Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Oakland -- 2013 Edition

After this 4-game weekend series in Seattle, the Yankees move down the Pacific Coast to Oakland.  If you want to go, and you're not going to fly, it may be too late to get there by bus or train, and even driving, making rest stops as quick as possible, might not get you there fast enough.

But if the A's can't get a new ballpark agreement soon, there won't be many more chances to see them play anybody, let alone the Yankees.  So if you do get the chance, you should go. This will be the Yankees' only trip to Oakland this season, and the A's current lease will keep them in the Coliseum at least through the 2015 season.  The fact that there aren't many stadiums capable of hosting Major League Baseball that are not already doing so limits their moving options.  But, with their financial struggles (some of their own making) and the success of the Giants across the Bay, the A's may not be long for the area.  At the moment, the likeliest result is a move to nearby San Jose, but since the Giants have territorial rights to the city and a farm team there, they would have to give permission, and, for the time being, they choose not to.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.

Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, in particular, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – currently named the Coliseum ( being the marketing name of, but I’ll use the original name throughout for simplicity’s sake – has been known to be chilly early in the season. But, this being mid-June, that shouldn’t be a problem for you.

For this coming week, the Oakland Tribune website is predicting cloudy skies but no rain, temperatures in the low 70s for daylight and the mid-50s for night., the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, is mostly agreeing with this forecast, although they're saying the daytime temps will be a little lower, in the high 60s.

Getting There. It’s 2,914 miles from Yankee Stadium to the Oakland Coliseum. This is the longest regular Yankee roadtrip there is, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 8A for I-880, the Nimitz Freeway – the 1997-rebuilt version of the double-decked expressway that collapsed, killing 42 people, during the Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck during the 1989 World Series between the 2 Bay Area teams. From I-880, you’ll take Exit 37, turning left onto Zhone Way (no, that’s not a typo), which becomes 66th Avenue, and then turn right onto Coliseum Way.

The complex includes the stadium that has been home to the A’s since 1968 and to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995; and the Oracle Arena, a somewhat-renovated version of the Oakland Coliseum Arena, home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on and off since 1966, and continuously since 1971 except for a one-year hiatus in San Jose while it was being renovated, 1996-97. Various defunct soccer teams played at the Coliseum, and the Bay Area’s former NHL team, the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, played at the arena from 1967 to 1976.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:15. That’s almost 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, 15 minutes, changing buses 5 times, $552 round-trip, station at 2103 San Pablo Avenue at Castro Street) and Amtrak (80 hours, 40 minutes, $888 round-trip, station at 245 2nd Street at Alice Street downtown, 700 73rd Avenue by the airport and the Coliseum).

Getting into Oakland International Airport, right by the Coliseum, won't be easy.  You're better off flying into San Francisco International Airport.  Ordering your tickets well in advance could make it under $800, but, at this point, you're looking at more like twice that.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway line has a Coliseum/Oakland Airport stop, which can be accessed from nearly every city in the Bay Area. It takes about 20 minutes to ride either the Green (Fremont) or Blue (Dublin/Pleasanton) Line from downtown San Francisco to the Coliseum stop, and it will cost $3.85 each way – a lot more expensive than New York’s Subway, but very efficient. From downtown Oakland, it will take about 10 minutes on the Fremont Line, and cost $1.75, cheaper than New York's (because, in this case, you would be staying not just on the Oakland side of the Bay but wholly within the City of Oakland).

Tickets. As a result of their cost-cutting, the A’s were terrible for a few years, following a string of 5 Playoff berths in 7 years. As a result of that, they had the worst attendance in the major leagues in 2011, just 18,232 per home game, over 500 fewer than the next-worst Florida Marlins.  However, their run to last season's American League Western Division title boosted their attendance to 20,728, and they're only slightly under that this season, 20,559.  But they're still ahead of only Seattle, Houston, Cleveland and the 2 Florida teams.  So, even with the upper deck entirely tarped-over except for the right-over-the-plate seats, reducing baseball seating capacity from a potential 55,945 to an official 35,067, you can essentially you can walk up to the gate at the Coliseum right before the first pitch and buy any seat you can afford.

Except for $92 "MVP" seats, the most expensive seat in the house is $40. Many seats are a lot cheaper.  The aforementioned infield upper-deck seats, the Value Deck, are $17.

