An Ode To “The Last Dive Bar” and Its Die-hards

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

4/03/2023 addition: Bryan Johansen and “The Last Dive Bar” commented on the company’s philanthropic efforts.

Oakland’s Coliseum may not be a crown jewel, but to many, it is much more than that

The sun might be setting forever on professional baseball in Oakland and it is gearing up to be a potentially ugly exit as the past few years have not been pretty for the Oakland Athletics or their fans.

Off the field, the Athletics’ front office is deep in stadium negotiations for a new waterfront ballpark in the city. However, the Oakland A’s and MLB have also considered an alternate path that would lead the A’s to follow in the same footsteps as the Raiders when they relocated to Las Vegas; a move that appears more and more likely each day. 

On the field, the Athletics find themselves amidst yet another rebuilding period. These so-called “rebuilds” are turbulent periods that all MLB teams and fans must endure. However, the Athletics’ microscopic budget has made rebuilding a necessary yet devastating part of their identity, spurring a vicious cycle for the Oakland team. As a result, the A’s repeatedly see short intervals of success, immediately followed by long periods of star-stripped rosters and last-place finishes. 

While fans have become accustomed to the ebbs and flows that are synonymous with Oakland Athletics baseball on and off the field, one thing has remained constant over the past 55 years – the Coliseum.

The Coliseum has been home to the A’s since their 1968 move from Kansas City, Missouri to Oakland. The landmark baseball field has been the site of many historical highs for the Bay Area team: from perfect games and no-hitters; to all-star games and World Series Championships. Despite its rich history, the Coliseum is still a far cry from any baseball cathedral, bearing the brunt of justified criticism for the stadium’s neglected state. Old, bland, tired, charmless, an overall dump — is the common reception of the Oakland Athletics’ home due to the lack of renovations made to the otherwise concrete cavern of 55 years. 

To A’s fans and myself, however, the Coliseum is anything but a concrete cavern, nor is it just a ballpark. To us, it is home. 

What may seem like an eyesore to others is a homely feature that is near and dear to my heart. The Coliseum’s iconic bridge is one such feature — a bridge that every young A’s fan takes the pilgrimage across. The pilgrimage starts at the Coliseum BART stop, where the rookie then travels across the caged bridge, all while warding off ticket scalpers and knock-off merchandise salesmen before it opens up to reveal the mammoth concrete walls of the Coliseum where you will escape from reality for the next three hours. If you are lucky, you will hear the sweet sounds of  “Celebration” after an A’s win, as has remained custom for 42 years, while everyone funnels back across the bridge and back onto the BART platform. The ringing tune of “Celebration” and the swirling aromas of beer, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and marijuana fuse to produce an intoxicating yet homey feel. 

Many people see the exposed concrete at the Coliseum as grim and unsightly, though I believe that it gives the Coliseum character and embodies the Oakland A’s spirit of grunge, grit, and unrelenting determination on the field. Always the underdogs, the A’s find a way to grind out wins regardless of circumstance. 

Even with its towering and ominous concrete walls, the Coliseum is inviting with its mysterious authenticity. The stadium doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither do the fans, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves. You can beat your drums, ring your cowbells, wave your flags, and even go around in a propeller hat and play your banjo (shoutout to Banjo Man) and no one will bat an eye. No matter what life you lead outside the Coliseum walls, the stadium embraces all, producing a uniquely fun atmosphere that beckons you to take in a game of America’s pastime. 

While I may harbor some favoritism as a lifelong supporter of the team, I truly believe that Oakland A’s fans are the best in baseball. I have been to games at the Coliseum with a roaring crowd of over 54 thousand people and games with intimate crowds of less than five thousand, and one group stays loyal through and through: the bleacher creatures and their drums, showing up in droves to support their local team. 

Among the most devoted of the bleacher creatures are the Oakland 68s and, most notably, Will MacNeil — aka “Right Field Will” — who has been an avid fan of the team since 2005 and has since become the face of the right field section. Along with Will, the right field crew brings the sport to life by filling the stadium with their drums, cowbells, and their unique player chants.  

Across the diamond is the Last Dive Bar crew rooted in left field, who bring extravagant signs to show their support to the A’s during games and host their own theme nights at the ballpark. 

The fandom doesn’t stop at the bleachers, however. Whether there are 50 thousand or five thousand fans, you can find fans with a deep-rooted passion for Athletics baseball. They are what makes Oakland baseball and the Coliseum special.

Long time A’s fan and co-owner of “The Last Dive Bar,” Bryan Johansen and his team have created a brand to bring the die-hard spirit of the team and the Coliseum to the masses through t-shirts, pins, and everything in between. Johansen, who has been coming to the Coliseum since the late 1980s has seen a lot of A’s baseball and sums up the allure of the Coliseum perfectly: “The Coliseum represents my time with my father…time with my son. It’s cracker jacks and peanuts, cotton candy, and an ice-cold soda. The Coliseum is beautiful!”

According to Johansen, him and “The Last Dive Bar” have collectively donated over $130,000 to local charities, community events, and shows since 2020.

As the countdown continues to tick on the Athletics’ time in the Coliseum, it is important to reminisce about the many cherished memories the old ballpark has brought to you and your loved ones. Though the Coliseum may not be a shiny ballpark with state-of-the-art amenities, the stadium delivers on exactly what you came there to do: watch a ballgame, be with friends, be with family, and escape from everyday life.

Whenever I hear the heartbeat-like drums of Oakland Athletics baseball and the “Let’s Go Oakland” ringing throughout the Coliseum, I am reminded that I’m home. When the season comes around, I encourage you to grab your closest friends and family, head out to the Last Dive Bar, and enjoy a game at our concrete cavern that we call home because there are only so many left.