Time for new A's ballpark is long overdue
When it comes to the world's great procrastinators, it's always about they, they, they. Nobody surrounding the Oakland Athletics can identify those who form this particular "they," and it doesn't matter.
"They" just need to surface from the shadows before long.
Whether they build a new ballpark near the A's current place -- which is a San Francisco Bay Area dump with a baseball diamond in the middle -- or whether they build the thing in downtown Oakland, San Jose or along the south side of the North Pole, they just need to build it. They need to start now, because all of this should have happened yesterday or the day before.
Come to think about it, they needed to give the A's a new ballpark several decades ago, and the reasons go beyond the recent ebb and flow of sewage inside the Coliseum.
The A's home is an unattractive collection of concrete, steel, goblins and whatever else sits at 7000 Coliseum Way in Oakland. It's the antithesis of the sparkling baseball jewel for the San Francisco Giants across the Bay Bridge.
I'll digress for a moment. I've actually had some memorable experiences inside the A's home of 45 seasons, and such was especially true when I worked for the San Francisco Examiner during the 1980s. For one, I once rode up the stadium elevator with Joe DiMaggio. The door opened, and there he was. It was just the two of us. We nodded at each other, he smiled, and although the whole thing lasted a few minutes without words, it was eternally powerful.
There was that time during the BillyBall era when somebody slashed and smashed just about everything in the manager's office in the home clubhouse. OK, it was Billy Martin, fuming over something that I can't remember, but he claimed after he was fired by the A's soon afterward that somebody else was the culprit.
I was there during the 1981 American League Championship Series between the A's and the New York Yankees. I mention that, because a stringy-haired guy named Krazy George banged on his little drum while enticing different sections of the stadium to rise in an organized fashion with a shout after he pointed in their direction.
It was the birth of The Wave.
In addition to covering baseball for the Examiner, I also was a beat writer for the Oakland Raiders, who shared the stadium with the A's. This was during the Raiders' glory days, when the place was famous for dramatic comebacks, and late owner Al Davis allegedly bugging the paper-thin walls of the visitors' locker room.
There also were the slew of great Raiders players who knew the location of every bad spot that comprised the notoriously soggy field that was 22 feet below sea level.
The view of the stadium back then was splendid, too. When you looked beyond the outfield walls and bleachers, you saw the Oakland hills. Then Davis killed that view. He moved the Raiders to Los Angeles after the 1981 season, and as a stipulation for returning his team to northern California during the mid-1990s, he wanted Oakland officials to construct a 10,000-seat upper deck beyond the outfield walls.
It's called Mount Davis for many reasons. For one, it was Davis' brainchild gone bad, and for another, just like your average mountain, you can't see around it -- which means it blocks the sight of those Oakland hills. Plus, folks wanted Davis to own the situation, because Mount Davis has been such a bust that all of those extra seats are covered with a tarp during games for both teams. Simply put, Mount Davis destroyed whatever charm the stadium ever had.
Unlike the magic of Wrigley and Fenway and that of today's old-new ballparks that are built with a sense of flair, Oakland's place was constructed during the early 1960s, when most people were into the cookie-cutter look of flying saucers.
Speaking of boring, Oakland has more foul territory in its Major League ballpark than any of its peers, which leads to more pitching duels, which isn't as appealing to the average fan.
Then there is the weather. Regardless of the season, there always is a distinctive chill for A's home games from the nearby bay. The winds aren't as frigid as the ones that used to zip around the freezer that was Candlestick Park for the Giants. Still, it feels colder for baseball fans when their ballpark environment isn't as appealing.
And maybe you've heard: During the A's series finale Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, there was that sewage leak. And, granted, they've had such leaks for years at the A's place, but this time, it was so awful that both the A's and the Mariners were forced to shower in the Raiders' locker room.
Not good. Neither is this: What exactly do you call the A's place? Many use its traditional name of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. Others prefer Oakland Coliseum, The Coliseum, O.co Coliseum or, simply, The Worst Ballpark in the Major Leagues.
Tropicana Field isn't the best, either. It's just that, unlike the A's, the Tampa Bay Rays don't have the considerable problems that come from sharing a facility with an NFL team -- the chewed up field, the spray-painted dirt, the lack of ambience. In fact, after more than 30 years of multi-purpose stadiums as the norm for a slew of Major League teams, the A's are the only team left in this situation.
The A's knew they needed a new place, say, within five years after their franchise switched from Kansas City to Oakland. That's because they perfected the fine art of winning despite nobody caring much at home during that period. They captured three consecutive World Series championships through 1974, and they did so with Hall of Famers such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. If that wasn't enough to intrigue fans, those A's were colorful with their white shoes and kelly green uniforms.
Still, those A's finished near the bottom of baseball in total attendance, and they rarely sold out playoff games. Few liked the stadium (even with no Mount Davis back then), and nothing has changed for another impressive A's team that ranks 23rd out of 30 Major League teams in average home attendance despite leading the American League West.
"They" need to do something about this, and "they" could do it by putting shovel to dirt sooner rather than later.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.