The first and only time I ever attended a ballgame at the Oakland Coliseum was on the evening of August 5, 1977, when I saw Luis Tiant of the Red Sox pitch a five-hit shutout against an A's team that had Manny Sanguillen (who collected three of those hits) in the lineup but little else to recommend it. 1977 was the beginning of the A's dark post-dynasty days — owner Charlie Finley was too distracted and discouraged by the onset of free agency to sink another penny into his team — and only a little more than 7,000 fans showed up that night to cheer on a team that was already more than 20 games below the .500 mark. It was no trouble at all for my family to get tickets in the section behind the A's dugout, and I remember getting "designated runner" Larry Lintz's autograph before the game — the first time I'd ever gotten an autograph at the ballpark.
Even cooler than that, though, at least to my eleven-year-old eyes, was the Oakland Coliseum itself, which looked pretty much the same then as it does in the 1980 photo above. I loved that the stadium had been home to three straight World Champion ballclubs, but I loved its sleek, modern design even more. I especially loved the green slope above the outfield seats, which gave the futuristic structure a touch of pastoral charm, kind of like the way Bruce Dern's gardens in Silent Running mitigated the harsh utilitarian feel of his space station.
That alluring slope is long gone, of course, replaced by "Mount Davis," Raiders owner Al Davis's multi-tiered monument to greed, which completely ruined the balanced, open feel of the Coliseum. But the "Mausoleum" still stands, and remains true to its original multi-purpose purpose — which, in a weird way, is something to celebrate. Its continued existence inspired "The Last of the Concrete Donuts," a piece that I recently penned for the new Sphere site, which in turn has inspired someone to start a new Facebook page called Tear Down Mount Davis, which is a sentiment I can definitely get behind. I mean, just LOOK at this hideousness...
While nostalgia for the "ashtray stadiums" of yore might seem a bit silly, I remember thinking as a kid that no one would ever be nostalgic for 1970s music or clothing, either. Funny how the passing of a few decades — and the emergence of new, previously unimagined monstrosities — can put things in perspective. I'm not an A's fan, and I have no skin in this game; but the A's fanbase deserves a ballpark that's as funky as they are, and a Coliseum restored to its 1968 glory would be just the ticket.