Red Sox

In likely one of Boston’s last trips to Oakland Coliseum, a reminder of the Red Sox’ history there

Nearly empty RingCentral Coliseum for an Oakland A's game in 2022.
The Athletics, openly angling for either a new Oakland stadium or a move to Las Vegas, are drawing fewer than 8,000 fans per game in 2022. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

COMMENTARY

After Thursday night, the Red Sox are going to have a hard time making their latest series in Oakland notable beyond it happening around its competition across the bay.

Some Red Sox may have been at Game 1 of the NBA Finals; Alex Cora, in a bit of an eye-popper quote, said earlier in the week it was even cost prohibitive for his players. For those that were, it’ll be quite a 24-hour jump — from the $1.4 billion Chase Center on the San Francisco waterfront to a place where the possums run wild and free.

What today is known as RingCentral Coliseum is a relic of a bygone baseball era, and won’t be long for the majors if the Athletics’ bosses get their way. The sport’s fifth-oldest stadium — only eight remain that pre-date Baltimore’s Camden Yards — is almost universally maligned, with the possum story of a few weeks ago joining the feral cats, the sewage overflows, the “intimacy tarps,” and just the general aesthetic of the place since it was renovated in the mid-90s to win back the Raiders (for a couple decades).

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The older of you may remember when the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was one of the sport’s jewels, the site of the 1987 All-Star Game right before the Athletics won three straight pennants behind the Bash Brothers, Rickey Henderson, and some long-haired Hall of Fame closer.

And almost all of you likely remember some sliver of Red Sox history in Oakland, because for a place they’ve only visited once a year for most of the last two decades, they’ve sure had a lot of memorable games there.

Thus, if I may take a moment to not lament the 2022 Red Sox bullpen, a few memories of afternoons and late nights gone by watching Boston spend part of a West Coast trip in the East Bay.

The sports front of the Oakland Tribune on May 29, 1968. (Newspapers.com)

May 27, 1968 — Why not salute the first? Especially when, with a crowd of just 6,875 announced for what months earlier was still the Kansas City A’s, the seats were about as depressingly empty as they’ll probably be on Friday?

“So, Boston really needs a stadium? They ought to parcel the new one out here into three U-Haul-It trucks and send it to home,” quipped the Globe’s Clif Keane in the next day’s paper.

Playing the day after Oakland brawled with the Tigers, the reigning American League champs beat the A’s, 3-2, with reigning MVP Carl Yastrzemski smashing the longest home run in the brief history of the park. (The Oakland Tribune estimated it at 450 feet.)

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Two additional notes: May 27 was a notable day in baseball history, as that same night the American League formally voted to split into divisions for the 1969 season, and the National League awarded expansion teams to Montreal and San Diego. (The NL wouldn’t agree to divisional play until a month later.)

Also, Boston’s second game in Oakland included the 1968 debut of ’67 Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg, used in relief after he’d torn up his knee skiing the previous Christmas. Though he’d pitch parts of the next 12 seasons, at 26, his best days were already behind him.

The Red Sox celebrate their eighth pennant in franchise history, and the only one they clinched in Oakland. (Newspapers.com)

Oct. 7, 1975 — The Red Sox and Oakland have a relatively beefy playoff history. That aforementioned A’s dynasty of the late 1980s included a pair of championship-series sweeps of Boston, the 1990 version ending with Roger Clemens — Ninja Turtles on his cleats, goatee on his face — ejected in the second inning.

In 2003, the Red Sox completed a comeback from the Division Series brink in Oakland, Manny Ramirez crashing a game-winning home run and Derek Lowe closing it out with a celebratory crotch chop.

A shoutout, though, to their first postseason meeting, when the Red Sox ended the reign of the three-time World Series winners with an ALCS sweep of their own. Rico Petrocelli put the Sox up in the fourth, Dick Drago got a pivotal double play in the eighth, and Boston won, 5-3, to set up a World Series with the Big Red Machine.

June 7, 2007 — The Red Sox and A’s have played nine 1-0 games at the Coliseum, the visitors winning six of them, none more notable than the one played 15 years ago Tuesday.

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When Curt Schilling shook off Jason Varitek.

The big-money Sox were already up nine games in a division race they were never much challenged in on their way to a world championship, but were on a season-worst four-game losing streak that getaway Thursday. They had only four hits that day, but David Ortiz’s first-inning solo shot off Joe Blanton was enough as Schilling played the stopper, needing only 90 pitches to reach the ninth without allowing a hit.

You likely know the rest: After retiring current A’s manager Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall on groundouts, Varitek called for a first-pitch slider to Shannon Stewart — who, coincidentally, played his last major-league game exactly one year later on June 7, 2008.

Schilling wanted to throw a fastball. He did, and at 95 miles per hour, it was his fastest of the day. Stewart ripped it past a diving Alex Cora into right field.

“I was sure [Stewart] was taking. Tek was sure he was swinging,” Schilling told reporters after finishing his third and final one-hitter. “I was wrong. . . . And I’ve got the big ‘what if’ for the rest of my life.”

“I think Eric Hinske said it best,” Mike Lowell noted, “when he said, ‘I’ve never seen our pitcher throw a shutout and we win, 1-0, and we’re all disappointed.’ “

It was actually the second time a Red Sox pitcher lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning at Oakland Coliseum. Marty Pattin, whom the Red Sox got as part of the trade that sent Lonborg and George Scott out of town in 1971, tossed a one-hitter at the A’s on July 11, 1972. The only damage was a Reggie Jackson one-out single in the ninth.

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No confirmation on whether Pattin, as Bill Lee wrote he frequently did in ‘The Wrong Stuff,’ threw up after the first inning.

April 21, 2018 — Cora, to be clear, had no chance at Stewart’s single, but that didn’t keep him from lamenting what might have been.

“Have I been this close to being a part of [a no-hitter]?” he told reporters that day. “Not 10 feet.”

Eleven years later, another trip to Oakland changed that . . . sort of. Sean Manaea no-hit his rampaging Red Sox, who’d opened 17-2, outscoring opponents by nearly four runs per game. That included pounding what would become a 97-win A’s team in the Friday series opener.

“That’s baseball. We talk about being humble and staying hungry,” Cora told reporters that Saturday night. “Well, we were humbled.”

It was not without controversy. Sandy León reached base in the fifth on a pop up that Marcus Semien, racing toward the outfield, got a glove on. (It was ruled it an error.) In the sixth, Andrew Benintendi appeared to have a hit when he beat out a swinging bunt up the first-base line, but was called out after an umpire huddle for leaving the base line.

In the moment, it was the start of a three-game losing streak, and the Red Sox dropped out of the first place about a month later when Manaea beat them again at Fenway. Their history, however, would not be denied.

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