Going In. Founded in 1852 and named after oak trees in the area, Oakland is a city of a little under 400,000 people.  But if you count the "Oakland area" of the San Francisco Bay Area as being the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Merced, San Joaquin, Solano, Stansilaus, Sutter and Yolo, it comes to 4,723,778 people -- almost as much as the San Francisco side of the area, counting the Counties of Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara (including San Jose), Santa Cruz and Sonoma: 4,855,538.  So anyone who says, "Oakland is a small market," or, "The East Bay is a small market," is wrong: The Oakland part of the Bay Area has more people than the metro areas of every major league city except New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington, Miami, Atlanta and San Diego.

Most Oakland street addresses aren't divided into north-south, or east-west.  The city does have numbered streets, starting with 1st Street on the bayfront and increasing as you move northeast.  One of the BART stops in the city is called "12th Street Oakland City Center," and it's at 12th & Broadway, so if you're looking at a centerpoint for the city, that's as good as any.

The official address of the Coliseum is 7000 Coliseum Way. If you’re driving in (either having come all the way across the country by car, or in a rental), there are 4 major lots, and going clockwise from the north of the stadium they are A, B, C and D, each corresponding with an entry gate at the stadium.

If you’re coming from the BART station, there will be a walkway over San Leandro Street, which may remind you of the walkway from the Willets Point station into the parking lot of Shea Stadium and its successor Citi Field. That will drop you off at the due east side of the Coliseum, dead center field.

The Coliseum faces east, away from San Francisco, and is 6 miles northwest of downtown Oakland. From the outside, it won’t look like much, mainly because it was mostly built below ground. Above ground, you’ll be seeing only the upper deck.

From 1966 to 1995, the Coliseum consisted of three decks wrapping from the left field pole around the infield to the right field pole, and bleacher sections topped by big scoreboards in left and right fields in between. But the price of getting the Raiders to come back was an expansion, with new bleachers, named Mount Davis in “honor” of then-Raiders owner Al Davis. This ruined a lot of the atmosphere at A’s games, and Mount Davis stands as a bold green reminder of the man who stole one of the locals’ teams away, and then, in order to bring it back, screwed up a stadium that was already looking more and more inadequate with the building of every new retro-style stadium.

The stadium's field dimensions are symmetrical.  The foul poles are 330 feet from home plate, the power alleys 367, and center field 400.  These distances might sound a little short.  But the fast amounts of infield foul territory, easily the most in the major leagues throughout my lifetime, result in a lot of balls that would be foul into the stands in most park getting caught.  So the Coliseum has always been regarded as a pitcher's park.

In spite of such big boomers as Reggie Jackson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi -- all but the first confirmed steroid users -- the longest home run in the Coliseum is fairly recent, hit just last year, 462 feet, by Yoenis Cespedes.  (As far as is publicly known, he's clean.)

Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. Oakland benefits from this.

Aramark Sports & Entertainment, the successor corporation to the Harry M. Stevens Company that invented ballpark concessions, provides food and beverage services for the Westside Club, Eastside Club, Luxury Suites, and all of the Coliseum’s Premium Seating areas. Traditional ballpark fare is also offered throughout the stadium by Aramark. Specialty items such as BBQ, pizza, and garlic fries can also be found at specific concession stands. (The Giants have been known for their garlic fries, the A’s less so.)

Team History Displays. The tarped-over outfield upper deck displays the A’s history – or, rather, those parts of it they want you to see. In the left field corner of the main structure, they show the 4 World Series they’ve won in Oakland: 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989; and the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson. In the right field corner, they show the 5 World Series that the A’s won in Philadelphia: 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930.

At the left field corner of the bleachers are 3 retired numbers: 9, Reggie Jackson, right field, 1967-75 with a return at the end of his career in 1987; 24, Ricky Henderson, left field, on and off 4 times 1979-98; and 43, Dennis Eckersley, pitcher, 1987-95. At the right field corner of the bleachers are 2 more numbers: 34, Rollie Fingers, pitcher, 1968-76; and 27, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, pitcher, 1965-74.  Previously, the A’s also had an A logo for Walter Haas, the Levi Strauss heir who bought the team from Charlie Finley in 1981, saving the franchise from being moved (at least for one generation) before dying in 1995, at which point his heirs sold the team.

