Monday, November 10, 2014
How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Oakland -- 2014-15 Edition
The Brooklyn Nets continue their Western roadtrip by visiting the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Thursday night. The New York Knicks will follow later in the season.
The Warriors hope to open a new arena in San Francisco, in time for the 2018-19 season. So there won't be many more chances to see them in Oakland.
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.” While the Oracle Arena is an indoor facility, you'll still have to walk across the Coliseum complex parking lot.
I would suggest checking the websites of the Oakland Tribune and SFgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, for the forecasts. Right now, all week, they're suggesting mid-60s for the afternoons, and mid-to-high '50s for the evenings.
As with the rest of California, Oakland is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.
Tickets. Whatever attendance problems the A's and the Raiders are having in the Coliseum, the W's seem to be doing just fine: Last season, they averaged 19,596 fans per home game, a sellout. So getting tickets might be tough.
Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $114 to $168 between the baskets, $56 to $155 behind them. Seats in the upper level, the 200 sections, are $36 to $185 between the baskets, $23 to $54 behind them.
Getting There. It’s 2,909 miles from Madison Square Garden, and 2,911 miles from the Barclays Center, to the Oakland Coliseum complex. This is the longest Knick or Net roadtrip there is, and will remain so after the move back across the Bay, unless the NBA returns to Vancouver or creates an international division. (A return to Seattle would not be longer than New York to San Francisco.) 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 drive... 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 Oakland Athletics since 1968 and to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995, currently known as the O.co Coliseum (the online name for Overstock.com); 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.
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 and Amtrak. Greyhound does stop in Oakland, at 2103 San Pablo Avenue at Castro Street. But the trip averages about 72 hours, depending on the run, and will require you to change buses 3, 4 or even 5 times. Round-trip fare is $570.
On Amtrak, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM on Monday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Tuesday, and switch to the California Zephyr at 2:00 PM, arriving at Emeryville, California at 4:10 PM Pacific Time on Thursday. Round-trip fare: $630. Then you'd have to get to downtown Oakland on the Number 26 bus, which would take almost an hour. Possibly, but not certainly, just enough time to get to a hotel and then to the game.
Getting into Oakland International Airport, right by the Coliseum, won't be easy. You'll be lucky to get there for under $1,300 round-trip, and as for getting a flight with less than 2 stops, forget it. You'd be better off flying into San Francisco International Airport, and then taking BART into either San Francisco or Oakland. It's also a lot cheaper, could be around $900 or even less. BART from SFO to downtown San Francisco takes 26 minutes, to downtown Oakland 43 minutes. It's $8.60 to San Fran, $8.95 to Oakland.
Once In the City. Founded in 1852 and named after oak trees in the area, Oakland is a city of a little over 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, Stanislaus, Sutter and Yolo (not "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, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Miami and Detroit.
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.
Sales tax in California is 7.5 percent, and rises to 9 percent in Alameda County, including the City of Oakland.
Going In. 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 $4.15 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 $1.85, 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).
The official address of the Coliseum complex is 7000 Coliseum Way. If you’re driving in (either having come all the way across the country by car, or from your hotel 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. Parking is $20 for A's games, $30 for the Warriors, and $35 for the Raiders.
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. (Hopefully, it won't be as creepy as the Meadowlands' walkway over Route 120 from the Giants Stadium side of the parking lot to the Arena.) That will drop you off at the due east side of the Coliseum, dead center field. (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.) Then you have to go around the Coliseum to get to the Arena.
The Oakland Coliseum Arena, now the Oracle Arena, hosted the NHL team known as the Oakland Seals, and then the California Golden Seals, from 1967 to 1976. Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena (its name before its renovation) on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972.
There are north, east, south and west entrances, and the escalators are at the north and south ends. The court is laid out east to west.
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 at the Coliseum.
The arena is a different story... I think. The Warriors' website says, "The Oracle Arena culinary team is excited to welcome fans this season with a brand new menu featuring unparalleled variety and showcasing some of the best Bay Area eats. Courtesy of Executive Chef Tim Radack and team, fans will enjoy a signature selection of new dishes and reimagined gameday favorites." Then they add, "For a complete, interactive guide on where to find all of our food and concessions within the arena, download the Warriors Mobile App and visit the 'At The Game' section." I'm not downloading that app. If you hate having a bunch of apps on your phone that you're going to use only once, or not at all, you're better off just taking your chances. Sorry.
Team History Displays. The Warriors are actually the oldest team in professional basketball, dating back to the Philadelphia SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) that were founded in 1917, joined the American Basketball League in 1926, and became the Philadelphia Warriors upon the founding of the NBA in 1946. They won ABL titles in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1945; and NBA titles in 1947 (the league's 1st season) and 1956. In 1962, they were sold, and moved to San Francisco, and became the San Francisco Warriors. In 1971, they moved across the Bay to Oakland, and became the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors hang championship banners for their Philadelphia titles of 1947 and 1956 on either side of their one and only Golden State NBA Championship of 1975. But they only have retired numbers for their Bay Area players, with the exceptions of Wilt Chamberlain, who played 3 seasons with them in Philly before the move; Al Attles, who played 2; and Tom Meschery, who played 1.
