Wooden O

There is no art to find the mind's construction in the face, nor any sufficient to explain why I like where the Oakland Athletics play.

It is difficult to believe we are well into the second-half of the baseball season. Some of my (Evander’s) earlier predictions look OK. Others look pretty bad. Of course, we have a lot more season to go. Remember: When the major-league teams only played 154 games instead of the 162 played since 1961, as Douglass Wallop’s 1954 The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant opens on July 21, 1958, with the Devil rising from a manhole to strike a Faustian bargain with fifty-year-old Joe Boyd, there’s a ton of season remaining. There’s even more regular-season to go today. So, I will revisit those predictions at a later date, when the season has truer form and Mephistopheles has a chance to do his 2011 thing.

Today, I return to one of my passions: baseball stadiums. I’d like to have some freewheeling discussions of my favorites. The first I’d like to discuss is the home of the Oakland Athletics. If Shakespeare’s Globe was a wooden O (from a line spoken by the Chorus in Henry V), then the Coliseum, with its Mount Davis added for (American) football, is your classic poured-concrete O. Uniquely, this stadium has no roof as far as I can see. It vies with Pittsburgh for the smallest seating capacity since Mount Davis is mostly off limits, as perhaps a portion of the thatched-roofless upper deck is. The vast foul territory belongs to a different era, that of the multipurpose stadium.

A number of years ago, I passed thro Oakland for a Boxing Day supper with Shakespeareans Velma and Hugh Richmond, their daughter and her husband (also both scholars), for a conference on language and literature. Unfortunately, this was in late December, long after the season. There isn’t much time left to visit ballparks like this. The multipurpose stadium, like Shea, like Riverfront, like Three Rivers, like The Astrodome, like County, like Busch, all belong to an era dead and buried. Toronto is the only city, since 1989, to keep up the tradition: big concrete circle, AstroTurf, retractable dome. (I toured what was then called Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in late 1993, during a bitter cold snap, when the Ice Follies were in town. The upper deck is the steepest in Major League Baseball. It seems an OK place to watch a ballgame.)

Unfortunately, for nostalgic types like myself, the concrete donuts represent my era. These stadiums have been replaced by new fields in Flushing, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston, Atlanta, and St. Louis. I’m sure by any objective measure, these steel-girder, baseball-only stadiums are far superior venues for enjoying a game. But in my memory bank, I can still see a young Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter, and others of the Oakland A’s celebrating on a very cricket-like (as noted: that foul territory) O-shaped Field of Dreams.

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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