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Three Generations of Oakland A's Baseball Smiles, Not Ready for Them to Fade Away

1989. My dad’s dad died. As Grandpa’s only child, Dad had to head home to Alameda County to handle all the end-of-life business. When you’re only 34 and you’ve just become an adult orphan, that’s a lot to handle. You’ve earned yourself something to take your mind off of it, like spending time at the Oakland Coliseum, a place you’ve loved since 1968, when you were a middle schooler and the Oakland A’s first showed up.

I went along on a ballpark excursion to the Coliseum that year. I was 2 and unlikely to understand the intricacies of baseball strategy, or even how to say “baseball strategy”, but when my mom told me about this trip, she always reminded me of something: We also went to Candlestick to see a Giants’ game. I fussed the entire time until Mom walked around with me, not in view of the Giants. This didn’t happen in Oakland. The Coliseum and the A’s have to make you smile, even when you’re 2.

Photo taken by my mom in the late 70s..I didn't have a camera in 1989. I was a toddler.

2000. I was still not very interested in baseball because, for the love of God, why was there always a game on the TV? Could we watch the Disney Channel or something? Even though it wasn’t a Disney Channel original movie, though, I decided to sit down and watch an A’s/Yankees ALDS game with my parents. That’s when I saw him, the coolest person I’d ever laid eyes on. Jason Giambi. (I was 13. I had not laid eyes on many non-middle schoolers, so my perspective may have been skewed.)

By the end of that series, which the A's lost, I wanted to be Jason Giambi’s best friend, and I had no idea how many times I was going to watch ALDSes that ended the exact same way. Or how many games I’d be watching with my mom and dad in the future. Always happy to do so, though, despite the nonstop October pain.

2001. We had just moved back to the mainland from Hawai’i and we went to the first game I can remember at the Oakland Coliseum. This was the first of many trips that involved getting up insanely early to drive nearly 700 miles and get to the Coliseum just in time for a game… Seven hundred miles through the middle of the Nevada desert. With my dad’s favorite music assailing my middle school ears in the car. It was magical.

The A’s were playing the Mariners, who won 116 games that season. Surprisingly, while playing a team with a .700-plus winning percentage, the A’s lost. At that point, due to going to Mariners games when I was a kid, I liked both teams. By the end of this trip, which featured dreamy-to-Michelle starting pitcher Tim Hudson getting both a complete game loss to the Rangers, and scoring the game-winning run the next day while pinch running, that Seattle team was slowly being left in the dust. There was also a blown save. I was gradually being conditioned to put up with anything from my team and still smile whenever I saw them. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Another Coliseum file photo from my mom.

2004. My mom’s mom died. She was an A’s season ticket holder, and the rest of her kids and grandkids had the good sense to like other teams, so we ended up with the lion’s share of her A’s stuff. That included a very worn A’s sweatshirt, which was passed around between Mom and me, but ultimately ended up with Mom, who missed Grandma’s physical presence so much, and was glad to have something to wear that was a remnant of that presence. And who doesn’t need a proxy hug from your mom when your team has lost in the ALDS four years in a row?

2010. Mother’s Day. A’s starter Dallas Braden threw a perfect game. My mom, who didn’t have nearly as cool a child as that, was content with watching it on the couch with her unaccomplished daughter. We had fun and celebrated a bunch, not knowing our remaining Mother’s Days were limited.

2013. Mom, a little over a year out from a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, sat with me behind the dugout at the Coliseum. At that moment, she was somehow showing no evidence of disease, but within six months, it would return in full force, with a tumor in her spine. The resulting radiation would leave her with what amounted to a hole in her back, so little did we know, this was the last year stadium seating would be doable for her. She sure made the most of it.

