Interview with ‘stAy’ author Zachary Amendt

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Author and A’s fan Zachary Amendt has published a book called “stAy,” a compelling and sharply written collection of stories that feature elements of the A’s franchise and the city of Oakland, while not always being exactly about them. We enjoyed the book. His offbeat tales are as compelling and fun as a night game at the Coliseum.

We recently interviewed Amendt about his book and his love for the A’s and the city of Oakland.

BBO: What motivated you to write this novel?
AMENDT: Oh, man. Where to start? One day I was reading the official report on the Oakland Hills Firestorm in ’91 – you know, leisure reading — and the conclusion was insane, something like, “the fire just moved so fast, nothing could be done. And taking walks through Mountain View Cemetery, upset about all the new homes in the Hiller Highlands, and one of our friends at the time was crowdsourcing her fertility treatments — this was in 2012 right after Game 4 when we routed (Detroit closer Jose) Valverde in the ninth inning -– my lady was watching the first season of “24” – this is how books are birthed you know, out of everything in life — and I was riding BART one day, hungover, and I thought of the A’s, and the fire, and the childless couple, and how I screamed louder than Fosse when we won Game 4 -– and I didn’t grow up an A’s fan, so I can’t imagine the noise you all made -– and I thought that if I do this, if I write a story collection about baseball, it should have nine innings, nine position players. And I knew if I wrote it and named it “stAy,” the team wouldn’t leave. They simply couldn’t.

BBO: Tell us about your memories of your first A’s game at the Coliseum.
AMENDT: It was in May or June of 2012. At the time the big question was, “Are we a .500 team?” not, “Can we win the division?” Our seats were behind the A’s bullpen. (A’s hurler Jarrod) Parker was pitching. And just before the game –- I can’t remember what night of the week –- the center field wall parted and a golf cart dressed up like a BART car started chauffeuring Stomper around the stadium –- and my lady turned to me and I was crying. It was just so beautiful and homegrown and sincere. You have to understand, I grew up an hour from Chavez Ravine. My first A’s memory was the Kirk Gibson home run in ‘88.

BBO: The “stAy” movement is something very close to Baseball Oakland. In your words, why it is important for the A’s to stay in Oakland?
AMENDT: I have feelings about this. The team is vital to Oakland’s emotions and economics. (I think Libby knows this better than Jean, and cares more about it.) The A’s have also witnessed –- and perhaps even partially informed –- the transformation of the town since they arrived in the late 1960s. Oakland history is, taken in sum, a saturation of awesome. Change happens faster and better here than anywhere else. East Bay politics is like the American autobahn –- all speed, no rules. In the 1880s, we were marketed as the healthiest city in America, weather- and sanitarium-wise. In the 1920s, the residents elect a Klansman as sheriff, and fifty years later nearly elect a Black Panther as mayor. Punk rock and fantasy baseball were born here. The A’s are a part of this singular municipal narrative, whether the current — and future — ownership likes it or not.

BBO: In the book you write about scraper bikes in Oakland, but you put your own twist on it — a scraper unicycle. Have you ever built one?
AMENDT: Wouldn’t that be amazing? Someone should.

BBO: Where will the A’s home be in 2025?
AMENDT: Portland, Oregon. (Kidding.) The A’s are an itinerant team. First Philadelphia, then K.C., then here. But I think we’ll win this fight. On paper it’s an infrastructure problem, but I love a world where ten years from now Sebastian Janikowski is still kicking field goals on a dirt infield.

BBO: Who is your favorite Oakland Athletic?
AMENDT: Eric Sogard. We both wear Kaenon eyeglasses.

BBO: Any other baseball novels in your future?
AMENDT: I’ve been getting into cricket recently. It’s a shock to be the same age as retiring pro athletes. Frank Gore is a day younger than me, for example. I think I’d have made a serviceable bullpen catcher had I kept playing in high school. I’m afraid I’ll always write about baseball, even when I’m aiming not to. I just finished up this book about my dad (whose name is Perry). It’s called “Liquidating Perry.” There’s a scene where we’re sitting near the left field foul pole at Dodger Stadium –- L.A.’s down eight and Perry’s double-fisting 32 oz. Budweisers and yelling for a “nine-run homer,” and when security comes after him he removes his belt and scampers up the pole. That might have actually happened. He was a wild and weird dude.

BBO: Where can we find copies of your book, “stAy?”
AMENDT: It’s at Wolfman Books across from the Tribune building, and at Book Zoo on Piedmont Avenue. Montag titles are distributed by Small Press Distribution, so you can order it anywhere.

BBO: Can Baseball Oakland invite you to a game this year in the right field bleachers?
AMENDT: The bleachers are my speed. My people. Heaven on earth.

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Copies of ‘stAy’ can be bought online at the following websites. Click on the them to buy:

Amazon

Small Press Distribution

Montag Press

E.M. Wolfman Bookstore

Jenkins to Wolff/Fisher: “Sell the damn team. Get out.”

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When the A’s began their fire sale last week, Bruce Jenkins strongly criticized John Fisher and Lew Wolff in a column whose headline called the A’s owners a “penurious disgrace.” The headline sent us to our dictionary, informing us that penurious means “extremely stingy, miserly.”

