In Praise of the Oakland Coliseum

I get it, the Oakland Coliseum isn’t the best place to watch a baseball game. There have been sewage leaks. The stadium is surrounded by parking lots, chain-link fences topped with barbed wire, and no place to hang out before or after the game. The seats are far away. Nothing about it screams like a good place to watch a game.

But there’s no accounting for the novelty of it. And the people there are second-to-none.

I went to my first game at the Coliseum in May of this year. I came in with zero expectations, and the BART ride through Oakland did nothing to increase that. Hoping off at the Coliseum stop left me wondering what the heck I was doing. To get to the stadium, you have to go down and out of the station, back up some more stairs to an open-air concrete skywalk topped by a chain-link fence to the grey Coliseum. Combine it with an overcast day and well, you get no visual stimulation.

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The only break you have from grey are the green and gold banners as you make your way to the stadium.

But along that walk to the stadium, I had my first encounters with A’s fans. In front of me, a couple were bringing their two young sons — who were all clad in A’s garb — to the game. Halfway through the walkway, a picnic table was set up by a local Little League team selling baked goods to support their organization. $2 for a cupcake designed like a baseball? You better believe I bought one (and it was darn good).

I went through security, which was a breeze considering it was still a couple of hours before the game, and shared a joke or two with the ushers and guards who were there.

My seat was behind home plate and I entered through centerfield, so I decided to do a lap of the stadium before heading to my assigned spot. The walk takes you through all the various stages of the 52-year-old ground. There was the old with the wide ramps and blocked off concourses. More modern were some of the suites and restaurant that provided a nice view of the field. They even had a social hangout spot for my fellow Millenials to grab a drink and chat while at the ballpark.

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For whatever reason, the view down the right-field line really struck me.

After I got my fill of the different views, I went to my seat — Section 217, Row 4, Seat 5. Right away, I was struck by how good the view actually was. I didn’t feel too far away from the action. Sure, Mt. Davis isn’t a great but hey, in a way, it’s become iconic.

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The views of the hills would have been better, but in a way, Mt. Davis has its own charm.

Seeing the monstrosity that is Mt. Davis awakened something in me. Yes, it isn’t going to help the Coliseum’s case as the best place to catch a game. Yes, there is way too much foul territory down the lines. But looking around at the field, it all hit me — this is the home to so many successful Oakland teams. I’ve watched countless playoff games from there on TV (with most involving my Yankees). There was a sense of history that you can feel that is hard to get with the newer stadiums.

Read more: My trip to Comerica Park

You walk around the stadium and it feels like you’ve traveled back to the ’80s. There’s something to be said about walking around in those concrete halls and the large seating sections that can’t be found at other stadiums. It’s really become a novelty and part of baseball history.

Maybe it was because I watched ‘Field of Dreams’ on my cross-country flight to the Bay Area, but once I was out there, I had nostalgia for ’80s baseball even though I’m a ’90s kid. And really, there’s no other place in baseball where you can get that. And what’s baseball without a sense of history?

Now, I’m not saying that the Coliseum should be the A’s permanent home. I would venture it’s not a great place to go for 81 games a year. But if you’re a baseball fan, especially a younger one, it’s definitely a place you need to go before it closes for good.

By capacity, it’s the seventh-largest stadium in the MLB with 47,170 seats, but can hold more that would make it the largest in the league.

It’s also the fourth-oldest park still in existence and second oldest in the MLB. And while it was built in 1966, it’s the ’70s and ’80s that still live nearly 40 years later. Heck, even the PA system still has that echo-y tone that makes you feel like you’re at a small high school football stadium. There’s just something neat about that.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some of the credit to the A’s fans, too. Their wackiness from the horns you’ll hear throughout the stands to the giant waving flags in the corner outfield is something that I haven’t seen to that magnitude at other places. A majority of them were wearing some sort of A’s sweatshirt and/or jersey with a fine mix of current and former players. I’ve always considered them among the best in the MLB and going to a game just cemented that notion in my mind.

For their sake, I do hope the A’s get a nice, smaller ballpark sometime soon. As an Atlanta resident, I’ve seen the improvements that a new stadium can make to a gameday experience.

But the notion that the Coliseum is just a dump and has no place in baseball is just wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back there, but I certainly will always appreciate my trip there.

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