LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Bob Costas, the prolific broadcaster known as one of the most recognizable voices in sports, says the Athletics’ forthcoming move from Oakland to Las Vegas is a historic one.
“It almost seems as if it’s a fait accompli. They’ve purchased the acreage necessary, they can build a new stadium, every circumstance that would send them away from Oakland is in place,” said Costas, adding that the blame for the Athletics’ departure from Oakland likely lies on both the sides of the ball club and the city.
However, Costas says the current iteration of the A’s is not meant to compete.
“The team is terrible. They’ve gutted the roster, where once with limited resources, they were able to compete,” he said. “That’s what Moneyball was all about.”
The 2011 film tells the tale of the 2001 Athletics and their quest to use advanced analytics to overcome financial discrepancies and put a championship team on the field. Costas thinks that a new stadium and new start in Las Vegas may bring a number of upsides to the struggling team.
“If they have smart management, they can become competitive pretty quickly,” Costas said.
The A’s will hold the distinction of being the only franchise in Major League history to have been called by the same name in four different cities, Costas said.
“I can’t even think of another team that has been in three cities. Lots of teams have moved, you know, Dodgers and Giants and whatnot. But the A’s started in Philadelphia, and once had a powerhouse team under Connie Mack and then they went lousy,” said Costas.
He recounted the history of the Athletics, with a subpar record for the ball club in their stint in Kansas City, before heading to Oakland and winning three straight World Series with Reggie Jackson in the 1970s. Costas says he feels for Oakland sports fans.
“They lost the Raiders multiple times, and now they’re in Vegas seemingly, permanently,” said Costas. “The Warriors are still proximate but they used to be right there in Oakland. Now they’re across the bay in San Francisco.”
Costas says the stigma associated with Las Vegas and sports has not just been removed but reversed.
“Pro sports were always very reluctant to be directly associated with Vegas because of the gambling aspect,” said Costas. “But now all sports have embraced gambling because once it’s become legal in most places around the United States, the revenue source is just too great for them to ignore.”
One other factor that would have been limiting for sports fans in Las Vegas would be the heat. The Las Vegas valley can become quite hot in the summer. Costas says a retractable dome is the only way to go for Major League baseball in southern Nevada.
“And it’s got to be a retractable dome because you’re gonna have some nice days, but when it’s sweltering hot, people aren’t going to come to the ballpark if they have to suffer through that,” said Costas.
One of Costas’ most memorable Athletics moments was theatrical, although one in which the A’s did not prevail: Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run in game one of the 1988 World Series.
Costas recounts the Dodgers’ underdog status against the powerful Oakland team that had won the first of three straight pennants.
“Then comes Dennis Eckersley to protect a one-run lead,” Costas remembered. “Eckersley was just about untouchable. Best reliever in baseball at that time.”
Costas said that Gibson wasn’t expected to play in that game due to injuries.
“It was like Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs and The Natural. It wasn’t a bullet wound but it was certainly multiple leg injuries,” recalls Costas.
He says the moment was one that couldn’t be replicated.
“He hit the ball out of the park, and that moment still resonates for all of us who were in the ballpark, especially that night. Wasn’t a great A’s moment, though,” said Costas.