Unfortunately, Jenkins is spot-on. Fisher and Wolff truly are very stingy and they are a disgrace to baseball because they choose money over trying to win every time. We’ll let Jenkins explain further:

“The whole operation is tired and depressing. Wolff and Fisher are extremely wealthy men who make millions in baseball’s revenue sharing, yet refuse to take their rightful place among the big-spending teams, and there’s simply no excuse for that.”

Jenkins then called for Fisher and Wolff to get out of baseball, something that many A’s fans have been wanting for years. Jenkins wrote:

“Can you imagine running a business that everyone wants you to sell — and then stubbornly refusing? As if you’re right and the exasperated public is wrong? The message couldn’t be more clear: Sell the damn team. Get out. Something has to change in Oakland, and it won’t without an entirely new outlook.”

We’ve always believed that the story of A’s fan attendance should focus on how good attendance is at the Coliseum, in spite of 20 years of ownership’s threats to move the team and constant negative talk about the stadium. Apparently, Jenkins agrees:

“As for the fans, one wonders why anyone would bother to give Lew Wolff or John Fisher one cent of a paycheck.”

Finally, Jenkins openly questions how Fisher’s and Wolff’s tired act is playing with fellow MLB owners and the league’s new leader.

“I just have to wonder if new Commissioner Rob Manfred would prefer to see it happen under responsible ownership. He has to be as repulsed by the A’s business strategy as anyone else.”

After two decades of A’s owners mistreating Oakland baseball fans, we’re definitely repulsed by ownership’s business strategy. We completely agree with Jenkins. Count us among the many A’s fans who wish Fisher and Wolff would “get out of baseball” and “sell the damn team” — finally — to someone who cares about winning.

Wolff’s remodel “plan” destined to fail

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In A’s co-owner Lew Wolff’s recent 4-question interview with Athletics Magazine, he saved the most important and alarming parts for the very end.

Wolff has spent years saying that, a) the A’s need a new ballpark to replace the aging Coliseum, and b) the Oakland Coliseum site (among other Oakland sites) would NOT work for a new ballpark, for reasons ranging from the Coliseum complex’s “utilities” to its plumbing to having to share the field with the Raiders. Now, Wolff is singing a different tune, saying he will consider the Coliseum (but only the Coliseum) as a viable Oakland site. He repeated that theme in the recent Athletics Magazine interview, but with a very important wrinkle. Wolff said:

“…we of course would like to play in a new or vastly improved baseball-only venue … The outcome we seek, and the only outcome we seek, is an improved local venue for our fans, players and sponsors that support our team.”

Notice the vague but carefully worded change of heart there. No longer do the A’s need “a new ballpark,” according to Wolff. Nope, now he’s proposing a “new or vastly improved baseball-only venue.”

What might that mean? It means that Wolff is floating the idea of remodeling the 49-year-old Coliseum for the second time, rather than building the brand new ballpark he’s long told us that the A’s and their fans need. By the way, he says he needs the Raiders to leave, too, before he starts work on the remodel. Leave it to Lew Wolff to propose the cheapest, shoddiest, least fan-friendly option that threatens not one but two Oakland teams.

A few years ago, we might have been gullible to buy into this “plan.” Like a lot of A’s fans, we’re tired of the uncertainty that Wolff & Fisher have foisted on all of us. We might have championed a lesser plan just to remove the threat of losing our team.

But here’s the reason why Wolff’s remodel must be rejected: It’s not a sincere offer — just like his impossibly complicated “66th to High Street” plan in 2005 was insincere and intentionally dead-on-arrival. This remodel idea appears to be just another head-fake intended to give him an excuse to say, “Can I move to San Jose now?”

We also believe Wolff & Fisher (leaders of MLB’s 4th-richest ownership) would use this remodel as a way to stay on MLB’s welfare roll so they can collect more than $30 million in yearly revenue-sharing handouts from their fellow owners. We believe that Wolff & Fisher would argue to MLB, “But we’re still in an old ballpark, renovation or not, so we deserve your welfare checks.”

Also, there’s a reason why Wolff’s PR hacks have long been trying to convince people of the lie that “Oakland has to choose between the A’s and the Raiders.” The reason is that Wolff wants to use the Raiders as yet another excuse to leave.

Our guess is that if Oakland leaders and Alameda County officials reject this terrible remodel idea — as they should — Wolff will then go to Commissioner Manfred and MLB owners and say, “Hey guys, look we tried, but Oakland won’t kick out the Raiders for us and there was just no new place for a yard and the best we can do is renovate the Coliseum. Sounds crappy, right? Well, how about letting us move to SJ WHERE WE CAN BUILD A SHINY NEW STADIUM!!!!” (Cue “The Price is Right music)

All these desperate schemes will fail, as all of Wolff’s San Jose baseball stadium efforts have since he came on the scene 12 years ago.

Wolff seems unable to give up on his pipe dream of a San Jose ballpark. And he can’t be trusted with the task of building a successful new A’s ballpark because, while he submits sincere plans for San Jose, all he gives Oakland are flimsy schemes intended to fail.

This Athletics Magazine interview showed once again that the old A’s ballpark will never be replaced until Wolff is replaced — with a new owner willing to work with Oakland.