Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

SHORT STORY When We Almost Lost the A's

A Short Story . . .
Rick Kaplan, Jr.
Staff Writer
OAKLAND (November 26, 2043)
Driving by the huge excavation on I-880 in Fremont, my grandfather would always smile while my brothers and I would make up stories about what had happened to cause that big hole in the ground. We thought it had the look of a giant meteor having impacted the earth many millennia ago.
Grandpa told us that for Oakland what happened there had a bigger impact than any meteor could make.
Today, when I pass by that same hole, near the old GM factory, where they hold swap meets and the occasional soccer or cricket match, rodeos, demolition derbies, or for whatever else they can rent out an unfinished high-tech graveyard, I still wonder what it was all about in the first place.

Click below for more of Rick’s story.

Cisco Field. An enormous land and development deal disguised as a ballpark. Giddily promoted as "the new worldwide standard for cutting-edge sports venues." Conceived, more importantly, as the world headquarters and super-store for Cisco-the-chip-maker’s high tech products.
Ultimately, however, it became a waterloo for Lewis Wolff and his Silicon Valley co-conspirators.
Even before Fremont, however, the Oakland fans could have seen what kind of welcome Wolff had in store for them after he closed the third deck in 2006 shortly after acquiring the team.
Then, following a barely perfunctory search for an Oakland site for a new ballpark for the A’s, things began swimmingly enough in their campaign to leave Oakland when Wolff and Cisco announced the move to Fremont immediately within days of the disappointing loss in the 2006 ACLS and the et tu brute locker-room assassination of skipper Ken Macha.
Oakland fans were still licking their post-season wounds when they found out about Wolff’s mallpark caper. So much had happened already, and they were numbed by the rapid-fire assault of events.
When they awoke from their daze, the move seemed inevitable. And to some A’s fans, seduced by the media-and-marketing blitz, Fremont represented an opportunity to get in bed with Cisco and Wolff in exchange for a sexy new home and a Yankee-style budget.
So they embraced the move.
What these quisling fans didn’t realize was that the time-tested strengths of the Oakland Athletics were not found in the ostentatious and trendy.
One of MLB’s most successful teams historically, the Philadelphia-Kansas City-Oakland Athletics were never built out of big-name free agents and unlimited revenue. Yet, this was the bait that the conspirators constantly dangled in front of the fans back in the winter of 2006 when they announced the move.
No, this was a franchise which had won over and over again without a lot of money, and also over and over again had seen the Home Run Bakers and the Mickey Cochranes and and Catfishes and Jasons and Miggys wave good-bye. This was a team which historically–as typified by the dynasties of 1912-15, 1929-31, 1971-75, and 1988-92, and the near success of the last 6-8 seasons–developed great young players and then supplied the well-endowed franchises with their marquee players when the A’s could no longer afford them.
A team, then, that mirrored the city in which it was playing when the move to Fremont was announced. Oakland. A poor, blue collar kind of a place, a place that huffed and groaned and produced, so that more well-to-do others could live in the limelight, a place of great pride and skill, but a place of grind-it-out and struggle.
A place my grandfather and thousands of other A’s fans loved.
Despite that attachment, according to grandpa, there was little resistance at first to the move. A handful of people got some national air time when they burned their 2007 season ticket agreements in front of the A’s spring training facility in Phoenix on Opening Day for the Cactus League.
And a biology professor from Cal created a stir, and a faint hope, when he declared that a new and ‘very rare’ species of salamander lived nowhere else in the planet but on three acres in the middle of the future stadium site. Soon, there was talk of a building moratorium for the rare salamander habitat, and the prospect of lengthy delay in the environmental impact process. Until, that is, it was revealed by some Cisco-hired investigators that the so-called orange ringed salamanders were inmates of the prof’s own lab which had been meticulously dyed with the unique "markings," and then released in Fremont.
More of a real obstacle, and an embarrassing blow to Cisco’s plans for it’s marketing showcase, was the strange malfunction of chips to be included in the scoreboards and the highly touted individual interactive personal computing devices, to be found at every seat in Cisco Field. According to rumor, each time one was tested it would initiate messages such as "Oakland Rules," or "Throw It Back!"
Cisco solved that problem by using Intel chips.
Things started to break down, however, for Wolff and Cisco when they went too far with the team’s name. There had been an earlier tacit agreement that the new name was going to be the "Oakland Athletics of Fremont," following the model employed in re-naming the Anaheim Angels as the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." Oakland A’s fans weren’t necessarily happy about it, but they knew that in reality the league standings and other references would ordinarily use, as always, the abbreviated "Oakland Athletics," just as the Angels were identified as the "Los Angeles Angels" in practice.
