One of the great home run hitters of his era and gave one of the first real threats to breaking Babe Ruth's 60 home run record when he hit 58 homers in 1932. A vital part of the 1929 and 1930 World Champion A's teams, he was the basis for Tom Hanks' character in A League of Their Own. No word if he felt there was crying in baseball.
On a team filled with Hall of Famers and World Championship expectations, it was Bando who was the team captain. He wasn't as flashy or flamboyant as Reggie, Catfish, Rollie or Vida... but his hard nosed play and clutch hits set the pace of the clubhouse.
He wasn't as successful as the GM for the Brewers and now the tough as nails captain of the most bad ass team of the 1970s makes dolls.
Next week Rickey Henderson will be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame... which means he must have stopped playing. He had 4 tours of duty with the A's, winning one of his two World Series rings and he lead the league in stolen bases with the A's as far back as 1980 and as recently as 1998.
But I can't be the only one looking forward to his acceptance speech. "Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and all of them were great players... but today I am the greatest of all time!"
How awesome was Lefty Grove? He struck out the side twice in his career on 9 pitches.
I've only seen Bugs Bunny do that! When you start bringing up Bugs Bunny in a comparison, you know you are awesome. Actually only Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan have struck out the side on 9 pitches twice as well. Good company to be in. Not as good as Bugs, though.
NOW we are talking about a cool nickname! I don't know what is cooler...
1. A's owner Charlie O. Finley felt that Jim Hunter was too boring a name so he called him Catfish and created a backstory where he got the name after he ran away from home to go fishing (a story that was a total fabrication.)
2. Hunter went along with it.
Either way, Finley was right. Jim Hunter would have been a great Hall of Fame starting pitcher no matter what. But we remember him more because of his cool nickname.
Look, Moneyball was a good read. And Billy Beane did a darn good job keeping the A's competitive and in the playoffs all of those years.
But before everyone declares him a genius and writes books about him and casts Brad Pitt to play him, the A's were playing in October not because they worshipped the walk and picked up players like Scott Hatteberg.
They were in October because they had three ace caliber starting pitchers in Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Hudson was the best of them all and the most consistent regular season winner.
I wonder who they are going to get to play him in the movie.
I really really REALLY wanted to put either Mark Mulder or Barry Zito in the rotation.
But how could I deny Hall of Famer Chief Bender? He was a pitching star for 5 pennant winners and three World Series titles. He out dueled Christy Mathewson twice in the 1911 World Series and threw a third complete game that series to clinch it.
A member of the Ojibwa tribe, he would fight back against racial taunts by yelling "You Foreigners!"
OK, I'm stretching a little here... but Rommel was a great pitcher and twice led the league in relief wins. Also he was the winning pitcher out of the bullpen in that wild 10-8 game in the 1929 World Series that I talked about last October.
Later he became an umpire in the majors and I'm sure would throw that in the face of pitchers who questioned his calls.
"Hey, when YOU have two 20 win seasons, maybe you'll get these calls. Let me think... which one of us has two 20 win seasons and a World Series ring? Hmmm. Oh yeah! It's ME! So shut your pie hole!"
In New York it would be pronounced "HOW-ston Street." Yeah he is best remembered for serving up that series ending tater to Magglio Ordonez to get the ghosts of 2006 a fluttering.
But he had a good Rookie of the Year season in 2005 and kept the Merry Go Round of closers from spinning for a few years. Plus he closed the only post season series won by a Billy Beane team. (The 2006 Division Series.) That should count for something.
Todd Burns was a nice middle reliever who also had some success as a starter when he came up midway through the 1988 season. (He threw 10 innings in his second start!) He got to play in three World Series and got a ring along the way.
But I remember two established TV announcers lavishing just a little too much praise on him.
Monte Moore, the A's TV announcer, was calling one of his early games when he was 5-1 and said "You have to call Todd Burns one of the best pitchers in baseball."
Really? He wasn't even the 4th best pitcher on his own team!
And in the 1988 World Series, Tony LaRussa brought in Burns to throw the last out of the top of the 9th of the last game. Basically it was some garbage time mercy.
When Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola were doing the wrap up of the series, Joe focused on the garbage time appearance. It was a nice moment, but I think I would have spent more time talking about Gibson's homer and Hershiser's heroics and the unlikely cast of characters who won it for Dodgers. Could be just me.
When Vida Blue was recalled from the minor leagues in 1970, his second start he threw a 1 hit complete game shutout. His fourth start he threw a no hitter.
If Vida did that with the Red Sox now, they would shut him down for the season. If Vida did that with the Yankees now, they'd have long debates about whether or not he belongs in the bullpen.
