Allegany Communications Sports
Yes, it’s a sad day when a city loses its team. We know this because we’ve seen it happen close to home — Washington Senators to Minnesota, Washington Senators to Texas, Baltimore Bullets to Landover (now Washington) and Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis.
We’ve also been on the receiving end of bad days like that, which, in time, become really good days if you choose to ignore the pain of the city that is losing the team — Cleveland Browns becoming the Baltimore Ravens; Montreal Expos becoming the Washington Nationals.
I just hope Oakland receives the same second chance that Baltimore and Cleveland received (no other city will receive three chances as Washington has in baseball) as on Thursday, Major League Baseball owners voted unanimously to allow the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas.
“There was an effort over more than a decade to find a stadium solution in Oakland,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday. “It was (A’s owner) John Fisher’s preference. It was my preference … It didn’t happen.”
It’s doubtful it was John Fisher’s preference; and, as for Manfred, we’ve talked about this jasper before, and I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.
But, yes, the “stadium solution” …
The loyalty of Oakland baseball fans is unquestioned as the A’s have been stuck with a sewage plant of a stadium in the Oakland Coliseum, which has all of the ambience of a federal prison. I know this because I’ve been there — the Oakland Coliseum, that is.
The only thing local officials have ever done for the Coliseum, which opened for business for the A’s in 1968, is ruin it as a means to get Al Davis and the Raiders back to Oakland (from Los Angeles), and, my, that certainly worked out about as well as the city treating the A’s as the low-end tenant they’ve always been treated as, didn’t it? Highlighted by when they were the only tenant.
The Coliseum was a pretty nice ballpark for baseball in the 1980s, but not after they built those hideous seats in center field, not so affectionately known as Mount Davis, to appease Davis and the Raiders, who eventually did come back before finally moving to — that’s right — Las Vegas.
Again, it’s unfortunate, because the A’s clearly needed a new place to play to try to make some money (other than revenue sharing). But, of course, this move (if it happens) will be nothing new to the Athletics franchise, as it’s been on the move quite a bit in its history.
The Athletics’ name originated from the term “Athletic Club” for a local gentlemen’s club and dates to 1860 when an amateur team, the Athletic (Club) of Philadelphia, was formed. The team later turned professional through 1875, becoming a charter member of the National League in 1876 before being expelled from the N.L.
The Philadelphia Athletics then became one of the American League’s charter franchises in 1901 and they won five World Series championships, including back-to-back in 1929-30 under manager/owner Connie Mack with Hall of Fame players Lefty Grove and Jimmy Foxx.
The team left Philadelphia in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics and served as little more than the New York Yankees’ so-called farm team, even though they remained an American League team.
Then they moved to Oakland in 1968, where they won three straight World Series titles in 1972-74 with the likes of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers, before winning three A.L. pennants in a row and the 1989 World Series behind roided-up Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley and manager Tony LaRussa.
The A’s and general manager Billy Beane were also the subject of the great book and movie, “Moneyball.”
So the green light for this potential move is nothing new in the history of this franchise, though it is painfully new to the Oakland fans. If and when it happens.
The A’s lease in Oakland doesn’t end until next year and the team has no plans for where it will play before the Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2028. And, oh, yes, the A’s are now planning to move to an even smaller market to play in what is envisioned to be the smallest stadium in MLB, as essentially, they will be relying on the kindness of strangers — a.k.a. tourists — 81 times a year.
With Las Vegas long believed to be a candidate for MLB’s inevitable expansion from 30 to 32 teams, leaving behind a market the size of Oakland’s, one owner said this week, “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” Yet he still voted for it.
On top of that, the actual residents of Las Vegas and Nevada (they exist; I know one) aren’t exactly clamoring for Major League Baseball, because they are the people who will have to fund it.
Legal challenges from a teachers’ union in Nevada concerning the $380 million the state has committed to the construction of the $1.5 billion stadium could still interfere with the move, but with the owners voting unanimously, it looks like Oakland is soon going to be without its last professional sports team.
The A’s have long been a marked man in Oakland, whether in the way the actual city worked against them for so long, or how MLB did nothing other than make demands and place restrictions because the city was too busy sucking up to the Davis family and the Raiders.
John Fisher did nothing to help. He wanted out from the beginning, and now he’s going to a place that really isn’t eager to have him, his team or the tax burden that comes with them.
It’s a bad taste, and the honeymoon hasn’t even begun yet.
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
It’s P.T. Barnum, Vegas and the Internet all wrapped into one.
“Too good to be true.”
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT