June 4, 2006
Athletics 5, Twins 1
W: Brad Halsey
L: Carlos Silva
Time of Game: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Location: Oakland, CA
First Game: April 17, 1968
2006 was one of the two years where I was able to hit all of the parks on a single trip (2003 was the other). It was also my first baseball stadium trip where I was not able to drive the entire way. I hopped on a plane and flew from DC to Oakland, through Phoenix. The trip got off to an exciting start as I happened to be on the same flight as former Notre Dame and Redskins quarterback Joe Theisman. I got a chance to chat with him for a couple minutes in the airport in Phoenix. Once I arrived in Oakland, I rented a car which I drove along the Pacific Coast before flying home from San Diego. Along the way, I went to games in all five of the Major League stadiums in California. Not only was this my first trip to these stadiums, but it was actually the first time I had ever been to the Pacific Coast.
The first stop on the California trip was McAfee Coliseum in Oakland. I definitely got the worst stadium out of the way early. McAfee Coliseum is the oldest remaining MLB stadium that is also used for football. It has gone the opposite way of most venues. While multi-sport stadiums used to be commonplace, most cities have built new single sport facilities for one or both of their teams. In Oakland, they remodeled the stadium in 1996 to make it more attractive for an NFL team as the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles. As a result, they built an enormous second level in the outfield, blocking any view of the distant hills. Not that it was a terribly impressive stadium before the remodeling either, but I suspect it felt a lot more like a baseball park back then.
On a positive note, the remodeling also included enhancements throughout the stadium, so it is actually in great shape for a 40 year old facility. The stadium is completely symmetrical with a circular exterior, except for the outfield. There are three levels of seats most of the way around the stadium. However, at the time I was there the upper level was completely covered up with tarps, drastically reducing the capacity I listed above. I think this might still be the case today. Needless to say, the A's don't usually draw enough fans for this to be an issue.
Another drawback of the stadium due to its football configuration is that a lot of the lower level seats are a long way from the playing field. McAfee Coliseum has the largest foul territory of any stadium, by far. There are very few seats that are in close proximity to the infield. I even question how great the lower level seats are for football games. It seems to me they would still be quite a distance from the playing field. I sat in the bleacher seats in right center field. They were GA seats, so first come, first serve. I was able to get a spot in the second row, which turned out to be a very nice place to see the game.
Although the A's teams of the mid to late 80's were known for their power, McAfee Coliseum is not a great hitters park. The huge foul territory obviously benefits the pichers, as do the relative deep dimensions to all fields. The upper deck outfield additions somewhat takes the wind out of play. Also, the ball does not carry particularly well on the cool evenings that Oakland is known for.
This game was on a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon in early June. Rich Harden got the start for the A's. It was his first start since being activated from the disabled list, a place he has seen regularly throughout his career. In fact, he wound up going right back to the DL following this game. Carlos Silva got the start for the Twins and had a rough outing, as usual.
It was a little bittersweet for me to see Frank Thomas play in a uniform other than the White Sox for the first time ever. Thomas joined the A's for the 2006 season. I decided to wear a Thomas White Sox t-shirt, which was noticed by a few people. He also happened to be on the cover of the game program. It was painful to watch him play, not only in another uniform, but as a player who was only a shadow of his former self. He came up to bat for the first (and only) time in the second inning. He lined a ball down the left field line and nearly got thrown out at second as he hobbled into the base without sliding. Bobby Crosby came up next and lined a base hit into left center. Again, Frank barely made it home, but did score the first run of the game. They pinch hit for him the next time up.
Prior to the Thomas run, the Twins scored first in the top of the first inning. Joe Mauer hit a home run into my section in right-centerfield to give the Twins a quick 1-0 lead. Thomas started a three run rally for the A's in the second. Marco Scutaro knocked in two with a single to give the A's a 3-1 lead after two innings.
Harden kept mowing down Twins hitters, but was pulled after four innings due to reaching a pitch limit. He struck out six, but did allow four hits and three walks. Dan Johnson hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to extend the Oakland lead to 4-1. Brad Halsey then relieved Harden in the top of the fifth. He wound up pitching five scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win. The A's added an insurance run in the eighth inning on their way to a 5-1 victory. Scutaro was the offensive star for the A's. The utility infielder notched three hits, including the two run single in the second.
Both teams came into this game a few games under .500. However, it turned out to be a great season for both. The Twins wound up winning the AL Central, a division that had three 90+ win teams. Meanwhile, the A's also won a division championship in the AL West. These teams met again in the ALDS, where the A's swept the Twins in three games. The A's proceeded to lose to the Tigers in the ALCS.
McAfee Coliseum is not a dump by any means, but it is probably one of the worst outdoor stadiums remaining. It is certainly overshadowed by the stadium on the other side of the bay, which I will review next. In many ways, the Bay Area stadiums are reflections of their cities. Oakland is not much of a city compared to San Francisco.
Next stadium: AT&T Park, San Francisco