To the left of their title banners are those of Number 13, center Wilt Chamberlain; Number 14, forward Tom Meschery; and Number 16, guard Al Attles. To the right of their title banners are those of Number 17, guard Chris Mullin; Number 24, forward Rick Barry; and Number 42, center Nate Thurmond.
Chamberlain, Meschery, Attles and Thurmond played on their 1964 NBA Western Conference Champions. Meschery, Attles, Thurmond and Barry played on their 1967 Western Conference Champions. Barry played on their 1975 World Champions and their 1976 Pacific Division Champions, coached by Attles. Only Mullin, among these, did not play for a team that won something. The 1964, 1967 and 1976 banners are on the opposite end of the arena.
Since they hang the Philadelphia Warriors' banners, they could have chosen to honor Neil Johnston (6), Joe Fulks (10, the 1st NBA scoring champion), Paul Arizin (11), Tom Gola (14) and Guy Rodgers (25, who did last 4 years into the San Francisco era). But, aside from Barry and Mullin, the only player elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame based on his Warriors service was the last man to wear 13 before it was retired for Chamberlain: Sarunas Marciulionis, and he's really in the Hall more for what he did in international play first for the Soviet Union, and then for the Republic of Lithuania.
They might as well hang more Philadelphia honors (they also reached the NBA Finals in 1948), because 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. Nor have they won a division title since 1976, and have won only 5 postseason series in those 38 years.
The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including the Coliseum. There are 5 Warriors in the BASHOF -- all of their retired numbers, except, oddly, for Chamberlain, who played a little less than 3 seasons in San Francisco. Barry, Thurmond and Attles have their plaques at the Coliseum. Meschery has his at San Francisco International Airport. Mullin, the BASHOF's newest inductee, is unique among its inductees in that his plaque is the only one, in any sport, that is currently at the Oracle Arena.
Stuff. The Warriors have a team store at the Plaza Level entrance on the east side of Oracle Arena. The Arena also features fixed merchandise stands on almost every level containing Warriors apparel and novelties.
In spite of the Bay Area having a literary tradition that includes Mark Twain, Jack London, Dashiell Hammett, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Armistead Maupin, Tobias Wolff, Isabel Allende, Amy Tan, Scott Adams, Naomi Wolf, Khaled Hosseini and Michael Chabon, there are hardly any books written about the Warriors.
Nate Frisch, who has also done it for the Phoenix Suns, recently published The Story of the Golden State Warriors for the NBA's A History of Hoops series. But unless you're interested in an unauthorized but laudatory biography Stephen Curry, you're otherwise out of luck. No DVDs, either: The 1975 NBA Finals does not seem to be available in a package. Maybe if the Warriors had won a title since...
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 Raider-goer 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 Knicks or Nets gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. Even if you were wearing Lakers gear, you’d probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.
But there's not much to say about being at a Golden State Warriors game -- despite the fact that they're playing in the nation's 4th-largest market, and are the only team in that market, thus represent San Francisco, Marin County, Oakland and the East Bay, including Berkeley and the University of California, San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley, and the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, including Stanford University. One team, representing over 8 million people -- a ratio only the Knicks (not the Nets), the Lakers, the Clippers (theoretically) and the Bulls can match... and the general public outside Northern California knows next to nothing about them.
Here's what most of us know about the W's since Rick Barry last floated up an underhanded free throw for them, nearly 40 years ago:
* They are massive underachievers, having won nothing since the Jerry Ford Administration.
* Their rivalry with the Lakers has never hit the kind of San Francisco vs. Los Angeles heights that Dodgers-Giants or even Sharks-Kings has.
* Their other natural rivalry, with the Sacramento Kings, has never really happened, as the Kings also consider the Lakers to be their main rival (stoked by acrimonious Playoff meetings).
* Don Nelson continually coached them into the Playoffs, but not very far into them.
* Eric "Sleepy" Floyd scored 29 points to upset the Lakers in a 1987 Playoff game.
* Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin formed a brief (2 years, as it turned out) scoring trio called Run-TMC.
* In 2007, after not making the Playoffs for 13 years, they made an inspiring Playoff run, an 8th seed upsetting the 1st seed Dallas Mavericks and pushing the Utah Jazz in the next round, leading to actress-entrepreneur Jessica Alba (who's actually from the L.A. area) becoming their biggest celebrity fan.
*And, in 1997, Latrell Sprewell choked coach P.J. Carlesimo at a team practice.
That's about it. Can you name the Warriors' pregame intro song? Or their postgame victory song? Or their mascot? For me, the answers are: "No, and I looked it up, and it's an instrumental that I didn't recognize," "No, and I looked it up, and they don't seem to have one," and, "No, and I looked it up, and they definitely don't have one."
One oddity: Occasionally, they will wear throwback uniforms with their Golden Gate Bridge logo and the words "THE CITY" on them, like they did in the 1960s. Like New Yorkers, San Franciscans like to refer to their hometown as just "The City." Like people in Queens, even though it's in The City, people in the East Bay, even if they're in a hard city like Oakland, tend to refer to San Francisco as The City.
