O.co Coliseum - Oakland Athletics

June 14, 2014 - Oakland, California, United States


Although the Oakland Athletics baseball team is one of the most historical and truly unique teams I’ve researched, their ballpark is unremarkable, at best! The A’s were one of eight charter teams of the American Baseball League founded in 1901. And many of the most recognizable names in baseball have been a part of the Athletics organization over the years: Connie Mack, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Fox, Nelson Fox, Lefty Grove, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Ricky Henderson, Mark McGuire, Nolan Ryan, Jose Canseco and Coco Crisp. Many baseball historians even will argue Connie Mack’s 1929 Philadelphia Athletics were the greatest team in baseball history!

However, the Athletics’ ballpark could be described as “old” or “obsolete” or perhaps, most appropriately, just “okay.” Even the official name of the park is rather “odd.” The web company Overstock.com bought the naming rights in 2011 and named it “O.co Coliseum.” (No, it’s not a misspelling!) The O stands for Overstock, of course. But in my mind, it would be appropriate if it stood for “Oakland.” At least the “Coliseum” moniker has remained the same over the past 48 years. And in this age of spectacular ballparks and stadiums, it’s the “only” remaining ballpark shared with a football team.

The first game played in the Coliseum was an Oakland Raiders football game in September 1966. After Athletics’ owner Charlie Finley was denied his request to move the Kansas City Athletics to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, he brought the team to Oakland and the first baseball game in the Coliseum was in April 1968.

Located in an industrial area characterized by graffiti on every flat object including trucks, vans, cars, garage doors, and roofs, the Coliseum was rather "ordinary" in its exterior architecture.   The plain gray concrete does look indestructible though.  I was rather surprised it wasn’t covered with graffiti; it’s certainly the perfect palette for these “artists.”   Upon approach from the BART, two large banners prominently identify O.co.  The only other exterior decorations are a large billboard with all the World Series Championships, large signage at the entrances and a few banners including Ricky Henderson’s stolen bases statistics.  Even the landscaping is understated.  Only a few feet of landscaping decorate the entrance between Oracle Arena and the Coliseum.   The wonderful aromas coming from the parking lots, however, spiced it up!  Both A’s and Yankee fans were enjoying their pregame afternoon.  Tailgating is very popular at the Coliseum, which is unexpected since other West Coast teams seem to have newsworthy incidences in their parking lots every season.

Loads of fans were early for this game because we all wanted to see NY Yankee Derek Jeter and batting practice! One of the other highlights of our “O” experience was a visit with a security guard while waiting for the gates to open. He had been working there for 34 years. With all the controversy over the Athletics getting a new ballpark, he would like for them to tear down the Coliseum and rebuild on the same site. The A’s fans are very loyal, although a bit quirky, and they don’t want their team to move.

During my pregame research process, I found very little description of memorabilia, statues, artwork, trophies, etc. which I found unusual. So I was definitely on the hunt because I couldn’t believe there could be a ballpark without a statue of someone. Well, believe it! The only statue is of Lady Liberty in green and gold. The primary exterior feature of the Coliseum was the Circle of Champions plaques. Inside the park I found some plaques on the walls honoring players, but it was very disjointed. There was a Bay Area Hall of Fame with famous athletes and announcers but not necessarily Athletics related. For instance, I didn’t know John Madden was from the Bay Area.

A large restaurant/bar area was lined with photos of significant events, such as each of the “dog pile” pictures after each of the World Series in 1972, 1973, 1974.  Several pictures of Ricky Henderson are prominent.   But where’s one of the record-breaking bases he stole?  Did someone steal it?  Oh, perhaps it’s in Cooperstown.  And where’s the yellow bases, eccentric owner, Charlie Finley used in the opening game of the Coliseum?  That would be historic since that was the only time colored bases have ever been used.

Over its 48 years, the structure of the Coliseum has seen few changes, even though the Raiders moved away to Los Angeles in 1981 and then back in 1995. The Coliseum had been an excellent place to watch a baseball game until then. But some drastic changes occurred! All the outfield bleachers were removed and replaced by a four-tier section of 22,000 seats nicknamed “Mount Davis” after the Raiders’ owner, Al Davis. Sadly, Mt. Davis obscures the scenic hills behind Oakland. Also two video/score boards were moved to the right and left field foul lines. (I’m thinking they’re at the end zones of a Raiders’ game.) And beginning in 2006, the A's closed the third deck of O.co Coliseum except for three sections behind homeplate, moving fans closer to the action and making the stadium more intimate. Although the Coliseum can seat over 60,000, the official baseball capacity after all the green tarps are in place is just over 34,000. The perception is that there are not enough fans to fill the stands! But I guarantee Oakland has some loyal, enthusiastic fans. Two women (not men) in our section were so “enthusiastic,” they got thrown out of the game!

While visiting the Coliseum, it’s only natural to think of the 2002 season of the Athletics. During that season, the A's attained a record-setting 20 game winning streak. This was documented by Michael Lewis, in his book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” which was later adapted into the movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt as GM Billy Beane. Even after more than a decade of their secrets being laid bare, the A's are still the undisputed kings of the "moneyball" approach. Watching that movie is still fun and inspiring. And it seemed only natural to keep looking toward the entrances, hoping Brad would peak through.

During the game a rather “unnatural” situation occurred; a section of lights over left field suddenly went out. A 40-minute delay occurred while a maintenance man climbed the light tower and waved his magic wrench. During this time, the Park pulled out every video game, song, FanCam, and highlights clip they could find. Of particular interest was The Bernie Cam spotlighting fans leaning in an unusual dance. The dancers mimic the corpse of Bernie Lomax when he is resurrected by voodoo and dances around in the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s II”. If you’re interested, even the players have become involved in the Bernie Lean on YouTube. The stoppage just flew by for the fans: not so sure for the pitchers and players.

Another unique feature of the Coliseum was a concession stand we’ve never encountered before.  Fans have the opportunity to buy an Athletics game jersey and during the game to have custom lettering added.   The man wearing the blank jersey I saw while waiting in line before the game now makes sense.  He’s saving up for the lettering!

Since our trip in June, the franchise learned good news about its future when it finalized a 10-year deal to remain at the Coliseum.   Commissioner Selig calls it the "crucial 1st step towards keeping MLB in Oakland.”  Everyone agrees the A’s need a new ballpark—what has been harder to agree on is where that new home should be located.  The Athletics will continue, however, to call O.co Coliseum their home over the next decade.

And thanks to a rabid fan base and a great product on the field, highlighted by players like Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes (2013 & 2014 Home Run Derby winner), and Josh Reddick, the A's will continue to give reason for fans to fill the stands.

Although the Coliseum is not one my favorite ballparks in the MLB, it was definitely worth the visit.  Checking it off the list of 30 was an “obvious” accomplishment!  And now I have reason to come back in the future to see the much needed improvements.

Note:  The detailed photo narratives appear above the photo (and advertisement).


A's Logos
Jeter Wows the Fans
The Bernie Cam
Umpires Confer Over Lights
Fuzzy Travel · Next »
Create blog · Login