Stomper greets the fans

Man, what a busy couple of weeks for me, with baseball and otherwise. I’m just now getting this post up for last weekend’s trip to the O.co Coliseum to see the Orioles and A’s. Gotta throw it up there tonight just to keep everything in chronological order because we’re headed up the freeway again tomorrow night for some California League action.

This ballpark visit continued an ugly trend in our first year as Oakland A’s season ticket holders, both for us (myself and Mrs. HotStoveHeat) and the home team. It was our 3rd trip to Oakland on this young season and the 3rd time the A’s got beat with us in attendance.

On Opening Night, Felix Hernandez shut down the defending AL west champions. Not what we were looking for, but it makes sense that King Felix would spoil the party. Then, Justin Verlander was too much for the A’s in our second trip to the yard. No shame there.

But maybe this matchup of Oakland’s A.J. Griffin vs. Baltimore’s Chris Tillman would favor the home team. Well, maybe not. As it turned out, still no on-field celebration or even pie-in-the-face walkoff action for the home crowd. The Orioles erased a 2-0 deficit to post a 7-3 win en route to winning 3 of the 4 games in the series.

Gene Tenace takes his 1B position

But this gameday experience was already special as it featured a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Oakland A’s, who won the team’s second consecutive World Series on its way to 3 straight. The festivities included a reunion of the team and a Reggie Jackson bobblehead giveaway for the first 10,000 fans. With over 30,000 expected, we opted to get there early and get in line, which paid off with a pretty easy trip through the turnstiles and the acquisitions of the rare memento for both of us. I’m not a big bobblehead guy, but I was the perfect age to be in awe of Reggie as he ruled the 1970’s for the A’s and Yankees (and even these Orioles). It was nice to get my hands on one of these and if you look at sports memoribila from a money standpoint, it’s got some value.

The reunion ceremony was very well done. Surviving members of the 1973 team and their families were brought onto the field, and those players and coaches who have passed away were also represented and honored. The starters from ’73 took their positions along with a current member of the A’s. A  wonderful collection of baseball royalty all came together as Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, and the great Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson were all on hand along with many other key players that made that 3-year run happen. Bill North, Bert Campaneris, John “Blue Moon” Odom, Dick Green, Gene Tenace…the list went on and on. All taking their positions, all wearing a gold A’s jersey with their name and number. Of course, the ceremony came to a crescendo with Jackson taking his RF position alongside Josh Reddick. But having Rollie Fingers come in from the bullpen was a great touch.

On the microphones were two legendary A’s voices from that season, play-by-play man Monte Moore and public address announcer Roy Steele.

Reggie Jackson takes center stage in RF

The scheduled game started off with a lot of promise for the celebratory crowd as the A’s put up single runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings while Griffin kept the Birds off the board. But the tide turned in the top of the 4th when Baltimore put up 4 runs in a big rally that included back-to-back homeruns by Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. They never looked back from there.

Tillman was hardly dominant, as he allowed baserunners all over the place, but he did go 6 innings while allowing only 2 ER on 7 hits and 2 BB. Griffin’s line wasn’t that bad at 7 IP, 5 hits, 4 ER and 2 BB with 7 K’s. But he couldn’t turn it off in the 4th when he needed to and the game got away from the A’s in the late innings when Jerry Blevins and Chris Resop gave up 3 runs in the 8th and 9th innings.

A good day at the yard, all in all, but the O.co Coliseum is an entirely different place when the A’s win than it is when they lose. We saw it a couple of times last year during the magical run to the playoffs and we’d like to be in-house for it again this year. Hence the season ticket package. It’s just a lot of fun. It hasn’t happened yet this season, but the club isn’t in bad shape. Only the Rangers are ahead of the A’s in the  AL west at this point.

All Photos: Steve Cummings/HotStoveheat.com