A's Park, Bonds, Zito, Clueless Fans
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 15, 2007

WATCHING THE excellent HBO show, “Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush,” I could see a parallel between Walter O’Malley’s problems and the A’s problems in getting a park built in Oakland.

There may eventually be another parallel, with the A’s moving, perhaps to Sacramento.

O’Malley wanted to build a new park in Brooklyn, on a rundown property next to the terminus for the Long Island railroad. He reasoned that Dodger fans who had moved to Long Island could take the train to see games in a modern facility.

But Robert Moses, who was overseeing a large program of building roads and bridges in the New York City area, wanted a stadium in Flushing Meadow, with freeways running by. Unable to get the site he wanted, O’Malley left for Los Angeles.

Fast forward to the present, with the A’s trapped in an aging, two-sport facility.It makes sense, not just for the A’s but for Oakland, to build a new park downtown. In city after city across the country, new parks have stimulated economic activity, a stimulus Oakland sorely needs.

But former mayor Jerry Brown actively opposed the idea. When city manager Robert Bobb came up with a proposal that would have allowed for both the park and Brown’s pet housing project, Brown forced him to leave. New mayor Ron Dellums hasn’t mentioned a new park.

The only Oakland politician who has supported the idea of a new park is City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who even proposed a site, near Jack London Square.

A’s owner Lew Wolff came up with a preferred site, on the other side of 66th Avenue from the Coliseum. It’s a desolate area, but when Wolff inquired into buying up properties, they suddenly became as valuable as the Taj Mahal. When Wolff sought help from the city, he was met only by silence.

In disgust, when he was taken to see other possible sites, Wolff directed his driver to show him only sites in outlying areas, not in Oakland.

Eventually, Wolff settled on a site in Fremont. The plan is so flawed, it’s hard to believe the park will ever be built. Traffic in the area is horribly congested during commute times, there apparently will be no on-site parking, the nearest BART line is more than five miles away. The proposed capacity of the park is between 30,000 and 34,000, which suggests Wolff wants to charge the high prices that prevail at AT&T Park. The Giants can do that because they have a fan base with considerable money, stretching from San Francisco through the Peninsula and into Silicon Valley. The A’s don’t have that fan base, and they’d be unlikely to lure Silicon Valley fans away from the Giants.

O’Malley had a wonderful alternative when his Brooklyn plans fell through; Los Angeles was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What are the A’s alternatives? Las Vegas always comes up, but it’s a very problematical site, primarily because the city is all about gambling. I know the NFL wouldn’t touch it for that reason, and I seriously doubt either the NBA or major league baseball will, either. There are other problems. Because so much of the workforce is involved with the casinos, which go around the clock, nearly 1/3 of your potential fans will be at work during the games, whenever they’re played. A domed facility would be an absolute necessity because of the searing summer heat, and that would be much more expensive than an outdoor facility. Those problems would seem to doom Las Vegas as a potential site.

So, it will probably come down to Portland and Sacramento, which are similar cities, and also the only cities in the old Pacific Coast League I started watching in 1946 which do not have major league teams now. Portland is somewhat bigger but Sacramento’s metropolitan area is slightly bigger, about 2.1 million to Portland’s 2 million. Both cities are in the shadow of bigger and more important cities, Seattle and San Francisco.

Sacramento has some important advantages. It is growing rapidly, and my understanding is that Raley Field, where the Triple-A Rivercats play now, could be expanded to major league size for much less than it would cost to build a new park. The A’s would already have some fans in Sacramento, both those who now come to A’s games and those who would feel the connection because they’ve been watching A’s farmhands at Raley Field. And I know from talking to Sacramento fans over the years, including a couple of speeches to civic groups, that Sacramento is a great sports town.

As a resident of Oakland for nearly 40 years, I still believe the best solution, for the team and the city, would be to build a new park in Oakland. But I despair of that happening because it would require that Oakland politicians get real and look at what’s happening around the country – and what happened in Brooklyn.

EPIC DUEL: When the Giants were rained out of two games in Pittsburgh early in the season, I wrote that there was no reason to re-schedule those games because they would be meaningless. Little did I know that they would have a bearing on which team finished with the worst record in the National League. The Pirates currently have that dubious distinction by a bare percentage point, but I have faith that the Giants will end up there.

BARRY TIME: I watched the first couple of innings of the Giants-Pittsburgh game on TV Sunday, then came back to catch up in the sixth. Mike Krukow was talking about the great curve ball Barry Zito had had since the second inning, so I figured Zito must be cruising. Then, I heard that he had given up a two-run homer to Josh Phelps a batter before. Well, that had come on a fast ball, so Krukow’s comment was technically correct.

Then, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game that Zito could be “proud” of his effort. Proud? He gave up three runs in six innings to the team which had come into the Giants series with the second-least runs scored in major league baseball. Sadly, it was slightly better than Zito’s average outing this season

But he hasn’t missed a start.

FANS HATRED: I’ve long observed and never understood why fans will cheer if another team in the area does poorly. Raiders fans, for instance, will always cheer if a score is posted which shows the 49ers either trailing or losing. Why? The teams don’t play in the same conference, so they meet in a meaningful game only once every four years. The 49ers play has no effect on the Raiders, and vice versa.

Baseball fans are equally illogical. A couple of weeks ago, a Giants fan sent me an e-mail pointing out that the A’s record was nearly as bad as the Giants. There’s a rallying cry for Giants fans: The A’s suck almost as bad as we do.

An A’s fan delights in sending out e-mails when Barry Bonds homers but the Giants lose, as happened when Bonds hit No. 756. And this helps the A’s how?

CLUELESS: Those e-mailers who scolded Giants fans for leaving the park after Bonds came out after his historic homer, not knowing whether the Giants had won or lost. Duh. The Giants have been in double digits in the Games Behind column for weeks. Meanwhile, Bonds had been pursuing probably the best-known record in sports. The game was not the thing that night, or in any other game since about the first week of the season.

CHRONICLE FAREWELL: In an e-mail to The Examiner last week, a reader identified only as Joe from El Dorado objected to my website characterization of Bob Costas, asking “Didn’t Dickey get fired by The Chronicle?”

Well, no. Many of you already know this, but here’s what happened: In the summer of 2005, after the Hearst Corporation had reached agreements with The Chronicle unions on a new contract, management offered a buyout which was especially generous to those of us who had put in many years at the paper. Over the next six months, about 130 Chronicle employes took advantage of that buyout, including Ira Miller, Dwight Chapin, David Bush and me. After a time, I resumed my column writing career with The Examiner, as well as writing on this website, and I’m enjoying my life.

Having written columns since 1971, and 16 books in that time, I certainly feel qualified to evaluate Bob Costas and, yes, I still think he’s a sanctimonious twerp.

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