After the Game. Oakland has a bit of a rough reputation, but, since the Coliseum and its Arena are islands 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. 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.
I can't find any reference to an Oakland bar that is New York-friendly. But there are 3 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:
* The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Currently named the O.co Coliseum (O.co being the marketing name of Overstock.com), but I’ll use the original name throughout for simplicity’s sake – the stadium adjacent to the Oracle Arena has hosted the Athletics since 1968, and the Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995. Ir's also hosted 3 matches of the U.S. national soccer team, all wins.
The tearing down of its old baseball bleachers and the building of its football bleachers -- known as Mount Davis for Raiders owner Al -- ruined what had been considered a great atmosphere there. Now, of course, there are other complaints: About how cold it gets early in the baseball season, the condition of the stadium, and the horridness of the restrooms.
Both teams desperately want to get out. The A's have been looking at other options in the Bay Area: Either a new stadium in Oakland, or in nearby Fremont, or in San Jose, a territory that the Giants control and won't let them have. Now that Al Davis is dead, his son Mark Davis is picking up where he left off, and is, at this writing, flirting with sharing the new Levi's Stadium with the 49ers (the 49ers will not let that happen), with moving back to L.A. (which St. Louis and San Diego, also former L.A. teams, also seem to want), and also with San Antonio, neither of which, at the moment, has a suitable stadium. Translation: L.A. has the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, and San Antonio has the Alamodome, but neither has sufficient luxury suites to satisfy his greed.
It may be just as well that the Raiders are trying to get out: According to a September 5, 2014 piece in The Atlantic Monthly, not one ZIP Code or County in the Bay Area -- not even Oakland's Alameda County -- has a majority of Raiders fans. It's all 49ers. If the East Bay loses the Raiders for a 2nd time, the fuss probably won't be nearly as big as it was the 1st time -- especially since it's now been 13 years since the Raiders were close to a Super Bowl, as opposed to the last time, when they had won the thing just a year earlier.
Either way, with the Warriors definitely moving out, most likely within 3 years, there's a pretty good chance that the East Bay, never mind Oakland, could go from having 3 teams in 2014 to no teams at all by 2020 (just 6 years).
* 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 in their 40 seasons there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers 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, but 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 and 49ers have gotten out, and the 'Stick is doomed. What may be the last sporting event was a U.S. national soccer team win over Azerbaijan a few days ago, the 4th game the Stars & Stripes have played there (2 wins, 2 losses).
The 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.
* AT&T Park. Home of the Giants since 2000, it has been better for them than Candlestick -- aesthetically, competitively, financially, you name it. Winning 4 Pennants and 3 World Series since it opened, it's been home to The Freak (Tim Lincecum) and The Steroid Freak (Barry Bonds); to Buster (Gerald Dempsey Posey III) and the Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval); to The Beard (the Brian Wilson who didn't form the Beach Boys) and the Mad Bum (Madison Bumgarner).
It's hosted some college football games, and a February 10, 2006 win by the U.S. soccer team over Japan. 24 Willie Mays Plaza, at 3rd & King Streets.
* New San Francisco Arena. This is the working title for the Warriors' new home, which is set to open in the fall of 2018, 47 years after they last played home games on that side of the Bay. But you can be sure that it will have a corporate name slapped on it.
They originally wanted a site a couple of blocks from AT&T Park, but environmental concerns were raised, so the found a new site, about a mile down the bayshore in the Central Basin area. 3rd & South Streets, with a probably future address of 201 South Street. MUNI light rail KT train.
* 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 remaining 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.
* SAP Center at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena and the HP Pavilion, 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 they filmed the Democratic Convention that nominated the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry. 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, has just opened, and has gotten rave reviews. After 25 seasons at Kezar (which was already obsolete when they arrived) and 43 seasons at Candlestick (which was never any good), it's about time that one of the NFL's great franchises had a proper place to play, even if it is 44 miles southeast of Union Square. (To put that in perspective, the Nassau Coliseum is "only" 25 miles from Midtown Manhattan.)
Negotiations are underway for it to host an NHL Stadium Series game in the 2014-15 season. 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 to the last 2 NFC Championship Games, winning 1, the chance is not bad at all for the 49ers becoming the 1st team ever to play a Super Bowl in their own house.
4701 Great America Parkway at Old Glory Lane in Santa Clara, next to California’s Great America park, outside San Jose. ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara.
* Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University is 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. It hosted 10 games by the U.S. national team, totaling 4 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws.
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, reopening with wider seats, and ready for 63,000 fans in 2012.
The old stadium hosted 1 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.
Yankee Legend Joe DiMaggio, who grew up in San Francisco and later divided his time between there and South Florida, is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, on the Peninsula. 1500 Mission Road & Lawndale Blvd. BART to South San Francisco, then about a 1-mile walk.
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. In one episode, his character tries to make a comeback with the Warriors.
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Knick or Net fans in going coast-to-coast. The Warriors are a very good team at the moment, and may yet turn around their underachieving history. Hey, if the Giants can do it, winning 3 titles in 5 years after going without a title in their 1st 52 seasons in the Bay Area, anything is possible.