But in Oakland in the 1970s, they put him in the rotation where he won the Cy Young and the MVP in his first full season in the bigs and became a frequent 20 game winner.
So why is he in the bullpen here? Well 3 reasons:
1) He pitched out of the pen in the 1972 ALCS and World Series out of the bullpen, getting saves in both series (including Game 5 of the ALCS which clinched the A's first trip to the World Series since 1931)
For anyone who still does Ham Radio, call sign NK7U will get you a 2 time MVP runner up who made one of the most memorable catches in World Series history and hit a home run that put the A's in front for good in the clinching game of the 1974 World Series.
That's right... Joe Rudi is on ham radio.
I won't cast stones. No doubt in a generation, bloggers will be given the same regard as a ham radio enthusiast.
Man I hated Canseco when he was a player... and that's what made him so much fun. You need a good bad guy in sports. You need someone that people will boo because you know he can beat you at any point.
Canseco played that to a tee and seemed to revel in it... until he saw Mark McGwire get all the credit for saving the game of baseball and Canseco decided to be Herb Stemple to McGwire's Charles Van Doren. But I said all of that already.
After everything in his book turned out to be true we can call Canseco the Cassandra of baseball.
Then again, did Cassandra have a 40/40 season, pick up 2 rings, shack up with Madonna back when that meant something and appear on every single reality show known to man?
Gene Tenace? I know of all of my picks I will get the most flack for this pick. "Where's Tim Hudson?" "Where's Jason Giambi?" "Where's Barry Zito?" "Where's Mark Mulder?" "Where's Eric Chavez?" "How about Dwayne Murphy?"
Oh I am sure I am leaving out a bunch of great players.
But if you've read any Sully Baseball before, you know I weigh heavily on people who came up big in the big game. And when the A's faced the Reds in the 1972 World Series, they would be big underdogs if they were completely healthy.
But when Reggie Jackson hurt his hamstring in the ALCS against the Tigers, they were missing one of their biggest power sources and they looked like they were going to get trounced. Tenace, who had hit 5 homers in the entire regular season, became the first person to ever hit two homers in his first two World Series at bats.
Not Babe Ruth. Not Jimmy Foxx. Not Hank Aaron. Not Frank Robinson. Gene Tenace.
In the end he hit 4 homers in the series... he nearly matched his regular season total! He would drive in 9 runs, bat .348 with an OPS of 1.313 in the series.
Folks... that's coming up big in the big game.
That's a heck of a squad. Anyone where I can leave off MVPs and Cy Young Winners has some serious depth.
Well we know that the A's have traded off a lot of talent over the years. Let's see what they got BACK!
Heath was hardly a spectacular catcher but he was a steady defensive player with some pop. Heath was the catcher on the 1981 Division Winner and handled the staff of McCatty, Norris, Keough and Langford as Billy Martin pitched them all into the ground.
I was originally going to put Ray Fosse on the team... but lining up the numbers and I saw Heath had better years in Oakland.
Another original Athletic, Davis left the National League team in Washington to join the 1901 A's. Later he became a solid hitter with a lot of speed and led the AL in home runs 4 straight seasons. (It was the dead ball era so the highest homer total he had was 12.) In the 1910 World Series he batted .353 in the A's win over the Cubs.
I'm sure Cubs fans thought "So what? We lost this series but we won just 2 years ago. We'll win another one." They are still waiting.
This is a classic "When in doubt, put in the Hall of Famer" decision. Best known for his time with the Phillies and the Indians, he joined the original A's team in 1901. He batted .426.
That first number is a 4. I don't care what era you are playing in... I don't care if they counted foul balls as hits (they didn't.) .426 is .426!
The NL and the AL weren't exactly playing nice then and the Phillies filed an injunction preventing LaJoie from playing for a different Philadelphia team. So the league declared him a free agent and he signed with the Indians. He would travel with the Indians but not play in Philadelphia to avoid getting arrested.
Eventually the NL and the AL played nice, but not before the league office forced the A's to lose a .426 hitter!
I tried to love Carney Lansford when he was with the Red Sox. Let me explain. My favorite player was Butch Hobson. He was the third baseman. He wore #4. When the Red Sox traded Butch to the Angels after the 1980 season, one of the players they got back was Carney Lansford.
He was the new third baseman. He wore #4.
And I tried to cheer for him as hard as I rooted for Butch. He even won a batting title his first year in Boston. But it didn't work. The name "Carney" wasn't as cool as "Butch."
Later when he was with the A's he made a run at .400. He was hitting .400 into June and people in the Bay Area wondered if he was going to enter Ted Williams territory. He didn't bat .400. He didn't bat .390. He didn't bat .350 He didn't bat .300. He didn't even bat .280. He finished .279.
