While planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, we decided to slip in a visit to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s. Having visited every other active MLB ballpark, we dragged our feet visiting this stadium. In the past, we joked that the only way we’d see that stadium is if we were in central California for some other reason. Well, it seems that time had arrived, and we acquiesced to a visit to the see Oakland A’s at home.
1. New Jersey to California
We caught a flight from Newark/Liberty Airport to San Francisco International Airport on the morning of Saturday, September 10th. Choosing to visit in September was a conscious decision, as that month generally provides the best weather in the Bay Area during baseball season. Not having flown cross country in about a decade, I forgot how little I enjoy flying. Because I was not careful choosing our seats, we were cramped in less than desirable seats in economy for the six hour flight.
We arrived in the late afternoon of that sunny and very warm day. Weary from the travel and a busy schedule before the trip, we caught an early dinner, then settled into our hotel in Oakland.
2. Alameda/Oakland, Sunday September 11, 2017
With some time before the 100 pm game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, we decided to head to Alameda in search of the “nuclear wessels”. To our disappointment, the nuclear vessels were nowhere to be found. However, we did find the USS Hornet.
The USS Hornet, commissioned in World War II, saw limited action in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and recovered the astronauts from Apollo 11 and 12 after splashdown. Decommissioned in 1970, it became a floating museum, moored in Alameda since 1998. Though we arrived just before it opened, the day was already warm. Upon boarding the ship we wandered about, waiting for our guided tour to begin. The all-volunteer staff was both enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, clearly passionate about their ship.
During the briefing before the tour, we were reminded that the ship was constructed for use by young men in good physical shape. Tight spaces and sharp turns within the ship made navigation tough for “normal people” (translation: I wasn’t going to these places aboard the USS Hornet). Following the briefing, the tour began. We walked along the museum section of the ship, where we saw types of planes that called the Hornet home during its mission.
When the tour led us to the interior of the ship, I waited as my brother went to visit the battle bridge. Though it had been been renovated several times during its service, the battle bridge was depicted as the one used during its limited service in Vietnam. Following the tour, we were free to walk about the hangar deck and the main deck of the ship.
Among the aircraft on display on the USS Hornet, my favorite were the F-14s on the main flight deck. The song “Danger Zone” echoed through my head as I examined the pride of the Navy’s planes, imagining what it might be like to pilot one. Before leaving the Hornet, we went astern to get a better view of the San Francisco skyline. This would be as close to the City by the Bay as we would get during this trip.
3. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
The USS Hornet was about 15 minutes from the stadium, and along the way we saw Willie Stargell Avenue. Arriving about 90 minutes before the game, we had ample time to tour the stadium, inside and out. From the outside, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum resembled many of the multi-purpose stadiums from that era. In fact, it looked aged, likely many years from its best days.
Walking around the concourse of the stadium, the early afternoon shifted from very warm to hot! Temperatures were in the lower 90s F (33 degrees Celsius), though thankfully the sun splashed day was not humid. After touring the stadium, we ducked into the inner concourse to get something to eat and drink before finding our seats.
While standing in line, someone noticed that my brother wearing his Hartford Yard Goats t-shirt (obtained earlier this summer). It was unusual that someone here would know the team, since had they recently moved to Hartford. However, their new home, Dunkin Donuts Park, was not available in 2016, due to ongoing political issues. This fan mentioned he wanted to visit then, but it didn’t open on time.
Finding our seats, we discovered we were in full sunshine. When we purchased the tickets, I didn’t believe that the mid September sun in Oakland would be an issue. Undaunted, we settled in for the game. The pregame ceremony were tied into Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and the ceremony was emotional, ending with the release of doves.
Taking in the ballpark before the first pitch, I realized that my preconceived notion of the Coliseum may have been wrong. While it is indeed a multi-purpose stadium, it was not the rundown facility I had expected. Granted, we did not experience the plumbing issues that grabbed national headlines, but I felt as though the poor reputation the Coliseum has may be unfounded.
Despite the fact that this was important game for both teams (since the A’s were only three games back of the AL West leading Houston Astros), there were many empty seats at the game. It made me wonder if the heat was a contributing factor in the low attendance, or if baseball was not as popular in Oakland as it had been in the past.
Starting for the Houston Astros was left hander Dallas Keuchel, two years after his Cy Young award winning season. However, he didn’t bring his best stuff out of the bullpen, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings with four walks.
In contrast, A’s starter Kendall Graveman pitched a gem, allowing one run in six innings. Supporting the great start, the A’s scored 11 runs in the fourth through eight innings. With the A’s putting the game away in commanding fashion, I turned my attention back to the stadium. Though aging and need of maintenance, the ballpark holds special memories for both A’s and Raiders fans. We’ve seen stadiums in worse shape, especially at the end of their lives. The Coliseum was a fine place to see a ballgame, especially under the cloudless sky.
Following the game, I took one more look at the place. Even though it’s true I wouldn’t have traveled to California simply to see the Coliseum, I’m happy that I visited on this sunny, hot afternoon. It helped me disperse the idea that the stadium was simply a dump. Will we visit again?? It is unlikely, but I did enjoy the afternoon watching a game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.