This is a new weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
It's a tarp!: In 2006, the A's and new owner Lew Wolff spread a green tarp across the Coliseum's often lightly populated, largely unpoliced upper deck, a move rather similar in spirit and effectiveness to an aging man throwing a few pitiful shoots of hair across his bald dome. This was done in the name of stadium "intimacy," as A's officials said time and again, which was plainly a con, and a popular one, too, among baseball owners. What the team had done, in effect, was to slash the Coliseum's seating capacity down to the lowest figure in the majors, creating an artificial scarcity for tickets and thus pumping up demand. An ancillary motive was to discourage cheapskate walk-ups in favor of the wealthier types who buy tickets well in advance. A business can cater to whomever it wishes, I suppose, but the result was that the stadium lost the last of its raffish charm, which is to say, the only charm it ever really possessed: the vast, scruffy 300 section, which, among other things, was maybe the last place in professional sports where one could freely smoke a joint, if one so desired. I don't want to sentimentalize Oakland's upper deck too much — a friend once witnessed a knife fight there while on a second date — but it was a relic of a time when baseball stadiums weren't shopping malls with a bit of grass in the middle, when the game had a narrow but unmistakable countercultural streak that, more often than not, could be found in baseball's cheap seats. The game's renegade spirit is all but gone now, buried beneath a fat, stupid pile of Ken Burns movies and neo-retro nostalgia palaces, and covered up in Oakland with a tarp that looks more and more like a burial shroud.
Mount Davis ... on a wall: One day, I maintain, we'll all get misty-eyed and wistful about the unsightly multi-use doughnut stadiums of the 1960s, the way we do now with ye olde brick-and-steel ballparks of yore. The sustainability fetishists will praise their efficiency. Cash-strapped mayors warming their hands over trash-can fires will marvel at the days when they didn't have to float a bond every time a new sport sashayed into town. The idea itself was perfectly sound — a venue that could be used almost year-round, rotating from sport to sport — and the only wonder was that it took sporting people so long to come up with something farmers figured out in the Middle Ages. That these facilities, and especially the Coliseum, are now counted among sports' ugliest is a testament to the unruly growth of the NFL. I refer specifically to Mount Davis, a chunk of third deck seating added in 1995 at the behest of Al Davis, whose Raiders were arriving once again in Oakland in much the same manner as the Clantons in Tombstone. The seats had been dropped on top of two new rows of luxury boxes, and the hideous additions replaced a wonderful view of the Oakland hills to the east. The stadium was now enclosed; it was a football stadium where baseball trespassed during the summer months. And now, when people think of dual-use stadiums, they don't think about their simple practicality; they think of a dyspeptic old rich guy and his silly mountain.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd): "One of my friends used to work parking at the Coliseum and one night he was in the VIP parking area and a guy in a BMW flies up and doesn't have a parking pass. He tells this guy he can't park here, etc. The guy starts yelling and screaming at him, demanding to speak to his boss and saying he is going to have him fired for even asking for a parking pass and storms off after my friend won't relent. Yeah it was Billy Beane." (David R.)
"I hate this stadium and hope Billy Beane trades it for 14 maple wood bats and a speedy bottle of wine with a high OBP." (Zach P.)
"Oh, good Christ, what can I say about that place beyond thanking God that I'm not a Raiders (or other AFC West team) fan, so I don't have to watch football there too. The worst part about the Coliseum is that it's awfulness hides what are truly great fans. I'm a Mariners fan (I'll pause for laughter ...) living in the Bay, so I go there often as the enemy. A's fans are awesome – knowledgeable, nice, love their team ... but they're stuck in this terrible place with no hope for a new home base. ... And then there's Mt. Davis. Fuck that guy." (Corey L.)
"I remember the season when they built Mount Davis- they did not finish construction in time for the baseball season, and were drilling in the outfield DURING the games. No joke. The concourses are dirty and crowded, and the football-friendly field creates the most foul ball territory in the bigs. Translation- there are no premium seats, cause nobody is anywhere close to the action. But many of the aspects that lots of people would criticize the Coliseum for are, in fact, its most endearing attributes. The smell of pot wafting from the bleachers, the unabashed chant of 'Fuck the Yankees' that resonates through the concrete hallways after every win over the Evil Empire- you gotta remember, most of these people are Raiders fans during the offseason. But they take it easy for baseball games. I've never seen an opposition fan held down and urinated upon at the Coli during a baseball game (sorry Dolphins fan). Someday, a glorious city (San Jose, Sacramento, Las Vegas...) will build my scrappy and loveable A's the home they deserve. Until then, make sure you are three beers deep before you walk through the gates, and hide your liquor in a camelback so you can enjoy the true Oaktown experience at the Coliseum. (Noah F.)
