A’s deploy secret weapon in the war against flocks of brazen seagulls – The Mercury News


If you’ve been to an A’s game — or a Giants, Raiders or 49ers game — you’ve seen them. You’ve heard them. They may have driven you to cover, or to the dry cleaner.

What is it Mark Twain once said? “Everybody talks about the seagulls, but nobody does anything about them.”

The A’s are doing something about them.

Seagulls have long been a presence (and nuisance) at Bay Area sporting events, intuitively timing their entrance for the ninth inning and fourth quarter, the better to feed off discards.

“I’m amazed by their clocks,” said A’s public address announcer Dick Callahan, who from his booth in the Oakland Coliseum has a bird’s-eye view of the gulls. “If the American public was more like the seagulls, we’d have a more punctual society.”

If there were fewer seagulls creating Hitchcockian tableaus at the end of a game, fans and players would be grateful. A few of those fans contacted A’s president Dave Kaval, who in early June announced a plan for a seagull solution.

Before the end of June, a kite named Falcon McFalconface (named by a poll administered by the A’s) was flying above section 317 in the upper deck. As you might expect, he has a Twitter account. One of his first observations:

Is he helping? He’d better, said Callahan, who observes that the seagulls seem more numerous and territorial this year.

“There are more of them, and they are more brazen,” Callahan said, “and I think they actually received some form of schooling on dive bombing. I find it amazing that we haven’t seen a player have to clean himself off.”

We hasten to point out that gate-crashing seagulls, scrounging for popcorn and Cracker Jack, aren’t just a Bay Area phenomenon. In fact, there are two documented incidents in which fine-feathered scavengers paid for their hungerlust with their lives. On Aug. 4, 1983 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto — home of the Blue Jays — Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield tossed a ball to the bullpen after between-innings warm-up tosses. His throw bounced once and fatally struck a seagull.

Toronto fans booed Winfield. Yankees manager Billy Martin scotched suggestions from bird-brains that the seagull had been hit on purpose, saying, “That’s the first time Winfield’s hit the cutoff man all year.”

On March 24, 2001, during an exhibition game in Arizona, Randy Johnson fired a pitch that struck a bird in flight, causing it to explode into a cloud of feathers. The bird was believed to have been a dove. But how can anyone be sure when the victim is taken away in a dustpan?

Maybe there’s safety in numbers. Kezar Stadium was renowned for the squadrons of gulls that would swoop in late in 49ers games, sometimes standing unruffled on the field while play continued just a few yards away. Seagulls took instantly to AT&T Park when it opened in 2000, arriving punctually just before the end of a game. Intuition? Maybe not.

Speaking to KQED in 2011, then-Giants vice president of ballpark operations George Costa said: “They’re creatures of habit. They know where food is, and that crowds mean food.”

Said broadcaster Mike Krukow: “If you were a gull, where would you be?”

Not to downplay the brazen attitude displayed by the Oakland gulls, but their AT&T brethren are cut-throat. Some have scars and missing body parts. They’ll play for keeps over a pinto bean from a cha-cha bowl.

Callahan can’t tell if the faux falcon is having a deterrent effect on the birds. But the unique move is further proof of Kaval’s knack for keeping the A’s in the communal discussion despite the team’s poor record. Speaking of, if they decide to name a second kite, I got dibs on Home Wren Baker.

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