The A’s drew 7,133 to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 15, 2023, the day after the Nevada Legislature approved $385 million in state funding for a ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo: Leif Skodnick/World Baseball Network)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
OAKLAND, Calif – A vocal fan group in Oakland calls the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum “Baseball’s Last Dive Bar,” and with good reason.
The Coliseum, like a corner bar in a formerly blue collar but now gentrified neighborhood that still runs a 24-7 shot-and-a-beer special, is reminiscent of a former era. It’s a relic from an era when cities built monstrous round poured concrete stadiums that would accommodate both baseball and football functionally, but not adequately.
Walking the concourse, the “Coli,” as locals also call it, feels like a semi-finished basement-turned-man cave where team colors on the wall don’t fully succeed in distracting you from the concrete of the Brutalist architecture. Built in 1966, the stadium could rightly be seen as one of the first of the so-called “cookie cutter” stadiums, and it shares some architectural similarities with Shea Stadium, the former home of the New York Mets and the Coliseum’s National League counterpart in the 1973 World Series.
The quantity of baseball history in this place is almost enough to match the quantity of concrete used to build it. The Coliseum is where the A’s won back-to-back-to-back World Series’ from 1972 to 1974 with a team that included hall of famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and local favorites like Ray Fosse, Joe Rudi, and Gene Tenace. It’s where Willie Mays played his final full game of his Major League career in Game 2 the 1973 World Series, going 1-for-4.
It’s where Rickey Henderson dazzled us with speed, broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record and famously proclaimed himself “the greatest of all time,” where Mark McGwire hit his 49th homer to set the rookie record in 1987 (since broken by Aaron Judge), where the Bash Brothers and Dave Stewart powered the A’s to the fourth World Series title since the franchise moved to Oakland in 1989.
And for 90s kids, it’s where batboy Stanley Burrell was given the nickname “Hammer” for his resemblance to a youthful Hank Aaron, as well as “Pipeline” for relaying everything he heard in the clubhouse to owner Charlie Finley.
When Al Davis, the owner of the NFL’s then-Los Angeles Raiders, who had already abandoned the Coliseum once, decided he wanted to return to the team’s original home, he demanded an eight-story concrete grandstand be built in the outfield that blocked the scenic view of the Oakland Hills. That structure, now known as “Mount Davis,” irreparably changed the character of the Coliseum, which was by that point, already a dated edifice. Camden Yards had opened four years earlier and sparked a revolution in ballpark architecture that made the multi-purpose stadium a thing of the past overnight.
Oakland, and the greater Bay Area, struggled to find a solution to keep the A’s here, and now a move to Las Vegas seems all but assured, the Nevada Legislature having approved $385 million in funding for a new ballpark on the Strip.
Outside the Coliseum, the words “Rooted In Oakland” are painted on the upper deck, and you can see the pennants representing World Series’ won in Philadelphia, where a small contingent of fans keeps the team’s history in that city alive, and those won here in Oakland, where soon, only the history will remain.
Ticket Prices – 4/5
As I’ve mentioned, StubHub is the easiest way to get tickets now that paper tickets are largely (and unfortunately) a thing of the past. On Monday, I got a ticket in Section 122 on the first base side 12 rows off the field for $37. That’s a bargain anywhere you go.
Transit Access – 5/5
The Coliseum’s transit accessibility is possibly the best in baseball. Staying in San Francisco, I took the BART train from San Francisco to the Coliseum station and walked across the bridge three of four games during the four-game series I attended against Tampa Bay. For the fourth, I went to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero in San Francisco and took a boat under the Bay Bridge to Oakland’s Jack London Square and had lunch before walking up to the 12th Street BART station to grab a train to the ballpark. Amtrak’s Capital Corridor trains to Sacramento also stop at the Coliseum.
Concessions – 2.5/5
The Coliseum’s concessions don’t match the offerings of Oracle Park in San Francisco or other modern ballparks where hot dogs and traditional ballpark fare share concession stands with haute cuisine. But if you’re looking for a hot dog, popcorn, and a beer, you’ll be able to get what you’re looking for. After the game, when you walk back to the BART train, you’ll be able to get beer, water, or cannabis (if that’s your thing) from street vendors on the BART Bridge.
Game Experience – 3/5
The Reverse Boycott game showed the loud atmosphere all that poured concrete can produce, even without a roof. From right field, drummers bang out unique beats for each batter, and the sound system is enough to make the upper deck shake. The A’s fans are as knowledgeable as any in baseball.
Overall – 3.25/5
No reasonable person is going to tell you that the Coliseum is modern – or even nice, really – but it is historic, and I’m glad I’ve seen it. As a kid growing up in the 80s in a house without cable, the West Coast teams existed in the ether of the night; when the Mets and Yankees traveled cross country, games started too late to watch, and the internet and streaming video were decades away. Back then, seeing a game telecast from the Coliseum, and anywhere out west, really, was a rare treat usually reserved for the All-Star Game, a weekend afternoon, or the postseason.
But there’s nothing better than baseball under a blue sky on a pleasant day, and the Coliseum can provide that day-in, day-out throughout the baseball season.
It won’t be long before baseball’s last dive bar closes for good, so stop by and have a beer before last call.
Editor’s note: This piece represents the opinions of the author and not those of the World Baseball Network.