Oakland Athletics: 1996 A’s of Las Vegas
Cashman Field Was the Home Field for the Oakland Athletics at the Start of the 1996 Season
With the Oakland Coliseum still undergoing stadium renovations in spring 1996, taking away the once-beautiful view of the Oakland hills to be replaced by the monstrosity now known as Mount Davis, there was growing concern by MLB officials over whether the Coliseum would be in shape for baseball when the Oakland Athletics’ season began.
When the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995, they played their season under the vintage football set-up at the stadium. When the season ended, construction started on the then 30-year-old facility in January 1996. It was a given that Mt. Davis wouldn’t be completed for the start of the 1996 Oakland Athletics season. Since the $100 million overhaul was taking place beyond a newly configured “jagged edge” outfield fence, Coliseum and baseball officials believed that the regular season would start on-time, and that the construction would be nothing more than a little annoyance and would not interfere with the game conditions.
When March arrived, it was evident that more time was needed before the Coliseum would be baseball-ready. As the A’s faced the possibility of playing their initial home series on the road -against East Coast teams – or going to New Orleans to play at the Super Dome, the team looked for another option to call home for its Opening Day games.
Enter the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and its successful pitch to have the Athletics play at Cashman Field, a 9,334 seat stadium home to the Padres Triple-A club, the Las Vegas Stars.
As if it was its own April Fool’s Day joke, the Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays actually opened the 1996 regular season on April 1 in Las Vegas in front of 7,294 fans. Of course, in Vegas style, there was a pre-game ceremony that featured an Elvis impersonator delaying the official start time. With lined outfield walls, poor lighting, and cozy clubhouses, the 9-6 loss by the A’s marked the first major league game at a minor league park since Sept. 3, 1957, when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 3-2, in 12 innings at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, N.J.
In the first six games the Athletics played in the light desert air, the A’s went 2-4 with a Blue Jays’ two-game sweep, followed by a four-game split against the Detroit Tigers – so they certainly hoped what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. As Sports Illustrated’s Gerry Callahan put it, the one-armed bandits in town were the A’s pitching staff, who gave up a total of 43 runs on 64 hits, including 13 homers.
“Gallagher, who was appearing at the Sands, didn’t make this much of a mess,” Callahan wrote in the April 15 edition. “After six games, the Oakland staff’s ERA read like a special price for a prime rib dinner – 6.00.”
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On April 19, after AL president Gene Budig toured the still-under-construction Coliseum and declared it fit – barely – for play, the Oakland Athletics belatedly returned home, playing their first true home games after opening the 1996 season in Las Vegas. With girders being craned and welding still being done past the outfield, in an appropriate gesture, the A’s gave fans at the opener a plastic hard hat – a reminder that the projected mid-August completion date was still far away.