Green and gold-clad fanatics may not have been hanging from the proverbial rafters, but it was a raucous crowd nonetheless.
The Athletics were expecting an attendance to match the population of Walnut Creek (64,000). Instead, they got Newark (46,000). To be exact, 46,028. That was the announced attendance for the home nine’s 10-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox Tuesday night when the A’s celebrated 50 years of baseball in Oakland.
While the A’s didn’t draw maximum capacity — 63,132 with “Mt. Davis” uncovered — for the free admission anniversary game, they did draw a crowd amounting to a sellout in the stadium’s baseball configuration, and the largest baseball crowd in Oakland since 46,959 turned up for Game 5 of the 2013 ALDS.
No one has seen more baseball at the Oakland Coliseum than clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich, who has been a member of the A’s organization since day one in 1968. In a conversation before the game, “Vuc” told SFBay that he didn’t remember a crowd larger than 52,000 — during the powerhouse years of the early-2000s, for a fireworks game. Tuesday, though, he said something felt different:
“When I drove in at 10 a.m. there was about 20 cars already lined up for the parking lot — the parking lot doesn’t open until 12 (noon).”
The proposition of playing in front of nearly 60,000 can be intimidating for players who are used to much more modest crowds. Through their first nine home games this year, the A’s average home attendance had been just 14,353, second-lowest in baseball behind the Miami Marlins (13,171).
Mark Canha, who continued his torrid pace of late going 3-f-or-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, said he was equal parts nervous and anxious leading up to first pitch. Perhaps, though, the 15,000 that were expected but didn’t show up helped calm those emotions:
“It was a lot of fun. It was a fun game to be a part of — I thought, at the beginning, I was going to be a little more scared than excited, but it just turned out to be a fun event. … It was very Bay Area-themed.”
— Kalama Hines (@HINESight_2020) April 18, 2018
Canha, the A’s starting center fielder, said prior to the game that the type of noise produced by massive crowds can affect defensive communication. That proved to not be the case and Oakland settled in quickly playing flawless defense behind hurler Trevor Cahill, who tossed seven scoreless in his return to Oakland after seven years abound.
The veteran starter said he could feel the energy from before the first pitch:
“It was fun. Just going out there to warm up before the game … all the fans we real excited. I think we put on a good show.”
Energy is something the Oakland Coliseum has never had trouble producing. Even with crowds barely above 10,000 the A’s are regularly coaxed along by the boisterous cheers of the faithful few.
Manager Bob Melvin has been a part of Major League Baseball since 1985. The former player and longtime skipper didn’t remember the biggest crowd he had ever played or coached in front of, but remembered it being as a minor leaguer; at Mile High Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos; as the scheduled opening act for a Beach Boys concert — one he stuck around for.
A Bay Area native like Canha, Melvin has always acknowledged Oakland as a high-energy fan base, no matter the numbers:
“We get good crowds here. Twelve, 13, 14 (thousand) are amazing here. … It’s as raucous a crowd here as anywhere in baseball, in any sport. Oakland’s a great sports town.”
— Kalama Hines (@HINESight_2020) April 17, 2018
Among those who represent the noisy in minimal numbers is Will MacNeil, otherwise known as “Right Field Will,” one of the most recognizable A’s fans and a mainstay in the right field bleachers, amongst a group Josh Reddick once referred to as “my people.”
MacNeil told SFBay that he came in concerned, from the point of view of the everyday fan:
“I was worried how it was going to be for everybody that comes to a lot of these — I know it’s not a large amount, but I was worried how it was going to be.”
As is appeared from the peripheral, according to the season ticket holder since 2006, things went smoothly. It was easy to get into the stadium, and no major issue came from the largest Oakland regular season crowd since the beginning of this millennia. It went easy, save for perhaps one minor issue:
“Moving around the concourse, I’ll be honest, was a little tough. That’s part of it, what can you do. … It made it a little difficult to get a beer.”
MacNeil left the Coliseum, to a soundtrack provided by Kool and the Gang, hoping for this type thing to become a regular celebration — perhaps once a year, he told SFBay.
Always among baseball’s superstitious personalities, Melvin, whose club is now 1-0 in front of free crowds, could soon be advocating for that move as well.