Mitchell Page's Rookie year was as good a first year as you can imagine. The former Pirates farm hand hit, hit for power, stole bases... he looked like the electric new power on an A's team that had been stripped of its Championship aura.
On a game on April 13, 1977, Page homered twice and drove in 6 runs himself, upstaging a solid performance by former A's star Joe Rudi.
If the Red Sox got the final out in that 10th inning in 1986, then Dave Henderson would be one of the most worshipped figures in Boston sports history. Instead that honor went to Dave Roberts.
In 1987 when the Red Sox were bringing up Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Todd Benzinger and Sam Horn, we were all told that Hendu was a good defensive outfielder who happened to have hit a few homers... not a star. So when the Sox dealt him to the Giants for Randy Kutcher, I rationalized it thinking "Well, it's not like he's going to hit .304 with 24 homers, 94 RBI and come back to haunt the Red Sox in two different ALCS match ups!"
Little did I know... I was in Oakland when Henderson's 2 run homer off of Bob Stanley broke the Red Sox back in game 3 of the 1988 ALCS. There's something almost poetic about that it was off of Stanley... who couldn't hold the lead in 1986.
And why was Dave Henderson almost a God in Boston? Because he got to play and hit those key homers in the ALCS and World Series when Tony Armas got hurt.
Armas, who also came to Oakland from Pittsburgh with Mitchell Page, became an elite slugger in the early 1980s in Oakland, tying for the league lead in homers during the strike shortened 1981 season. His single put the A's up for good in the clinching third game of the 1981 Divisional Playoff against the Royals.
I think Dave Parker should get more Hall of Fame consideration. If you ask the Cobra, I bet he would agree.
His greatest years were with Pittsburgh but he had a good 1989 with the World Champion A's.
By the time he came to Oakland his hard living made him a little pudgy but still a fearsome hitter. When he circled the bases his fingers would be waggling as if he was the Steve Martin/Dan Aykroyd "Wild and Crazy Guy."
If I didn't hate the A's in the 1980s, I would have found it to be cool.
It's amazing who you can salvage from the waiver wire. Dave Stewart was 29 years old and having an unremarkable career. He got a World Series ring with the 1981 Dodgers but struggled in Texas and was cut by the Phillies when they were desperate for pitching in 1986. The A's picked up the Oakland native seeing if some home cooking could help.
I don't know what the A's thought the "best case scenario" would be for such a signing, but let's just say it worked out. He won 9 games in half a season in 1986. And then followed it up a startling run of four straight 20 win seasons and earned two post season MVP honors (including the 1989 World Series MVP.) All the while using one of the scariest scowls in baseball history to intimidate batters and became one of the great big game pitchers of the 1980s. Plus he was a model citizen, helping in charities, staying true to his roots and being the heart and soul of the A's franchise during their great late 1980s early 1990s run.
Safe to say, home cooking agreed with him.
RUBE WADDELL I defy you to find a stranger figure in baseball history than Rube Waddell. People who saw him pitch thought he was one of the greatest talents in the history of the game. He led the league in more categories and won games in a dominating fashion that he stood out in one of the great pitchers eras of all time.
And people wondered if he was autistic. Or a man child. Or mildly retarded. Or merely eccentric. Puppies and flashy objects would distract him on the mound. He would chase fire engines during a game. He wrestled gators. He lost track of who he was married to. All the while piling up 20 win seasons.
Today he would be analyzed until he was a boring every day pitcher. And I bet that would be when the 20 win seasons would end.
Even though the A's had Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue on their squad, it was Holtzman who was the game 1 starter in the 72, 73 and 74 World Series.
He won the openers in 72 and 73. He got a no decision in the 1974 opener but made up for it by smacking a homer in game 4. It was the last World Series homer by a pitcher until the 2008 series when Joe Blanton homered.
I wonder if that homer got Ken mad. Now there would be no reason to bring him up. Oh wait...he's still the last American League pitcher to homer!
Foulke only spent one season in Oakland... and it was a doozy. He went 9-1 with 43 saves and a 2.08 ERA for the 2003 AL West champion A's. He also got the A's to within 4 outs of the ALCS... but then David Ortiz drove home 2 runs against him in game 4.
Learning from the Eckersley mess, the Red Sox stole him via free agency in time to break a curse. Foulke evidently liked Oakland. He came out of retirement to pitch there in 2008.
I have a fascination with pitchers throwing the clinching pitch of a playoff series. Both Eckersley and Foulke have been the pitcher to clinch a World Series title. I bet you could have figured that out.
