Oakland Coliseum

2018 Regular Season. Oakland Athletics host Los Angeles Angels in late September and there are high hopes that the Athletics will reach the post season this year. October had become a time for Oakland Raiders football at the Coliseum. This year was different, there was a buzz in the air and it shined green and gold. On this day, the Athletics pitchers held Los Angeles Angels to a shut-out and the A’s line-up massed 10 hits and 10 runs. Athletics clinched a wild card spot the next week in Seattle to face the New York Yankees in New York. This, after coming off three straight last place finishes. Athletics would lose that wild card game in New York. But it helped to generate needed support for the future of a franchise who continues to find ways to compete in an elusive free agency market, a money ball team vs big money players. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Bean’s version of the financially handicap “Swinging A’s” has been an experiment in development since the late 1990’s. Soon after becoming General Manager, he started getting results, going to the playoffs 4 consecutive years between 2000 and 2003. In 2002, the Oakland Athletics set an AL record with 20 consecutive wins late in the regular season. His application of sabermetric principles helped evolve the game to what we see today. Innovation has been the common thread in the team’s history.

In 2018, the Oakland Athletics also celebrated their 50th anniversary on the west coast. Before 1968, They were the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967). And, before that they were the Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954), one of seven charter franchises established with the American League in 1901. The team’s history is clear-cut yet has years of success that have put them in a position to be innovators of the game. Connie Mack’s tenure with the Athletics, along with his previous years with the Pittsburg Pirates, made him the winningest manager in Major League Baseball. His record still stands with 3,731 managed wins. In the early years of the modern era, those Athletics won 5 of the first 26 World Series titles, despite the naysayers who viewed the Athletics as having no potential of winning. New York Giants Manager John McGraw was among the critics who, from the beginning, dismissed them as nothing more than a White Elephant. Connie Mack was amused McGraw’s comments and decided to use the mascot for a logo on the Athletics uniform. And, that’s the way it was for 50 years until Charley Finley, the new Athletics owner, wanted to change the mascot to a mule which was more representative of the democratic party. This, in order to appeal to a democratic dominant Kansas City. When folks say “keep politics out of baseball,” they are left with the burden of prove that it was never there. Baseball history is littered with politics every step of the way. For better or for worst, Charlie Finley is an innovator of the game who moved the team to Oakland and managed to build the franchise to the success and dominance he enjoyed before free agency would liquidate the Athletics potential. The early years in Oakland are also considered dynasty years as they won three consecutive titles (1972, 1973, 1974). Charley Finley would not flex his buying power like George Steinbrenner did. As a result, the New York Yankees would enjoy the advantages of free agency with their own dynasty later that same decade. In the 1980’s, Athletics enjoyed some winning years but, with just one World Championship, it is debatable whether they can be called a dynasty. With (9) World Championship, the Athletics are tied with Boston Red Sox at having the 3rd winningest record in baseball, behind the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, in that order, a silent race to see who will win a 10th title first.

The Oakland Coliseum is the fifth oldest active MLB ballpark after Fenway Park (1), Wrigley Field (2), Dodger Stadium (3). and Angels Stadium (4). As an observation, it’s hard to embrace that those ballparks in Los Angeles are older than the Coliseum, perhaps because of the industrial feel to the Coliseum, built from massive concrete formwork and surrounded by a subsequent industrial zone. Or, perhaps because the intent of the Oakland Coliseum has been more for football than baseball, a relic of the multi-sport cookie cutter stadium. It’s easy to get lost in this cavernous venue, a stadium that shuts downs its concessions in the upper deck to consolidate foot traffic. Besides the Moneyball problems, that is the other recurrent issue with the franchise’s future. Where is home? Major League Baseball has a vested interest in a state-of-the-art stadium that best represents the MLB brand. It seemed as though all parties were playing nice in formulating a development plan for a new stadium in the bay area. That is no longer the case.

Among the cities they can move to are the usual suspects waiting for an expansion team. After a lengthy process that had the optics of a bright new stadium, the team is left with a lease at the Oakland Coliseum that expires in 2024. Opponents to the plan preferred that the future site be at the current location of “The Coliseum” instead of the downtown waterfront site. Besides the site, there’s disaccord about who should pay for the needed infrastructure.  That is a slippery slope for Athletics Owner John Fisher who is worth $2.4 billion and is asking for a massive welfare assistance from government officials, in a climate where the NFL Raiders and the NBA Warriors have already left town. Between now and 2024, we shall see where the levers land, a push for project approval while looking for greener pastures?

Los Angeles Angels @ Oakland Athletics

Oracle Park

Colorado Rockies @ San Francisco Giants.

Massitio Baseball Project began with a pilgrimage to see all 30 Major League Baseball Parks. This visit marks a milestone in that adventure. Of course, the Texas Rangers are scheduled to open the new Globe Life Field so the mission continues. I’ve also made other discoveries along the way. What I was able to confirm is that a challenge is not as valuable as the road to get there. “The path is the goal,” said Mahatma Gandhi. I can also confirm that, of the 30 MLB parks, this one, along with PNC Park in Pittsburgh, are the most scenic places to play a baseball game.

Baseball history in the Bay Area is undeniable. Just across the way are the Oakland A’s and their long standing tradition. Baseball can be traced back to the 1860’s in San Francisco. Those teams were the building blocks for the San Francisco Seals. They became synonymous with baseball in San Francisco, one of six teams that helped pioneer the historic Pacific Coast League. The other five charter members were the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Oaks, the Portland Bears, the Sacramento Senators, and the Seattle Indians. Joe DiMaggio first played professionally with San Francisco Seals when his older brother on the team (Vince) put in a good word for Joe with the manager.

Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Felipe Alou were among the players who were part of that historic move to the west coast. A misconception of Jackie Robinson’s career is his retirement. He was traded, unbeknownst to him, to the New York Giants at the end of the 1956 Season for pitcher Dick Littlefield which prompted Jackie to retire instead. As the season came to an end, San Francisco fans bid farewell to Manager Bruce Bochy who would retire at the end of the season. His departure is the end of an era. Between 2007 and 2019, Bruce Bochy managed SF Giants to 4 post season appearances and the World Championship in 2010, 2012, and 2014. These were the first three titles since the Giants moved from The Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan, New York to Seal Stadium in the Mission District of San Francisco in 1958. Candlestick park would not be ready until 1960.

Images were taken the day before the final home series with LA Dodgers. Those tickets were probably three times more expensive than this series with Colorado Rockies, just to give you an idea of how epic this SF Giants-LA Dodgers rivalry is. Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, was in the line up for the San Francisco Giants as a pinch hitter, playing Left Field and Right Field. He went 2 for 3 at the plate, hitting a home run and a double with 2 runs batted in and 2 runs scored. His arrival and Bruce Bochy’s departure is a testament of how timeless Baseball can be.

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Oracle Park being boarded up on Tuesday (June 2, 2020) due to the recent protests of systemic racism. “Peaceful protests, riots, vandalism and looting in the Bay Area and the nation continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day,” wrote John Shea. Just last week, City of San Francisco cleared Oracle Park to open in June. As of now, MLB and MLBPA have not come to an agreement and the window to mobilize and re-open the season is closing, a difficult time in baseball and in the world we live in.