Reggie and Catfish began their careers with the A’s in Kansas City; but, while the A’s put up banners honoring their Philadelphia titles, they have not retired any numbers from their Philadelphia days. (The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society honors these figures with a museum at 6 North York Road in Hatboro, a few miles north of Philadelphia. It features plaques that used to be part of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame display at Veterans Stadium. I’ve been there, and it’s well worth a visit.)

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including the Coliseum. The ones honored there, on the walls of the Coliseum’s concourse, are: Reggie, Catfish, Fingers, A’s pitcher and Oakland native Dave Stewart, Billy Martin (the Yanks & A’s manager grew up in nearby Berkeley); Oakland-area natives Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati Reds HOF catcher), Dick Bartell (New York Giants All-Star shortstop), Bill Rigney (Giants infielder, coach & manager), Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan; and Raiders stars Jim Otto, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Willie Brown and Ken Stabler (the only one of these Raiders not yet elected to the Pro Football HOF, although he should be).

Don’t bother looking around the Coliseum for a display of the Raiders’ retired numbers: They don’t have any. In spite of their rich history, Al Davis never ordered the retirement of a player’s number – not even the never-again-used (not by the Raiders or any other NFL player) Number 00 of Jim Otto. (Get it, “aught-oh”?) Whether he didn’t want to share the spotlight with anyone, or he thought that it would detract from the team-is-everything ethos he preached, I don’t know. Still, it was almost sickening to see Stabler’s Number 12 being worn by Todd Marinovich.

Other A’s stars have been honored in the BASHOF, but their plaques are elsewhere: Eckersley and 1970s shortstop Bert Campaneris at San Francisco International Airport, and 1970s pitcher Vida Blue, who also pitched for the Giants, at their new home, AT&T Park, along with Giants HOFers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda; and San Francisco Seals star-manager Lefty O’Doul.  (Al Davis was elected to the BASHOF after his death, but his plaque is at the San Francisco Airport.)

For those of you who are Jets fans, the Oakland Coliseum was where the Jets lost the "Heidi Bowl" to the Raiders on November 17, 1968 -- but the Jets ended up beating the Raiders in that season's AFL Championship Game at Shea.

It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972. It’s also worth noting that the Warriors have put together a plan to leave the Arena and move into a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront, 4 blocks from the Giants’ ballpark, for the 2017-18 season, 47 years after they last played on that side of the Bay. It’s just as well: The Warriors are one of the most underachieving franchises in professional sports. Despite great support from a metro area that loves its basketball, they’ve won only 1 NBA Title since leaving Philadelphia half a century ago, pulling off a famous upset of the Washington Bullets in 1975; and haven’t even reached the Conference Finals since then – and only did so twice before that, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to their Philly successors, the 76ers, in 1967.

Stuff. The A’s have Team Stores in a few locations in the Coliseum. Additional merchandise locations and novelty kiosks are open throughout the stadium during all home games.

Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history even if you only count the Oakland years, the A’s have had several books written about them, although they don’t always put the team in a good light. The ones about the “Swingin’ A’s” of the 1970s invariably mention then-owner Charles O. Finley’s successes and his excesses, including his cheapness and his pettiness. And players, including Reggie, often don’t come off much better in these books.

Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which came out in 2003, showcases the way general manager Billy Beane brought the A’s back in the 2000s, but it glosses over a glaring fact: The A’s have won a grand total of zero American League Championship Series games since George Bush was President. The father, not the son. If he’s been GM for 15 years (since 1998) and has never won a Pennant, how much of a “genius” can Beane be? Especially since he hasn’t been able to hold onto his players? (Put it this way: 2006 is the only season since 1990 in which the A’s have won a postseason series, and they then got swept in the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers. That was 7 years ago, and by the time it became 6 there were no players left from that team). Nevertheless, the book is sold at the Coliseum, and was recently made into a mediocre movie starring Brad Pitt as Beane. I don’t think having Angelina Jolie in it would have helped.

There is a DVD collection of the official World Series highlight films of 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’89, all won by the A’s (the 5 they won in Philadelphia came before there were official highlight films), but, as yet, there is Essential Games of the Oakland Athletics or Essential Games of the Oakland Coliseum DVD collection.

The Yankees and A's have played each other in 3 postseason series: The 1981 AL Championship Series and the 2000 and 2001 AL Division Series -- the Yanks winning all 3. Still, if you count the Philly titles (and you really shouldn't, but if you do), the A's have won 9 World Series, more than any AL team except the Yankees, and the only NL team with more is the St. Louis Cardinals (with whom the Philly edition of the A's split back-to-back World Series, the A's winning in 1930 and the Cards in '31.)

