Santoro: In final Oakland season, A’s evoking ’79 memories

A’s pitcher Ross Stripling works against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a game in Oakland on May 1.

A’s pitcher Ross Stripling works against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a game in Oakland on May 1.
Jeff Chiu | AP

Sports Fodder:

Oakland A’s fans are bringing back the summer of 1979 so far this season.

No, you won’t find the likes of Mitchell Page, Dave Revering, Jeff Newman, Mickey Klutts, a young Rickey Henderson or any other members of the 1979 A’s on the field at the Oakland Coliseum this season.

But you will find only slightly more fans in the stands. The A’s have averaged just 6,222 fans for each of their home games this year, bringing back memories of 1979 when just 3,787 walked through the gates for each home game. That 1979 season is the low point for attendance for the A’s since the franchise moved to Oakland in 1968.

The embarrassing crowd figures in 1979 were due to then-owner Charlie Finley threatening to move the team to New Orleans or any other city that wanted the team. This year the sparse crowds are due to the A’s already announcing this season will be its last in Oakland before moving, first to Sacramento for the next three or four years and then Las Vegas.

It’s not likely this season will threaten that 1979 season for the lowest attendance in Oakland’s franchise history. But No. 2, which is currently at 6,157 in 1977, is clearly within reach.

And you thought the A’s had nothing to play for this year.


The A’s are basically now the Reno Aces when it comes to attendance. The Aces averaged 5,040 fans a game last year, their highest home attendance since 2016.

Just last week, during a six-game series against Tacoma, the Aces averaged about 5,300 fans a game. The Aces, in fact, might finish with a better average attendance this season than the A’s when you consider the Aces’ average should climb as the temperatures warm up in Northern Nevada and school ends in the next few weeks.

How many fans a game in Oakland do you think would show up to watch the Tacoma Rainiers for six games in a row?

The A’s this year, for example, had a crowd of 3,296 to watch the St. Louis Cardinals and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado and crowds of 2,895 and 3,965 to watch the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers and Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Adolis Garcia.

The Aces drew three crowds last weekend of 6,000-plus to watch Tacoma and Jonatan Clase, Ryan Bliss and Nick Solak.


A Triple-A ballpark, though, is exactly where the A’s belong now and is where they will play for at least the next three seasons (2025-27) in Sacramento.

Sacramento’s Sutter Health Park, formerly known as Raley’s Field, has over 10,000 permanent seats and can entertain a crowd of about 14,000 fans when you include its grassy section and standing room only. That means, if this year’s attendance is any indication, the ballpark in Sacramento will only be about half full for most A’s games next year.

The Sacramento River Cats used to be one of the toughest tickets to find in minor league baseball. But the River Cats have seen their attendance slump to 4,043 a game in 2021, 4,970 in 2022 and 5,177 in 2023. That was after 7,800-plus per game over its first 20 seasons (2000-19, not including the pandemic season of 2020).

The River Cats led all of minor league baseball in attendance in each of their first nine seasons (2000-08) and averaged 10,000 or more each game from 2000-07.

Many baseball fans around the country complained that Oakland should not lower itself to play in a Triple-A ballpark starting next season, as if the venue would be beneath a major league team.

Sacramento, though, seems to be a perfect fit for the A’s.


No city, though, has ever seemed to want the A’s. The A’s played in Philadelphia from 1901-54 and only averaged 10,000 or more fans five times. Their high in Philadelphia was 12,274 in 1948.

The A’s moved to Kansas City in 1955 and never drew more than 17,975 in a season (1955) before leaving for Oakland in 1968. The A’s averaged under 10,000 fans a game over their last eight years (1960-67) in Kansas City. The 1955 season was the only year in Kansas City the A’s crowds were bigger than 14,000.

Oakland has been more of the same for the A’s. The A’s have only had four seasons (1989-92) in Oakland of an average attendance of more than 30,000. There are 13 teams in the major leagues this year, for example, averaging 30,000 or more. The Los Angeles Dodgers average 46,149, or about the size of nearly eight A’s crowds. The LSU Tigers of the Southeastern Conference averaged more than 11,000 fans a game last year.

The A’s have averaged as many as 27,000 fans a game in a season just once (27,179 in 2004) since the Bash Brothers days in 1992.


The NCAA transfer portal continues to give and take away from the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Over the last few weeks, the Pack basketball team added former Fresno State guard Xavier DuSell and the Pack football team lost talented tight end Keleki Latu to Washington.

DuSell, a 6-4 shooting guard, averaged 11.5 points a game last year. His biggest value is from beyond the 3-point line, where he made nearly 40 percent of his attempts last year. He’s a .395 career shooter from beyond the arc after three years at Wyoming and one at Fresno State. He has just one year of eligibility remaining and should help replace shooting guard Jarod Lucas, who was 80-of-203 (.394) on threes last year at Nevada in his final college season.

Latu transferred from Cal to Nevada for the 2023 season and caught 14 passes for 179 yards in six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The 6-6, 215-pound Latu is the brother of defensive end Laiatu Latu, who was the 15th overall pick in last month’s NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts out of UCLA. Laiatu began his college career at Washington, where his brother Keleki will now catch passes.


The transfer portal has basically turned the Mountain West into a revolving door conference for football and men’s basketball, with players coming and going almost on a daily basis once the season ends.

Great Osobor, last year’s Mountain West men’s basketball Player of the Year, as expected, followed coach Danny Sprinkle to Washington. Washington will be the third school that Osobor will play for Sprinkle after Montana State (two years) and Utah State (one).

The Mountain West has lost a lot of basketball talent through the portal in the last few months.

New Mexico lost Jamal Mashburn to Temple, San Jose State lost Myron Amey to Loyola Marymount, San Diego State lost Lamont Butler to Kentucky, Elijah Saunders to Virginia and Micah Parrish to Ohio State, Boise State lost Chibuzo Agbo to USC (and former Pack coach Eric Musselman), Air Force lost Rytis Petraitis to Cal, Wyoming lost Cam Manyawu to Drake and Brendan Wenzel to TCU, Fresno State lost Eduardo Andre to West Virginia and the Pack lost Jazz Gardner to, of all places, Pacific.

DuSell is not the only player to transfer from one Mountain West school to another this spring. Fresno State’s Donovan Yap is now at San Jose State and San Jose State’s Alvaro Cardenas is now at Boise State.

Do yourself a favor. When you buy a jersey from your favorite school, just make sure there isn’t a name or number on the back or front.


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