Saturday, September 25, 2010
#1 on the Oakland A's
Flipping through pictures in Yahoo Sports tonight I stumbled across this one.
A's second baseman Aki Iwamura signing autographs in an empty Oakland Colliseum (I have no clue what its official name is any more.)
Do you know what struck me as odd? That #1 was available to a player who was cut by the Pirates earlier this year.
Iwamura didn't have a year good enough to stick around on the worst team in the game, wound up with the A's and asked "What number is available?" and the equipment manager said "How about 1?"
I can't be the only one who thinks that is strange.
The A's have had a couple of stretches where they had some great players.
And you would think that #1 would have been claimed by a Hall of Famer along the way.
The team started wearing numbers, according to Baseball Almanac (and why would they lie to me?) in 1931... when they went to their third straight World Series under Connie Mack.
Mr. Mack never wore a uniform nor had a number.
That team had 5 future Hall of Famers...
Mickey Cochrane (#2), Jimmie Foxx (#3), Lefty Grove (#10), Waite Hoyt (#28) and Al Simmons (#7).
None of those numbers are retired for those players as only Oakland players had their numbers retired.
And evidently no number 1.
By the time the A's had their great teams of the 1970s, Dick Green wore #1.
On a team with future Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers and superstars like Joe Rudi, Vida Blue and Sal Bando it was Green who had #1.
You would think #1 would have been an easy fit for Rickey Henderson when he broke in with the 1979 A's.
He was the lead off hitter and clearly a spark plug in the #1 hole.
Plus nobody was wearing #1 in 1979 for Oakland.
Instead he took #35. And when he returned to the A's in 1989, he was #24 (which is now retired... and #1 is up for grabs.)
Billy Martin brought "Billy Ball", intensity, an unexpected 1981 Division Title and the #1 on the back of a classic baseball figure in Oakland.
Billy probably should have stuck around Oakland and relaxed and molded the team after himself. His son said he never saw his dad healthier nor happier than as the manager of the A's... but he lusted after the Bronx and by 1983 he was in the Bronx.
By the end of 1983 he was fired... then rehired in 1985... then fired at the end of the year... then rehired in 1988... then fired again... and died in 1989 as the Oakland A's were the World Champs.
During the great A's run of the LaRussa days, no player wore #1.
During the Money Ball Division Titles of the 2000s, no player wore #1.
It wasn't until Nomar Garciaparra that #1 was dusted off for a player (as far as I can see, no player wore #1 since Don Hopkins donned it in 1975 until Nomar in 2009.)
Eric Patterson and now Iwamura have worn it since.
It clearly isn't being honored for a great player.
And it clearly isn't being reserved for a star.
Iwamura is going to probably be sent packing after the year... #1 will be available... again.
It would be nice to see that on the back of a better player (or ANY player when you consider the 34 year gap between #1's.)