Last Dive Bar: How A’s Fans are Turning Loyalty into Charity
One of the best stories in baseball, the A's faithful behind "The Last Dive Bar" have taken their passion and aimed it towards a good cause.
Dive bars are rarely nice. Typically consisting of a stale smell, sticky floors and furniture almost as old as the patrons that sit on it. But what dive bars lack in style, they make up for in community.
There is something authentic that is hard to put into words when it comes to the aesthetics of a good dive bar. Something you cannot replicate but a feeling and sense of belonging built through time and shared experiences lived in those weathered grounds.
When I first heard of the Last Dive Bar, I knew I needed to learn more about what this Oakland A’s fan site was all about. On the surface, Last Dive Bar was simply a website that sold fan inspired A’s gear. T-shirts with the famous trough toilets from the Coliseum. Unique designs outlining the history and inside jokes of the Athletics. But it is much more than that.
I sat down with Bryan Johansen, one of the founders, and had him tell me the story of what exactly last dive bar is. Johansen, born in Hayward, California, started going to A’s games with his father in the 80’s. As we speak he is in front of a background of thousands of Oakland A’s lapel pins sparkling with green and gold, each telling a unique story of the player and events that make up Oakland’s rich history. Pins given to him as a child while attending games now paint the walls of his basement with a memory attached to each.
“Well, Last Dive Bar all started with an internet bromance I had with with Ramon Laureano in 2019.” Johansen said. “The A’s led the league in hit by pitch and Ramon was hit by a pitch, the camera turned to me as I shouted “What the Fuck! Which quickly turned into a meme.”
“Next thing you know my buddy Paul made a website called WTFbryan and someone asked for a t-shirt. That gave us an idea to print shirts of A’s twitter memes and we started making money.”
Once the money started coming in, Johansen and the two other members of the Last Dive Bar (Paul and Carl) knew they had to put it to good use. Their solution? Donating all proceeds to the A’s Community Fund.
In just two years, they have donated over $80,000 back to the community.
“It’s just a way to express our creative passion for the Oakland A’s.” Johansen said. “The act of doing something for someone else and making a difference, the feeling you get from that, it outweighs any monetary value you can receive.”
As you can imagine, the charitable acts were quickly noticed by the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics have worked closely with the Last Dive Bar to help them succeed and continue to make an impact on the community.
“It’s trust. The team knows we are not going to do anything to tarnish their reputation. By shinning a light on us they know the money will go back into the community. We’re about celebrating being a fan and celebrating the memories created at the Coliseum.”
Johansen noticed an individual placed a large order from their “Ray Fosse Tribute Collection”. Intrigued, Johansen reached out to the individual and learned her father, also named Ray, had recently passed during the exact time of the Ray Fosse ceremony in August of 2022.
“I reached out to the A’s to see if there was anything they could do for this fan. Without hesitation the provided 28 tickets with parking passes for her and all of her family to attend a game.” In addition, the Last Dive Bar donated $1,000 in his name. A t-shirt purchased to remember turned into a day they would never forget.
Although it started with T-shirts, Last Dive Bar has grown into more than just that. They organize community events, pregame events, and theme nights each Friday to add to the fun and raise more money for charity.
“Charlie Finley (Former A’s Owner) was a showman. Crazy George (George Henderson) invented the wave during an A’s game.” Finley treated the ballpark like a circus, and the theme nights keep that history alive.
Theme nights include western night, rock and roll night, pride night, and wrestling night. I had to see this for myself. While in California this past September, I made my way to the Coliseum to experience the “Bowtie affair” theme night.
September 23rd, Oakland A’s versus the New York Mets. A couple hundred million dollar National League team against a last place, $50 million team. Two teams who could not be more opposites.
As I entered the Coliseum, I could see why “The Last Dive Bar” fits. The name was coined in a New York Times article by Jack Nicas in 2019. The massive stadium looks like it was built for anything other than baseball. Your shoes stick to the concrete with each step and you are left wondering just what combination produces the unique stench in the air. But at the same time, it had a certain charm. The type of charm you got from your first car, a 15-year-old, beat-up, hand-me-down.
I made my way out to center field where the Last Dive Bar sits for each game. That’s where I met Bryan. His white shirt and top hat where the only things brighter than his smile. A walking cane perfectly accompanied his A’s themed tuxedo t-shirt.
I quickly learned his charity was not just an online façade. He quickly gifted me a green bowtie and two lapel pins. One of the bowtie, and of course, one of the man who helped start it all, Ramon Laureano.
After chatting with Bryan and various other members of the Last Dive Bar I realized this had nothing to do with baseball. Their actions and motivation all come from doing whatever they can to help better the life’s of others.
A few other examples of the Last Dive Bar’s Charity:
Wins and losses will all be forgotten. But the impact an online community is having in Oakland will live on forever.