My family is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. My parents and my older brother left there and landed in L.A., as a lot of families do, and that’s where my older sister was born, in ‘76. Later, my dad found work in Oakland through his family connections at a factory that made keys, which was right by the Coliseum. So they moved up north to Oakland, and that’s where I was born. 

This story is part of Amplify Oakland, our series of first-person stories shared by Oaklanders in their own words. Read more.

Everything in Oakland was kind of new for my mom and dad. My dad was in and out of the household until he eventually left when I was around 13. My mom and older brother were left to take care of us three kids, and we moved around a lot. We went from North Oakland to West Oakland and finally to East Oakland, over by 102nd Avenue and Walnut. I like to say that when I was going to school I would always see Keak da Sneak and 3X Krazy rapping in the street. I don’t know, I could be wrong, but that’s my memory. 

Being in East Oakland I was also close to the Coliseum. And my dad, at the time, was still part of our family and he took me to A’s games. He and my older brother had fallen in love with baseball because of Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican pitcher for the Dodgers. When they moved to Oakland, they chose the A’s as their home team. I saw my first game around ‘90 or ‘91 and that was the beginning for me.

Growing up and going to OUSD schools in East Oakland, there were days I would take a “wrong turn”—just ditch school and go to an A’s game. I remember the Dennis Eckersley giveaways, and I remember walking up from the BART bridge. From there you could look into the stadium and see the field. That was before Mount Davis went up. The same stories you hear about Ricky Henderson and Dave Stewart (who both spent childhood years in Oakland and later starred for the A’s)—that’s exactly what we would do. We’d sneak in or know someone who worked with the A’s and sneak in. 

Walking up to the Coliseum in those days, it looked like a shining diamond just glowing in your face. Back then, there was a metal fence with green strips and you could peek through it and see down to the grass where the players were warming up. I can remember seeing Stan Javier, Rickey Henderson, and Mark McGwire. I remember the smell of the Coliseum during the summer—fresh-cut grass, and hotdogs. The buzz of the people back then was just amazing to me as a kid.

I have so many good memories. I remember the “Dollar Wednesday” tailgates that we used to have in Coliseum the parking lot. This is when I was about 18 and in high school. Tailgating is such a culture here. There would be live bands and DJs before the games. I even met my wife in the Coliseum bleachers during an A’s game, when (lucky for me) she butted into a conversation I was having with another fan.

“Walking up to the Coliseum in those days, it looked like a shining diamond just glowing in your face.”

Jorge Leon, Oakland ’68s

My favorite baseball memory is probably in 2012 when the Oakland A’s clinched the American League West on the last game of the season. Especially because no one knew how good that team was. Also, we’d become good friends that season with the A’s right fielder at that time, Josh Reddick. Throughout the year, we would just yell back and forth to each other when he was in the outfield. Then we began to connect on Twitter and ended up becoming friends, and we’re still friends to this day. When the A’s won that game, it was the first time ever that a player came all the way out to the bleachers and sprayed us with champagne. You don’t see that in baseball a lot—you see it more in soccer—so it was pretty cool.

Sitting in the bleachers at the Coliseum ever since I was a young person, I started to feel a sense of camaraderie. And it just snowballed into this thing that eventually became the Oakland ‘68s. We chose the name Oakland ‘68s because the A’s moved to Oakland from Kansas City in 1968. Also, the summer Olympics that year in Mexico City had such a significant impact on social movements, hence our logo that reflects the font used for those games. We’re known now mostly as the fan group that plays drums and waves flags in the right-field bleachers, and we have over 70 members. 

Above: Members of the Oakland ’68s in the right field bleachers at the Oakland Coliseum at an A’s game earlier this year. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Leon

Above: Members of the Oakland ’68s, a non-profit, independent fan group supporting the Oakland A’s baseball team, have a tailgate party before a game in Oakland, Calif. on Apr. 18, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

The Oakland ‘68s weren’t always as organized as we are now. In addition to baseball, I’m a huge fan of soccer. And in that sport, you have supporters groups—they’re like official fan groups that follow their teams and are loyal, no matter what. In the English Premier League—the top soccer league—clubs are even required to meet with fan representatives. Can you believe that? So we started talking about how cool it would be to have something like that for the A’s. 

At the time, I was already part of an organization called the Green Stampede. They brought OUSD students to A’s games and helped them with tutoring and homework before and after the games. I’d first gotten connected with them through a teacher from Oakland who saw me during a day game at the Coliseum, cutting class. Later, I went on to serve for a while as the group’s president. Because of that experience, I came to see the potential for the Oakland ‘68s to be not only a fan club but a group of community leaders and organizers for the team we love. 

“To put it in baseball terms, I feel like it’s the ninth inning, there are two outs, we’re down by four runs, the bases are loaded, and Terrence Long is batting. We’re not completely out of it—but it’s not looking good.” 

Jorge Leon, Oakland ’68s

That’s why today, the Oakland ‘68s are also involved in helping the community through volunteer efforts like food drives and community cleanups. A few years after adopting the name Oakland ‘68s, we officially became our own nonprofit in 2020. We like to think that we’re kind of a union for Oakland A’s fans. We even have a line of communication with the front office of the Oakland A’s, and we’ve consulted with them in the past on things like fan engagement. Although the relationship has been a little rocky lately, with all the talk of a move.

Even though I knew it was a possibility, when the news came out late on Wednesday night about the A’s committing to Las Vegas, it was a shock. A part of me was like, fuck ‘em, they can leave. But another part of me couldn’t sleep. You can’t just erase decades of fandom. Then I woke up Thursday and the first thing I thought was, we’ve been here before—in 2011 with Cisco Field in San Jose, where the A’s were supposedly going. To put it in baseball terms, I feel like it’s the ninth inning, there are two outs, we’re down by four runs, the bases are loaded, and Terrence Long is batting. We’re not completely out of it—but it’s not looking good. 

The A’s have been trying to move for as long as I can remember, which is probably when Ken Hoffman and Stephen Schott owned the team. There was talk of moves to Santa Clara, San Jose, and Fremont when Lew Wolfe co-owned the team. There were even rumors of going to Denver with owner Charlie Finley back in the day, which my older friends can remember. When the team was discussing a move to the South Bay, I wrote a paper in high school about why the A’s should stay in Oakland, because it was such a big, big deal. And I can’t believe that we’re still dealing with this right now. I feel burnt out—I really truly feel like I don’t know what to do.

As a fan, I just feel like the Coliseum needs a big hug. With or without our teams, the Coliseum is our palace. As for the Oakland ‘68s, we all agreed to email the A’s to let them know we’ll be grabbing our drums from storage. We’ll be doing that this week before the team comes home. We’re going to halt the drumming. We’re still friends with some of the ushers at the ballpark though, and we want to see them. So we’ll attend the games, but we’ll probably just wear black and not make any noise. 

A lot of people are blaming the city of Oakland. And there’s a lot of blame to go around. But I don’t think it’s mostly the city’s fault. I think it’s more like 20% city, 20% county, and 10% California—because it’s really difficult to get things built here. But the biggest piece, that other 50%, is on the Oakland A’s. If they really wanted to be here, they would make it work. Why is it that we have to give so much money to a big business like the A’s to get something done? When we can’t even provide resources to smaller businesses? I guess it’s just the American way. Give everything to a billionaire, and nothing to the people.