I bet you didn't know Darold Knowles did too. In fact he threw in all seven games of the 1973 World Series against the Mets. The very last managerial move Dick Williams made as manager of the A's was to bring in Knowles to relieve Rollie Fingers in the 9th inning of game 7 of the '73 Series.
Knowles got Wayne Garrett to pop up and end the Series, Knowles clinched it and manages to have that clinch the series fantasy fulfilled.
The A's found an Ace on the scrap heap with Dave Stewart. They found a bullpen closer when the Mets scrapped their plans for "Generation K."
Isringhausen was supposed to be part of the Mets answer to Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz. Instead he flopped... but it goes to show you that just because someone bombed on one team doesn't mean he can't shine elsewhere.
He became a 30 save a year guy in Oakland, being the closer for the 2000 and 2001 playoff teams before becoming a multimillionaire with a World Series ring in St. Louis.
I once interviewed for a television job and I was explaining how I have experience as a writer, a director, a producer, a field producer, a camera operator and as on camera talent.
I said "I'm basically like Tony Phillips." The guy understood. Put Phillips at second, at third, in the outfield, at lead off, in the heart of the line up... you name it. Phillips did it well. He was never spectacular but was reliable a jack of all trades as you could get. In the 1988 pennant winning season, he started 32 games at third, 27 games at second base, 24 games in left and 10 at shortstop. And played each position with intensity... kind of like me in television.
Zernial was a good power hitting outfielder in the 1940s and 1950s who was nicknamed Ozark Ike after a comic book that is no longer in print and was no doubt really terrible.
Zernial's strangest claim to fame was being part of a publicity photo with Marilyn Monroe. She was attending her first baseball game in New York and her press agents wanted her in a picture practicing a swing with one of the ballplayers.
With all of the legends and future Hall of Famers on the Yankees, naturally the press agent had her take the picture with Gus Zernial.
Today the scenario would be "Angelina Jolie is at her first ballgame getting batting tips from Matt Stairs."
Well that was the day that Joe DiMaggio met Marilyn and some of the reporters fabricated a story that Zernial introduced the two. Evidently this made DiMaggio angry at the implication that a pedestrian player would have access to Marilyn before him.
Gee, I wonder why that marriage didn't work.
Either way, Zernial was a good power hitter and as far as I know never went to bed with Marilyn Monroe.
My brother and I attended game 3 of the 1988 ALCS in Oakland. The Red Sox had lost the excruciating first two games in Fenway by one run each but looked like they were going to climb back into the series when they took a 5-0 lead in the second inning of game 3.
But the A's chipped away. First with a McGwire homer that I don't think landed yet. Then old friend Carney Lansford hit one out. Next thing you know 5-0 was 5-4 and it was only the third.
In the third the A's had up Jose Canseco, Dave Parker and Mark McGwire. It was critical to stop Oakland's momentum and maintain the slim lead. I said to my brother, "we need to get past these guys and we'll be fine."
Boddicker got Canseco and Parker out and nearly got McGwire out (he beat out an infield single.) Ron Hassey was up next. Once again I turned to my brother. "Don't worry. It's only Ron Hassey. He can't do any damage."
Just as I finished saying that sentence, Hassey hit a two run home run to give the A's the lead for good. The A's would never trail again in game 3 and they would never trail in game 4 for the sweep. Hassey's home run erased the last lead the 1988 Red Sox would ever have and the last chance for Jim Rice to ever get a World Series ring.
Billy Martin pitched 4 talented pitchers into the ground during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, derailing some potentially great careers. Ah well... as long as Billy battled those demons that's all that matters right?
I decided to honor at least one of them. Langford came over with Page and Armas in the Phil Garner deal with the Pirates. He was a 19 game winner and a Cy Young contender in 1980. 433 innings and 33 complete games over two seasons later, he was a 0 game winner in 1983 and 1984. His career ended with a horrific 1-10 season with the 1986 A's and was released as Tony LaRussa took over the club.
He had a nice four year run, but I guess this is why pitchers are put on pitch counts. I salute Langford (and McCatty, Norris, Keough and Kingman) as the aces that could have been.
WHO WOULD WIN IN A HEAD TO HEAD SERIES?
It's tough to pick against a team that starts Dave Stewart and closes with Dennis Eckersley. But as the 1988 Dodgers, 1990 Reds and 1992 Blue Jays showed, they can be beat.
The depth of the home grown team's rotation (Vida Blue out of the pen!) the power in the lineup (Reggie protecting Jimmy Foxx!) and having Rollie Fingers closing might be too much.
VERDICT: THE HOME GROWN TEAM WINS... AND RUBE WADDELL CHASES ANOTHER FIRE ENGINE