The turf wars have finally reached an end in Oakland.
Sunday’s Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs game marked the final time that either of the Oakland Coliseum’s primary tenants must play a game on a field that’s not meant for their respective sport.
For the A’s, that means no more contending with less-than-ideal outfield conditions created by moveable seat sections that accommodate Raiders crowds -- that is, once the field bounces back from Sunday’s game. Gone, too, will be the aesthetic nuisance of only partially erased football hash marks and yard lines.
For the Raiders, this will mean playing on a field covered solely by sod. After Sunday, no longer must they and their opponents cope with crossing onto the infield dirt during early-season games. The Raiders won’t play a home game in Oakland until Nov. 3, which is after the World Series ends. (They do have a “home game”, but it’s in London against the Bears on Oct. 6.)
Moreover, the franchise is moving to Las Vegas after this season, which will effectively end all Coliseum-related hassles.
Though converting the Coliseum playing surface from one sport to another was always doable, there were plenty of moves behind the moves that weren’t privy to fans.
Steve Vucinich, who has served as the A’s clubhouse and equipment manager since joining the organization during its inaugural season in Oakland in 1968, understands the intricate procedures. As an example, he cited last weekend, when the A’s played a weekend series at home against Detroit which ended on Sunday, one day before the Raiders opened their season at home against Denver.
Vucinich explained that while the A’s played on Saturday night, the Raiders moved in much of their equipment and gear. More got transported on Sunday morning. The Broncos flew to Oakland on Sunday, but their trucks had to wait for the Tigers’ and A’s trucks to depart. Once the A’s left the Coliseum for their flight to Houston, workers cleaned the home clubhouse and moved chairs from the visitors’ clubhouse to the A’s clubhouse. That cleared the visitors’ clubhouse for the Broncos’ use.
That’s not all. Vucinich noted that when the Raiders play at the Coliseum, they “put up all this drapery going down the steps to the field and the A's clubhouse so they don't see anything baseball. It's all football. … They have to bring in those big cranes and move all the bleachers out.”
The Coliseum has remained in football configuration since the Raiders-Broncos game, which ensures adverse playing conditions for the A’s when the American League Wild Card contenders begin a three-game series against Kansas City on Monday.
“We'll have no outfield grass. Guarantee it,” Vucinich said. “It'll all be dead. Just coming in for one game, it's not too bad, but it's been on there for seven, eight days. … It'll be slick and hard. Balls will skip real fast through there. Outfielders have to play a different game.“
Playing on dead grass, Vucinich concluded, “affects baseball more than the infield dirt affects football.”
Vucinich added that the outfield grass will have a noticeable line across it. “They'll probably try to paint it, just to get it green. That makes my guys who clean the uniforms really happy when an outfielder dives. They have to get paint out [of the pants].”
A's manager Bob Melvin has a unique perspective. He didn’t care about these inconveniences as he grew up in Northern California. He simply rooted hard for many Bay Area teams, including the Raiders.
Melvin understands that the impending end of the Coliseum as a dual-purpose stadium also brings the demise of the Oakland Raiders closer to reality.
“I think for the longtime fans that have been going to the Coliseum for 50 years, I think they'll be the most nostalgic about it,” Melvin said. “I'm one of those people. It'll be different. I love the Raiders. I won't mind seeing them play somewhere else because we won't have to deal with that dynamic at the end of the season. But it's been that way for a long time and there's been some great teams on both sides, the Raiders and the A's. There will be a pause for thought.”