My day started with an early morning puddle jumper flight from John Wayne airport in Orange County to SFO.
I was greeted at the SF airport by an old and dear friend who came to fetch me in her new BMW convertible and would be my host for the next 3 days (which is so much nicer than living out of hotels).
Unfortunately, the insane heatwave I dealt with in So Cal followed me up north and the temperature for this Saturday matinee (12:30 start) was 93 degrees with intense sunshine.
The one good aspect of O.co Coliseum is how convenient it is to get to by public transportation (there's a BART station right at the park) but since we drove , we endured an ridiculously long line of traffic into the parking lot. Typically, the A's don't get very big crowds at their games, especially in late September when they are already buried in the standings - but this was a very special day for Bay Area baseball fans!
Not only was it an interleague contest against their cross-bay rivals the SF Giants, but the pitching matchup was a special one.
Back in the late '90s early '00s when the A's were perennial contenders - they had a trio of dominant pitchers (dubbed the 'big three'). One of them (Mark Mulder) long since flamed out and retired. Another (Tim Hudson) had left the A's for greener pastures and eventually landed with the Giants. Earlier this year, Hudson announced that this season would be his last. The 3rd (Barry Zito) left the A's several years back and signed a gaudy contract to pitch for the Giants and turned out to be a huge disappointment for Giant fans due to his awful performance. Earlier in the season, the A's signed Zito to a minor league contract hoping to revitalize his career, but it didn't work out.
In a wonderful PR move, the A's promoted Zito back to the big club just for this game so he could pitch one final time against his former teammate and Oakland favorite - Tim Hudson (also pitching in his final game). Hence the sellout crowd and long traffic lines.
The stadium itself gets the prize for being (by far) the ugliest and most unpleasant that I've been to.
The fans (while very enthusiastic) are really more like a football crowd (the Oakland Raiders also share this stadium - the only baseball park that still hosts NFL games). Tailgating starts hours before first pitch and many fans are completely drunk before they even enter the gates. The crowd noises range from atonal chants, cursing, horn blowing and drum pounding. A section in right field is full of colorful homemade banners and folks waving huge flags.
This isn't a park for the faint of heart baseball fan - and this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it makes Oakland a unique venue.
But the intense heat, the pushing at the crowded concession lines, the drunken fans and the fact that I was trying to explain the rules of baseball to my friend while watching the game all contributed to a less than awesome day at the park.
The marquis pitching match-up was a bit of a disappointment too, as both starters were gone by the 4th, but both were taken out mid inning and got understandably huge and long ovations. The rest of the day was really nice as we got to spend some quality time in Berkley and Palo Alto.
The A's have a long a storied past with great teams in Philadelphia back in the early 1900's and 1930's, a dominant Oakland team that featured a young Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter that won 3 straight championships from '1972-74 and a powerhouse team featuring steroid fueled Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in the late '80s. For that reason, this franchise deserves a better place to play .
Fans - C - An "A" for uniqueness and spirit, An "F" for civility and behavior
Features - F - Filthy, unpainted grey concrete structure. Nasty bathrooms. Hideous green tarp covering the upper deck seats. No pleasant activities to do at all other than watch the game.
Location - D - Very accessible by public transportation. Not so much by car. Traffic line for parking was long and slow. Parking was expensive. Nothing else in the area to see or do
Food - F - Every concession stand sells the same cafeteria quality hot dogs and chicken fingers. Lines were long and the people pushy as hell
Game - A - The matchup and the emotional send offs were great. The game itself was a barn-burner with the Giants trailing 10-7 scoring 7 runs in the late innings to win 14-10
Overall Experience- D - This place needs A LOT of work. Rating would have been worse if not for the match-up and game. Hopefully they can get this storied franchise a better place to play soon.