turned them into really great moments for the fans to celebrate some of the good times. They basically put all of this together within a week, which was pretty dang impressive.
The game was pretty whatever. I had the "pleasure" of watching Sean Nolin twice in one week. The A's at least made it a game and had plenty of chances, after being down 5-0. They scored four runs but fell just short. A one-run loss, the 33rd, and a fitting end to the home slate (of course they also lost 5-4 the next night for their 34th one-run loss...).
Hey, at least it was better than ending the homestand with three games against the Mariners!
All In all I probably spent about 16 hours at the Coliseum over 6 days, and another many hours on the back and forth commute. But somehow in the end, knowing it was the very last game, walking up those steps from Section 108 and out the door...I still felt a bit sad for the end to the season. I can't explain it. I want it to end. I want to get rid of (approximately) half our team. But even with the five meaningless games featuring putrid performances by almost everyone on the A's roster, knowing I won't be taking in a ballgame for six months is still kind of a bummer. Kind of.
If you're a junkie for bad schmaltzy photography, I've uploaded all my pics from Saturday and Sunday here.