Game 71 wrapup: Sewage leak could spur substantive movement on new A’s stadium

In for John Hickey, who missed all of Sunday’s fun …

Lew Wolff has to be leaping in the air and clicking his heels after Sunday. His team is leading the American League West by three games. Bartolo Colon is making a serious bid for an All-Star Game spot. The A’s rolled out 17 hits, including four home runs, in a 10-2 romp over Seattle before  sellout crowd of 36,067 at the Coliseum.

But the best gift of all to Wolff was the most powerful — and most powerful smelling — development that came afterward, when the A’s came bounding into their clubhouse to discover that a raw sewage leak had been pouring out the shower drains for nearly the entire game. The geysers of watery waste not only erupted in Oakland’s clubhouse. but the visiting clubhouse and umpire’s dressing room as well.

The A’s and Mariners had to seek higher ground a level up and shower together in the Oakland Raiders’ locker room. The umpires and members of the Seattle coaching staff left the park without showering at all. According to an Associated Press report, Seattle manager Eric Wedge’s office was so deep in tainted sludge that he had to hold his postgame press conference in a nearby hallway. Somehow, the A’s coaches’ shower room was the only one in the bowels of the stadium not affected. Colon said he took his shower there.

A’s officials maintained that the sewage flood was caused by the overtaxing of the stadium’s aging drainage system during this homestand that was attended by more than 170,000 people, culminating with Sunday’s sellout. There have been sewage issues at the Coliseum in recent years, but according to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, this was the first major problem in the baseball clubhouses. Vucinich would know — he’s been working at the stadium, which opened in 1968, for 46 years.

In short, it was a mess and a stink that only figures to get messier and stinkier — figuratively speaking — in the coming days and weeks. News of the sewage leak prompted the expected flood of jokes among players and folks on Twitter, but in truth, this is no laughing matter. With any kind of sewage leak comes the potential for harmful bacteria and disease. Josh Reddick, for one, rescued his shower shoes from the muck, probably not the smartest thing to do. Vucinich said it was very likely that the carpets in the clubhouses would have to be ripped out and replaced while the A’s head out on a six-game, week-long road trip, and surely the whole lower level will have to be disinfected and then inspected by the health department.

Bottom line, at long last, Wolff has his lightning rod for movement on a new stadium. Mt. Davis and tarps are one thing. A faulty, decaying sewage system is quite another. Bud Selig surely will be appalled when he hears the details of Sunday’s postgame scene. He might even be pressed to act after 4-plus years of hemming and hawwing on the A’s stadium situation with his blue-ribbon panel and the whole territorial rights matter. This is a major wakeup call for the city of Oakland and Alameda County as well. If it wants to keep the A’s, it needs to act — now. Major League Baseball needs to act — now.

A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin threw the obvious against the wall in surveying the disgusting evidence: “Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing. We need to get a new stadium.”

Getting the news out won’t be a problem. It was spreading faster than the leak itself — and around the country — within hours of its discovery. Count on Wolff using the development, as he should, to force some long-needed action. If any more evidence was needed, the Coliseum just got flushed as a major sports venue Sunday, at least for baseball anyway.






Carl Steward