Oakland A’s Go Back to the Future with Finleyballesque Free Tickets for All

Baseball: World Series: Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley (green suit) in stands during game vs Cincinnati Reds. Game 5. Oakland, CA 10/20/1972 CREDIT: Walter Iooss Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X17185 TK5 )

Thirty-nine years to the day that 653 fans paid for seats and just 250 showed up to an A’s game at the Oakland Coliseum, the team offers fans a chance to attend a game for free.

The Oakland A’s host the Chicago White Sox at 7:05 p.m. Pacific on April 17, 2018. Both teams dwell in the cellar of their respective divisions this season, so the game looks like a tough sell. But priced right at free, 35,000+ tickets now look to “sell” out.

Even in the reconfigured McAfee Coliseum with blocked off sections, the A’s rarely fill to capacity. They average attendance of 18,257 per game this season, which amounts to about a half-filled park that looks even more empty given the massive size of the multipurpose stadium.

In addition to occurring on the ignominious anniversary, next season’s freebie game comes fifty years to the day that the A’s debuted in Oakland. Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Gene Tenace, and others in their motley crew soon won the city’s hearts and their newly carved division—the American League West—between 1971 and 1975, capturing three consecutive World Series titles in the process. The A’s now finds themselves in a familiar spot, last—where the team finished last year and the season before.

But next season’s giveaway celebrates the team’s fiftieth anniversary in the most fitting way possible, with an outside-the-box gimmick. The late owner Charlie Finley once provided gratis tickets to any ladies wearing hot pants and gave financial rewards to players wearing imaginative mustaches.

Though some of Finley’s ideas never caught on, e.g., a petting zoo in Kansas City and quickly quashed gold bases in Oakland, the franchise forged an identity as a trendsetter: the first team placing a woman in the announcing booth, the first team wearing colored road uniforms, and, alas, the first small-market team finding its star-studded roster raided by wealthier owners in bigger cities.

Hope springs eternal, and fans hope next spring’s freebie becomes an eternal hardball tradition throughout the major leagues. The odds seem about as good as the A’s winning another World Series in 2018.