Winning ugly

Monday, August 14, 2006–Athletics 5, Mariners 4

You get a sense of this when they show an A’s home game on TV, but to see just how monstrously ugly the stadium really is, you really have to go there and see it from the bridge leading to the BART station. And then there are those team colors. I guess if you’ve been rooting for the A’s your whole life, there isn’t a combination that looks better than kelly green and yellow (unless you were an A’s fan in the 70’s and have those colors in the opposite order). The rest of us (um… how to put this gently) find that combo hideous.

What I’m finding as I’m working on this blog is that I am writing as much about memory as I am about the ballgames themselves. With the game in Oakland, I’m finding some really strange associations. To begin with, when I wrote my first draft of this “capsule” last September, my game program was missing, and here’s what I wrote about what I remembered at the time:

We were visiting family in the bay area again, some time in July of ’06. Oakland beat Seattle by one run, the pitching matchup was Zito vs. Washburn, and the game ended with Ichiro getting picked off of first base. That’s it. Oh yes, somebody fouled out, and that gave me the opportunity to explain to Mom about how the Coliseum’s unique baseball layout generally shaves about 30 points off a batter’s average. “Because that guy might have gotten a hit if that ball had gone into the stands?” she asked, getting it exactly right.

So what’s the first thing that popped to mind when the program turned up a month later? I suddenly remembered that we had been sitting next to a very nice couple from Seattle who had come down the coast, as they do once a year, to cheer on their team. Why should seeing a program bring that little detail to the fore so quickly, and why had I forgotten it in the first place? It goes with my “ballpark impressions” category of memory, and these tend to be the more lasting ones for me.

Something I need no help to remember is that we found the fan base to be quite fan-tastic. There were only 21,859 in attendance, but the ones who showed up were some of the best and loudest fans I’ve encountered away from our very own Pit (the semi-legandary college basketball venue here in ‘Burque). The most perfect wave I’ve ever encountered took place during this game, even though the stadium was 2/3 empty. The A’s turned a nifty double play, and the fans gave it a standing ovation, but this killed the wave.

Another thing I’d forgotten was that the Mariners actually had the lead for most of the game. Nick Swisher changed that with a two-run homer in the 8th giving the A’s the 5-4 final. A little note in an insert to the program says that 13 of his 24 taters that season either tied the game or gave the A’s the lead. Make that 14 of 25. Mark Kotsay came into the game as a defensive substitution in the top of the ninth and immediately made a diving catch in the gap to rob Willie Bloomquist of a double–at least.

Getting back to the BART, leaving that dingy old concrete shell behind and inching along the dingy concrete bridge which was packed with people, most of them in kelly green and yellow, all sharing in the camaraderie of a come-from-behind win over a division foe, and not living up or even attempting to live up to Oakland’s reputation for rough sports fans–it was a beautiful thing.

Here is the scorecard.