However, everyone should have known that Wolff wanted "San Jose." on the unis instead. That was the target audience he was after, and, as importantly, he wanted to remove all references to Oakland, a city from which the A’s new owners were trying to totally dissociate themselves.
Ever since the move was first announced in 2006, there had been sporadic efforts on the part of the fans to organize something to try to keep the A’s in Oakland.
There had been occasional specific game boycotts, involving perhaps hundreds of fans, that seemed to slightly reduce the attendance. There were petitions and letter writing campaigns, and even some arrests when some fans shackled themselves to the foul poles on the last day of the 2010 season, thinking they were preventing the Coliseum gates from being closed for the last time before its planned demolition (The A’s ended up playing at the Coliseum in 2011 due to various delays on construction of the new ballpark, including the salamander hoax.).
But nothing seemed to be able to deter the A’s from ultimately completing their plans to move to Fremont.
Until the name change.
In February of 2011, without warning and only weeks before an open house on the unfinished construction site of Cisco Field, the A’s announced the change. Secretly, they had already ordered new uniforms with San Jose’s name, and now they went about changing the signage around the ballpark site.
Little did they know at the time, but this was the last straw for a proud city that had endured too much ridicule and hopelessness. This was a spark, and now it had ignited something.
The Oakland fans were still around. And now they were angry.
Suddenly, after years of lethargy, a sleeping army of Oakland Athletic fans had been awakened. Old e-mail lists began coming to life and plans started to materialize for resistance.
What had formerly been a core of hundreds of activists
was now becoming an organized army of thousands, almost overnight.
Publicly, on February 19, the day before the ‘open house’ at the hole in the ground in Fremont, there was a press release from one of the keep-the-A’s-in-Oakland groups, which had been inactive for years, announcing a boycott of this final season, 2011, at the Oakland Coliseum. But in reality this was probably a well-coordinated smokescreen, and possibly even a coded message.
The muddy parking lots around the Cisco Field excavation began to fill up very early the next morning, the day of the open house. It seemed a little odd that so many people seemed to arrive two hours before the event. The lots were filling fast. But no one on the A’s staff was concerned, since they knew that they had built in extra parking to accommodate any unforeseen contingencies.
Then, as the gates were getting ready to open, huge traffic jams began to start forming everywhere, followed shortly by an absolute gridlock of thousands of cars. And, strangely, virtually no one from the parking lots was entering the stadium.
Cisco Field was still practically empty. Only a few people who taken public transportation, which was very skimpy, made their way past the temporary gates and into the excavation for the park. The ceremonies, including a couple of inaugural season ticket giveaways, a pair of all-expenses paid MLB road trips, and some sabermetrics-inspired Cisco ballpark wi-fi technology demonstrations, were beginning in ten minutes. The anticipation was so high that nearly 30,000 fans were expected, merely to get a look at a hole in the ground, and the remote opportunity to win exactly four door prizes.
As the time approached, a huge green-and-gold formation of fans from the parking lot, march-like and moving very purposefully, and adorned uniformly in every manner of "Oakland" paraphernalia, began to approach the entrances. The gridlock continued on the streets around the site, as there was nowhere for the occupants of these cars to go.
Now, with the formation of "Oakland"-costumed fans now at the entrances to the ballpark site, huge "OAKLAND" banners were unfurled, and the fans’ army began circling the giant hole.
Meanwhile, previously assigned teams of Oakland fans went out to the streets to talk to those who were stuck in their cars and explain their actions.
There were no confrontations of any kind, no opportunities for the Wolff crowd to label the Oakland fans as hooligans or thugs or whatever, as has been their habit to insinuate since acquiring the team.
It was a perfect plan. Not only Wolff’s new fans, but his whole mallpark vision for unparalleled riches were stuck out in the street with them.
Eventually, many of these people, these so-called suburbanites, seeing the passion, graciousness, and diversity of the Oakland fans, and remembering their own roots, abandoned their cars and joined with their fellow human beings to help save their dreams and their city.
For this, the people of Oakland will always be indebted to their brethren of Fremont and San Jose.
This was the beginning of the end for the "San Jose Athletics of Fremont", and for Wolff and Cisco. And the beginning of a new era of hope and a fighting spirit in Oakland
The Oakland Athletics opened to a full house in the Coliseum on April 1st, 2043, where they are recently completed their seventy-fifth season.
The third deck was packed.


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