We sat out in the sun in a shockingly tolerable temperature, not something that generally happens at the Coliseum during the day. Its address may be in Oakland, but it somehow drifts to the surface of the sun on summer day games. This day, in the comfortable heat, we watched A’s starter A.J. Griffin throw a complete game, two-hit shutout. It was the best starting pitching outing I’d ever seen in person, along with the best commentary I’d heard… all from my mom, who had the jokes. And the creepiness. She took some great pictures throughout the trip, the best of which was a zoomed in shot of beloved A’s broadcaster Ray Fosse in the booth. I couldn’t help but smile. Grandma was in love with him, Mom took weird pictures of him, I have looked at the creepy picture probably 100 times. In the battle of the greatest generation, the boomers, and millennials, there was one solution for peace: Ray Fosse.

Ray Fosse. Creepy photo courtesy of my mom.

November 2014. My 28th birthday. Mom’s cancer had been kicking her butt most the year. She had a better idea of her limited timeline than she let on, and I opened up my present from her. It was a beautiful homemade knitted blanket. She said she knew she wouldn’t be around all that much longer to hug me, but she wanted to make me something I could wrap around myself to feel like a hug. The blanket was, of course, green and gold. I smiled and gave her a big hug.

September 2015. My mom called me to remind me that former Moneyball-era pitchers Barry Zito and Tim Hudson would be facing off in a sure-to-be-underwhelming matchup of nearly middle-aged hurlers. Who could resist?! She said if I couldn’t make it, it would be recorded, but I wasn’t going to miss dreamy Tim Hudson have one last go around at the Coliseum, where I’d fallen in love with his inability to get run support, and ability to be other pitchers’ run support, in 2001.

As I rushed over to my parents’ house to enjoy the game, I had no idea it would be one of the last A’s games I’d watch with my mom. Breast cancer would take her from us that Christmas. It would also be the last season she bet me $1 the A’s would win the World Series. I always said they wouldn’t, until they got a new owner. Little did I know, I’d take up the highly unlikely contention that the A’s would win the World Series torch for her… and enjoy every minute of my woefully inaccurate predictions.

2018. My dad and I went on what was likely our last poorly thought out 700-mile drive through the desert to see our A’s, who had finished in last place three years in a row. On this trip, an A’s fan friend had somehow managed to get us upgraded to Diamond Level, the fancy catered seats we would never have been able to purchase on our own.

Diamond Level picture by me. Possibly with assistance from an opossum.

As we enjoyed the proximity to the A’s dugout and a friendly opossum that was also interested in catered food, my dad and I talked about how much Mom would have enjoyed this experience. There could have been tears, but there were just smiles and laughter, as usual. Like every other trip, I heard about the Oakland Mausoleum days of the late 70s, when Mom and Dad were recognized by players outside the Coliseum because about seven people attended each game. The friendly security guy near us got to hear Dad’s stories, too, which he listened to kindly, even if he may not have been interested.

2019. The year before may have been my last family outing to the Coliseum, and I was pretty sad flying down alone, but it was okay once I arrived, because I had the “FANily” looking out for me. Hard not to smile when different A's fan friends picked me up from the airport, dropped me off at the airport, and let me stay with them. One gave me her mom’s A’s Access pass so I could go on the field to greet some of the players because it was the last homestand. There was only one person I was passionate about getting a picture with, though, and all I wanted to do was to text my mom the picture of this momentous occasion. Maybe she and Grandma were totes jelly from the clouds. The thought made me smile.

Important photo taken by one of my favorite FANily members.

April 2023. It was another annual Coliseum trip. I’d gotten kind of used to flying down alone without my dad’s ear-bleeding music and miles of high desert scenery. Up until about a week before, I’d been looking forward to seeing my friends in my favorite place with some of my favorite memories. While I may not have known my last game with my mom there was my last game with her, or that the dad-daughter road trips would end in 2018, I had some foresight that this may be my last go around in general. All thanks to a terrible announcement made the prior week that our team was likely headed to drier, hotter, browner pastures.

Anticipating tears, I couldn’t find them at first. I was so happy to be at our beloved old dump of a stadium, thinking about family memories, spending time with the friends that had become family, enjoying my dumb baseball team that was the centerpiece of all of this… Then there was a walk-off in the third game. “Celebration”, the song that always plays when the A’s sneak a win past ya, blared through the stadium. It was the last game of my trip… and maybe ever? The tears came then.


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