Every once in a while I think to myself, “Wonder what I was doing on this day in history?” That’s one of the best things about social media. It’s like a digital online diary. I use the Timehop app and on occasion will take a look to see what I was posting about last year, or five and ten years ago.
This morning was such an occasion. Since it is summer time, and there has not been a pandemic in my previous 37 years of life I was likely doing something interesting at some point.
Five years ago today I was in Pittsburgh visiting my wife’s family. Her parents grew up in Pittsburgh, and five years ago three of her grandparents were still living there. Sadly, two of the grandparents have passed in the last couple years. Grandpa Nate passed just days after his 99th birthday, and Grandma Ruth was just a few months shy of her 100th birthday. Both my father and my father-in-law have passed since this trip was taken in 2015. But the memories we have shall be cherished.
It was my first time in Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh is a really cool city. My first glimpse of the city was emerging from the Fort Pitt tunnel. What a cool view. Pittsburgh is a much scenic city than I had always pictured in my mind. My thoughts were of the steel workers and old factories. A dirty city. It was nothing of the sort.
We were there for just a long weekend, but had a few hours to kill one day to head over to PNC Park. The Pirates were out of town, but we took a tour of the ball park.
The stadium overlooking the river with the bright yellow bridge as a backdrop is just an amazing view.
My wife and I snapped a photo down on the field.
While we there, my father-in-law gave us a tour of the University of Pittsburgh campus. The old Forbes Field sat on what is now the university grounds.
My wife’s grandfather owned a demolition company that took down Forbes Field in 1971.
I haven’t been to many Major League Baseball parks. In fact, I’ve only been to a total of six big league parks. Wrigley Field, of course. I’ve also taken in Cubs games at whatever they call the Chicago White Sox stadium these days as well as Busch Stadium II.
The outlier is the Oakland Coliseum. One of my good friends, Quincy, had his wedding on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean just outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea about 10 years ago. Oakland was hosting the Minnesota Twins that weekend, and my only chance to catch either an Athletics or San Francisco Giants home game was the day after the wedding. I found a ticket online for cheap, and made the drive up to Oakland on Sunday morning.
Instead of trying to reshash 10-year old memories, I found an old blog in which I captured my entire trip to California (it was my first visit to the state). So, here is what I wrote in June 2010 about my experience watching the Oakland Athletics and the Minnesota Twins. I do have pictures – kind of. They were taken on a Razor phone, which quit working. I’ve kept it around all these years hoping someday it’ll magically begin working again and I can somehow salvage the photos.
Visiting the Oakland Coliseum
I pulled into Oakland around 11:30, and the McAfee Coliseum (formerly the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum) sits right next to the Oracle (home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors) along the freeway.
Pulling into the lot, it was a mere $17 to park. I guess this makes up for the really cheap seats, lol. After parking I took a walk around the lot, where a bunch of fans had set up for tailgating. I headed toward the Will Call window, and the lady working the gate looked at my ticket and said, “WOW! This is a really good seat!” Well, let’s see.
I headed to section 117. I had known that my seat was behind home plate, but didn’t realize how close, and how directly behind home plate it was. I walked down, down, and down some more. I found my seat, and it was the seat exactly…directly behind home plate, and the 15th row was much closer to the field than I had anticipated. In fact, it was so close, I heard the girl (Haley Freedman) sing the National Anthem, before it hit the stadium speakers.
I was there about an hour before game time, so I watched the grounds crew prep the field, players warm up, and some were signing autographs. There were quite a few Minnesota Twins jerseys and shirts in the stadium. There, of course, was a lot of Oakland A’s apparel, but no jersey really struck me. It seemed that there were more Dallas Braden jerseys than any other A’s player, past or present.
There was hardly anybody in my section when I arrived, but people started showing up in the seats around me 30 minutes later. I took a stroll around the concourse to get a game day program. It was $5 for a monthly magazine with the game day notes inside. A pretty good deal, I thought. It was all for naught, as I didn’t even read the magazine, saving it for the flight home. During the game, somebody’s drink spilled down and drenched it. I couldn’t save it.
As the game began, I was surrounded with fans. I had wondered how I got such a good ticket for this game. Even though Oakland has VERY cheap ticket prices, the seat I was in seemed to good to be true. And remember, I did buy this ticket off of the official team website, which is usually more expensive.
There was a couple sitting next to me to the right. An older lady, in her 60’s with her husband. The woman seemed to be an in-depth baseball fan, pulling out a scorebook. The gray-haired lady was also sporting a pair of Oakland Athletics earings. Her husband had an Oakland hat with pins from every season in recent years.
We talked about anything and everything throughout the game. I had asked about Jake Fox, who was a fan favorite with the Chicago Cubs, but according to this couple had not played in the last two weeks. He was traded to the Athletics.
Another topic of our conversations was weather. Since I had been in California, I always thought that it would be hot and sunny. Not the case, in the Bay Area. The average temperature hangs between 60 and 75 degrees. Today, it was 78 degrees and sunny.
The lady next to me mentioned to me how hot it was. I looked at her, puzzled. She said take a look around the stadium, and the seats. Sure enough, just past the 1st base and rightfield lines, there were a ton of empty seats from the 10th-20th rows. It just happened to be those seats were in direct sunlight. In those same sections, several rows up and below the upper deck, it was filled. We exchanged weather stories, telling her how Illinois gets humid 100 degree days and you walk outside and begin to sweat. She said that California people are very picky about their weather.
Some of my favorite comments from the crowd were when Denard Span came to bat for the Twins. The guy sitting next to me with his family yelled out, “You’re number two…..you stink!” Some great comments came out when Jim Thome batted. Somebody mentioned that he was old, when the guy sitting behind me said, “Oh man, that guy just said Thome was old….I’m three years older than Thome.” When Thome reached base, he had a pinch runner come in. To that, a comment heard was, “Is that Thome’s son out there running for him?” Ouch, not a Thome-friendly ballpark.
As people began rubbing sunscreen on themselves, I figured I would be getting pretty dark sitting right in the sunlight. In the 8th inning, a woman behind me said to me, “You are getting really burned, it’s hurting me to look at you, you’re getting fried.” I said I would be okay, I don’t like sunscreen. I may have a different view in 20 years. It worried me for a moment, but it wasn’t even a bad sunburn. I have had much worse. I am beginning to think California folk are very, very set in their ways.
Tyson Ross came into a relief role late in the game for Oakland, and recieved a very unsettling ovation, many boos. There were a lot of comments about losing the game for bringing in Ross. I looked him up in my liquid soaked game day notes, and discovered he was a 2nd round draft pick in 2008. Two pitches into his entrance, he gave up a 2-run home run, which made it a one-run game, Oakland hanging on to a 5-4 lead. He was pulled shortly after.
Michael Wuertz, a former Chicago Cubs, came into close the 9th inning. With 2 outs, he snagged a come-backer that nearly beheaded him for the final out and a save. I took off for the exits and headed to the car. After several minutes in traffic, I made the exits and headed to the 76 gas station just down the block and bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water, which didn’t last the drive back to San Jose.
Do you have any ball park memories?