During the Game. Although the Raiders fans who show up for home games like to wear costumes ranging from biker gang members to sci-fi film villains – a guy in a Darth Vader mask was a regular in the Jimmy Carter years – and have been known to be the closest thing North American sports has to English-style football hooligans, you’ll probably be safe. Wearing Yankee gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. True, A’s fans hate the Yankees, but you’ll probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.

The A’s current slogan is “Green Collar Baseball.” If that’s supposed to be like “blue collar,” it’s a poor rewording of it. But the A’s have usually had a blue-collar image, from Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s of Reggie, Catfish and Rollie in the Silly Seventies to the McGwire-Canseco Bash Brothers of the late Eighties and early Nineties, to the Giambi Brothers, “Big Three” pitchers, Billy Beane “Moneyball” era of 2000-06.

The A’s don’t have a special “Get Loud” device, nor a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch, but they do play Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” after victories.

Back in 1905, when the 2 Bay Area teams were the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics, they played each other in the World Series, and Giants manager John McGraw dismissed the A’s as a “white elephant.” A’s manager-owner Connie Mack went with this and had white elephants stitched onto their gray jerseys. Finley dumped the elephant as a symbol when he bought the Kansas City edition of the team in 1960, replacing him with a “Missouri mule” that he named Charlie O after himself. But in 1990 the elephant logo was brought back and modernized. In 1997, the A’s created a new mascot, a man in an elephant suit named Stomper.

After the Game. Oakland has a bit of a rough reputation, but, since the Coliseum is an island in a sea of parking, you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one. But if you do want to go out for a postgame meal or drinks, be advised that some sections of town are crime-ridden. And, in this case, wearing Yankee gear might not be a good idea. It’s probably best to stay within the area from the 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART station and Jack London Square, center of the city’s nightlife.

There are three bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender. It’s also the home port of NFL Giants fans in the Bay Area. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout. And Greens Sports Bar, at 2239 Polk at Green Street, is also said to be a Yankee-friendly bar. Of course, you’ll have to cross the Bay by car or by BART to get there.

Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Oakland Coliseum complex:

* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat of managing the Nine Old Men to a Pennant in a league that was pretty much major league quality, and by his previously having managed the minor-league version of the Milwaukee Brewers to an American Association Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.

Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.

* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store.

Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.

* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.

The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 6 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.

The Giants got out, and the 49ers are soon to do the same, with a new stadium under construction, hoping to open for the 2014 season. So, barring a construction disaster, 2013 will be their last season at Candlestick. Best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.

* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.

The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (a few months before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.

* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans. It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.

* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center.) The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)

Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to 1971, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from their 1991 debut until their current arena could open in 1993, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.

The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957.

* HP Pavilion at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.

* Levi's Stadium. The new home of the 49ers, whose naming rights were bought by the San Francisco-based clothing company that popularized blue jeans all over the world, is well under construction at 4701 Great America Parkway at Old Glory Lane in Santa Clara, next to California’s Great America park, outside San Jose. It will probably open it for the 2014 season, and in February 2016 it will host Super Bowl L -- the 50th edition of the game.  (It really should have been in the city/metro area of Super Bowl I, but the NFL is not currently satisfied with Los Angeles' facilities, either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.) And with the 49ers having gotten back to the big game last season (albeit losing it for the first time), the chance is not bad at all for the 49ers becoming the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their own house.  ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara.

* Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.) It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street. Caltrain to Palo Alto.

* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed.  With this in mind, the University renovated the stadium, making it safer and ready for 63,000 fans last fall.

The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART. (Remember, until the fall, it’s still being renovated, so it could be messy.)

The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.

Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.

San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.

While San Francisco has been the setting for lots of TV shows (from Ironside and The Streets of San Francisco in the 1970s, to Full House and Dharma & Greg in the 1990s), Oakland, being much less glamorous, has had only one that I know of: Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, comedian Mark Curry's show about a former basketball player who returns to his old high school to teach.


So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Yankee Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Yanks-A’s rivalry, even if it’s not what it was back in the late 1920s and early ‘30s when it was Ruth & Gehrig vs. Cochrane, Foxx, Simmons & Grove. Or even what it was at the dawn of the 21st Century, when it was Jeter, Rivera & Co. vs. the Giambis and the Big Three.

1 comment:

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