Let's Go Oak-land
Usually, we'd sit in the left field bleachers. Two bucks, then $2.50, for space on an unforgiving wooden bench, but inside the park, and with the expansive foul ground at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the bleacher seats were closer to the field than any other. They were also the best seats for a Businessman's Special, mid-week day games in the dead of summer, with sparse attendance, so you could sit on one bench and lean back on the other, exposing your bare chest to the sun aiming directly at you from over the rim of the stadium.
Those were the "good ol' days" when Schotty, Kool Breeze, Donny and I could make Hegenberger Rd. in a half-hour, 45-minutes tops, when Schotty's older brother's ID was sufficient to order four 32 oz. beers, or even more if the guys behind us happened to be willing to trade illicit beers for illicit green bud and if this barter system ended up in us not remembering anything of the game but the fact that Oil Can Boyd shut us out, well, that was okay, 'cause we had fun. Didn't we?
In 1986, Oakland hosted the All-Star game and, for my birthday, the lot of us went to the "workout and skills competition" the day before armed with two half gallon jugs of OJ and Pink Lemonade, both liberally spiked with vodka. Schotty served us mixed drinks from the back seat of the Country Squire station wagon on the way over, all 8 of us packed into this leathered and paneled blast of automobiles past. At the park, we walked right in with them. Simpler times, times when one of the A's three representatives--closer Jay Howell--was booed by the hometown fans because of his horrid sucking in the week prior to the break.
On Little League day at some point in the 70s, lead-footed catcher Jim Essian managed an inside-the-park Grand Slam, a feat only slightly diminished by the fact it came against the expansion (or near-expansion) Blue Jays. Paul Splittorff breaking my heart with a gem on the night I first sat in the lower deck, a prized ticket won with superior paperboy accomplishments, a night I walked into the stone arena KNOWING my A's would win for me on this most special of occasions. The almost-free tickets right behind the visitor's dugout for a double-header against the Twins, all four of us ducking madly when a foul liner whizzed over our heads, taking a ton of flak from our section.
Sitting with my Dad on a frigid April night, him mainlining coffee to stay awake, me enthralled by the Mighty Yankees of Munson and Guidry and Reg-gie, Reg-gie taking on less legendary A's like Dave Revering and John Henry Johnson. The seagulls invading the third deck in the late innings, easy passage through the outfield opening with the Oakland Hills and Bay beyond the iceplant, until Al Davis and his monstrous facade removed all sense of flavor from the building.
It still smells the same, from my first time in 1976 to the 2000 ALDS when we knocked off Clemens (again) in the post-season to my trip last year, this ugly bowl plopped down in the middle of industrial, criminal Oakland, an oft-ignored relic, but one that reflected my dreams, spotlighted my heroes, provided a meeting place for things and people I love.
I'm going back tomorrow. Section 109. My Dad, my brother, AJ. Baseball. Seven-and-a- half-game lead. Eighty degrees with a sunny high sky.
You can't beat it.