OAKLAND — While scanning the fields at both Candlestick Park and the Oakland Coliseum during the next few days, you will probably notice strips of dark green grass alternating with strips of lighter green grass. It may look like the teams have decided to save cab fare and contest this 86th World Series on the same playing surface.
But don't let them hear you say that.
"To get that effect, the people over at Candlestick just change the level on their lawn mower," explained Oakland groundskeeper Mark Razum. "We use a special mower."
The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics play only eight miles apart, as the sea gull flies. If they were playing at the same time, you could catch four or five innings at one park and be at the other in time for the seventh-inning stretch.
Yet, nowhere is the disparity between World Series opponents San Francisco and Oakland more evident than in the stadiums where they play.
The Coliseum, where the Series begins today at 5:20, is like its team--sturdy, fair, considered one of the best in baseball.
Candlestick, where the Series will move next week for Games 3, 4 and 5 if necessary, is also like its team--deceptive and full of surprises.
"Candlestick is crazy," said the Giants' Bill Bathe, who has played in both places. "The Coliseum is like, civilized."
Although the ballparks are opposites in everything from the types of fans to the dugout bathrooms, with all the excitement there is only one thing the players will probably notice. It is not a difference one would expect between two places that share an area code, but a difference as subtle as a slap in the face.
It is the weather. Candlestick has it. The Coliseum usually doesn't.
When Candlestick has swirling winds and chilly temperatures, the Coliseum can have sun.
Candlestick can be beautiful one hour and frost-bitten the next. The Coliseum air is gentle and even-tempered.
"What the players like about here is, during day games, you know it's going to be warm," said the Coliseum's longtime visiting clubhouse manager, Steve Vucinich. "And during night games, if it gets cold, it really doesn't get cold because there isn't any wind.
"The players love it here."
At Candlestick during day games, you may not even know if it is daytime. The sky could turn dark, and the winds pick up and, well . . .
"If you're on another team, you don't want to play there," said Giant pitcher Mike LaCoss, who has been on two other National League teams. "Nobody I've ever played with wants to play there."
It's gotten so bad, not even the Giant management wants to play there. Owner Bob Lurie's search for a new home culminates on Nov. 7, when San Francisco citizens will be asked to vote on Proposition P, which would approve the release of $30 million in tax money to build a new baseball stadium several blocks from downtown.
Backers claim that the new $96-million home, seating 45,000 and overlooking the bay in the China Basin area, will be the one thing Candlestick is not.
"It will be a nice place to watch a game," said Ed McGovern, campaign manager for the proposition. "You can't say that about the other place."
Yet, there is already a problem. While McGovern said that wind tests at China Basin have yet to record a breeze stronger than 16 m.p.h., one of the city's leading weather experts said that once a stadium is built, winds twice as strong can be expected. That would make the new place as stormy as Candlestick.
"That's the funny thing about it," said Brian Sussman, staff meteorologist at KPIX-TV. "China Basin is just as bad as Candlestick. All the elements are pointed in the same direction, which means the wind will get in there just as strong. It has made a lot of us scratch our heads.
"I've never heard of a meteorological study of the place, which is surprising, considering it's obvious that it's no better than what they have now."
The main problem with Candlestick, Sussman said, is the same obvious thing that makes it different from the Coliseum--location.
"Candlestick is the worst place in all of San Francisco for a ballpark," he said. "Here we are, a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water, constantly inundated by cool ocean air. Because Candlestick is right on one of those bodies of water (San Francisco Bay), all the air gets funneled right into it. Any wind from any directions affects Candlestick."
Because Oakland borders only the bay, said Sussman, the Coliseum is not as exposed. And because its builders had the foresight to place it 28 feet into the ground, it is like a fortress.
"It is far enough away from the ocean itself that it doesn't take the brunt of that wind," Sussman said. "And anyway, it's like being in a foxhole. Being down that low, you don't get much of anything."
Except maybe depressed.
The late-night air is certainly not very lively, which A's Manager Tony LaRussa believes is the stadium's biggest problem.