Saturday, April 20, 2013

Concrete Reveries Coliseum, with "Mount Davis" dominating the background;
for a sense of what this looked like in happier times, see here.
As Rob mentioned recently, I have a new job. This job involves a lot of work with historians. This is my excuse for why I have taken more than a week to write up my visit to the April 12 A's / Tigers game in Oakland. What is the import of a more than week-old baseball game? As Zhou Enlai may have said of the significance of the French Revolution, "It is too soon to tell."

It seemed only appropriate to visit a relic of the 1960s and the era of cement domes in the same week that the concrete-crazy architect of Arcosanti transcended the bounds of mere flesh. And indeed, I learned of Paolo Soleri's death via an email from Watson while at the mysteriously named Coliseum. It turns out that does not stand, somewhat redundantly, for "Oakland Coliseum," as I had thought but to The irony of this aging stadium—the last one still in use from the multipurpose era?—having that name I'm sure has been addressed elsewhere.

I think it's little appreciated just how much low-rent modernism the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) was responsible for. While the Coliseum is not without charms, the concourse is pretty painful: stark, dark, and deadening, with tremendous overhangs over the last several rows of the lower deck. I've never seen so much foul territory—a spandrel of the overall ovoid shape of the available field area, which also has to accommodate the Oakland Raiders—but then again, it's nice to get a seat in a park that doesn't have any columns to worry about. It is not actually a bowl, and it does have a sort of character—unfortunately, the character is that of that guy in high school who really, really liked Queen. It is, shall we say, unsubtle and bombastic, and it echoes like crazy when the PA gets going between innings, but it's not necessarily the worst you've ever seen. During the game it can be rather placid.

A close cousin of might be RFK Stadium in Washington, where the Nationals played their first few years. That place seemed so dark that we watched an entire game in 2007 with Rob thinking there was a dome overhead. Just to finish the thought, SOM was also responsible for many of the later stations on Chicago's Blue Line, which look like they would look just great in two dimensions on a drafting table. In reality, though, the clean lines are filthy—and not in the sense of "Bartolo Colón's stuff is filthy"—and the materials tend to be oppressive.

Speaking of Bartolo Colón, guess who was on the mound for the A's? I'm starting to class him with Liván Hernández as one of those guys who has been around forever and is always just good enough to keep going but never good enough anymore to inspire real confidence or excitement. (Colón debuted in early 1997, Hernandez in late 1996.)

Colón got off to a hot start, striking out both Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks. That was followed by two singles, and Jackson singled his next two times up, but still. Things got worse for Colón in the third. After he took Prince Fielder to 2-1, he fooled Fielder with strike two. Fielder nodded, said something to the ump, and drove the next pitch to deep left center and out of the park. Later, fans were taunting Fielder for being a triple short of the cycle, but faithful readers know that the big man can run.

On the other side of the ledger, Max Scherzer was pitching well but was rattled by baserunners, especially Coco Crisp, on whom he wasted many pickoff attempts in the first before Crisp stole second anyway. In the third, Scherzer seemed to have the A's Eric Sogard caught stealing third, but he threw the ball into lesser left field, allowing Sogard to score instead. How is Scherzer ever going to survive an encounter with Billy Hamilton?

And speaking, as we were, of bombastic and unsubtle rock legends, let's briefly discuss A's outfielder Josh Reddick, who looks like a ZZ Top cover band all by himself.

Reddick is all these guys.
That's probably enough about Reddick, save to say that the Oakland fans sure seem to love him. There's a distinctly blue-collar vibe to the crowd and to the whole experience—the stadium is surrounded by industrial land, and to get there from the BART station you walk a long causeway over a colloid plant. There's some black death metal (probably not the precise term of art) that accompanies the entrances of various relievers, and there were very few swells in the house.

The food, I have to say, is abominable. I had some of the worst barbecue ever made on this earth, made all the worse by a hankering I was having for some North Little Rock Two-Finger Char Goodness. I did get an excellent seat for $35, about 20 rows directly behind home plate. Try that pretty much anywhere else in the majors. The flip side of that benefit is that the stadium was maybe a third full on a Friday night, with a team off to a hot start (9-2). No wonder this is thought of as a small market team. The stadium could hold as many as 64,000 people for football, but for baseball most of the upper deck is closed off (except for one section directly behind home plate), like in Portland, and actual capacity is about half that.

I really enjoyed this game and the energy from the fans. I have to confess, however, that I still left after nine innings, out of an eventual twelve. My excuses are that it was getting colder, and I had an early morning coming up, but the truth of the matter is that I was tired and just a bit old. Not Paolo Soleri old (93!), but ready to go after three hours all the same. By the accounts I saw later, this was a mistake. Then again, history may vindicate me. It is too soon to tell.

(title inspiration here)

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