"well, first of all, and to get it out of the way before all those asshats in the comments who've never actually been to our fair city make the tired joke, it's in oakland. second of all, mt fuckin' davis. not only did it replace a spectacular view with an eyesore that reminds all in attendance of the corpse that ruined oakland sports, it also fucked with the wind patterns to the point where, on the worst nights, it can be downright candlestick-esque. this is particularly harrowing for me as it brings back memories of a drunken father, a shitty team, and a darker time when i was, ugh, a giants fan. third, it's a big old mess of concrete and plastic seemingly designed only for sterile functionality which, aside from the few planted areas outside the stadium, would look more at home in the eastern bloc than the east bay. add to that the fact that it's situated between the nimitz freeway, a mostly stagnant bay runoff, the train tracks, industrial wasteland, and one of oakland's gnarliest neighborhoods and you've got the basic foundations for the world's stereotype of our city. on the plus side though, it's not in fremont, i've never had an easier time smuggling in booze, and you can generally find a joint rotation to weasel your way into in the smoking section." (Ian H.)
"Just a couple experiences for the stadium that weren't necessarily terrible, but highly indicative of the Oakland atmosphere: 1.) When sitting in the plaza level with friends, we all flasked the game up and were taking swigs as young men would. Course, within 10 minutes, a street-wise security guard pulled us from the seats. He tells us he is going to kick us out because the TV camera saw us drinkin from flasks. But instead of doing that, he proceeds to tell us 'listen, i smoke weed too, so i'm just gonna let this shit slide. all i'm askin is that if you gonna keep drinkin, leave the seats and shout me a holla cuz i could use a free drink myself' Don't know where he got the weed thought from, but good to know he was there to get fucked up too. 2.) When the stadium had the upper deck open about 5 years ago, me and my friends would have an entire section to ourselves, which would consist of us getting shit canned, others smokin weed right in the stadium, and then most of us basically pushing/fighting one another because hey, that's what all drunks do right?. I, unfortunately, got tossed from row 7 to row 3, tumbling head over heels, with my friends actually worried i might be seriously hurt. Now, most guards would see that, know we were shit canned, and probably smell the weed smoke on my friends, and kick us the fuck out of the game. The security guard that approached us: 'nice landing, but i only give it a 7 because you got up too quick.' (Bert G.)
"October 17, 1989. I was 9 years old and at Candlestick Park to watch Game 3 of the Battle of the Bay, and had come all the way from Florida to see my idols play - Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Uribe. For a kid from Florida whose little league team was the A's and had multiple pairs of those neon green batting gloves, it was everything. My dad had scored sick seats, literally on a makeshift box with fold out seats built on the field. Chris Berman sat next to me and signed my A's hat. And then the earthquake hit. We jumped over and exited through the player's exit and after looking towards San Francisco and seeing nothing but darkened windows and fires, we bailed on our hotel and headed to Palo Alto where twelve hours later a hotel let us sleep on their basement floor. Two days later my dad, intent on taking me to a World Series Game, came to his senses and decided we had to get out of there somehow. But not before we took the long way around the bay and went to the Oakland Coliseum. Which, if we're being honest with ourselves, has got to be one of the shittiest stadiums known to man. I mean, there is very little to be said about this concrete behemoth, plopped in the middle of a sea of yet more concrete. Not to mention the fact that its in Oakland. DNW. And yet, its probably one of my favorite stadiums for this simple reason: just days after the earthquake, my dad drove me around the perimeter of the Coliseum's parking lot until we found an open fence and then we drove through it, walked around that massive monstrosity of a stadium until we found another unlocked gate, and trespassed not only into the stadium but onto the field where I pitched my first, last, and only throws on a major league field. And then we ran like hell out of there once the guards saw us and started yelling like crazy. The stuff dreams are made of for a nine year old baseball fanatic who's life goal at the time was to see a game in every MLB stadium." (Walker S.)
Next up: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.