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.
Copies of ‘stAy’ can be bought online at the following websites. Click on the them to buy:
Small Press Distribution
E.M. Wolfman Bookstore