OAKLAND A'S DIARY
By Bruce Markusen
Author of "The Orlando Cepeda Story"
After the As players engaged in a rowdy, but enjoyable plane ride back to the Bay Area, they received a hearty welcome today from about 25,000 fans at Oaklands International Airport. The As then officially celebrated the Bay Areas first world championship with a 15-block parade through downtown Oakland today. A convoy of antique cars escorted As players along the parade rout, as an estimated crowd of 150,000 spectators looked on. A number of fans held up signs that read Tenace the Menace, the new nickname given to their newfound World Series hero.
Having grown up in a small town, Gene Tenace felt uncomfortable in the spotlight afforded to a player who had performed so well in front of an entire country. When he accepted a sports car from Sport Magazine as the World Series MVP, Tenace showed little interest or enjoyment in the glamour associated with stardom. See all this, Tenace told the New York Times, pointing to the cameras and television lights surrounding him. I couldnt care less about it all. Im the same old me.
The unexpected power hitting of Tenace, the clutch pitching of Rollie Fingers, Jim Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman and Blue Moon Odom, the strange but productive strategy of manager Dick Williams, and yes, the endless maneuverings by owner and general manager Charlie Finley, all translated into a World Series victory. Even though the Reds outscored the As in the Series, 21-16, and forged a lower team ERA, Oakland managed to overcome a series of obstacles to win. The injuries to Darold Knowles and Reggie Jackson, the playoff suspension of Campy Campaneris, the clubhouse argument between Odom and Vida Blue, the strange rotation of second basemen, and the lack of a proven center fielder had not been enough to prevent the As from completing their evolution from American League also-ran to major league champions.
Although the national media had pegged them as slight underdogs at the start of the Series, the As managed to defeat a Reds team laden with premier offensive talents. The meticulous scouting work of Sherm Lollar and Al Hollingsworth played an important role in the World Series victory. Lollar and Hollingsworth assembled a scouting report so detailed that it advised the As of even the most obscure tendencies of the Reds. For example, by reading the report, Dick Williams learned that the Reds liked to bunt in situations with runners on third and two out.
In Game One, the Reds had placed the tying run on third base in the ninth inning. With two outs and Pete Rose at the plate, Williams had motioned third baseman Sal Bando to move in at third and instructed his pitcher to throw high fastballs in anticipation of the bunt. Rose fouled off a squeeze bunt attempt before grounding out to second baseman Ted Kubiak to end the game.
On a more philosophical front, some media observers characterized the World Series between the As and Reds as representative of a political battle between contrasting ideologies. Several baseball and political writers contrasted the conservative, old style, straight-laced Reds, whose players are forbidden to wear their hair long or don facial hair, against the liberal As, a rowdy, unkempt, mustachioed group of players known for rebelliousness. In the New York Daily News, baseball writer Joe Trimble referred to the As as the bad guys, the ones with the mustaches and beards, and the Reds as the good guys, the clean-shaven Cincys. Another writer termed the World Series The Bikers against the Boy Scouts.
Amidst such vivid imagery, the comments of scruffy-bearded backup catcher Dave Duncan most effectively put the Series in proper perspective. On a team replete with players sporting the flower child look, none looks any more like a hippie than Duncan, whose sandy-colored hair sweeps well beyond his shoulders. I think we proved that its not how a person looks like outside that counts, Duncan told The Sporting News, but what hes got inside. We had it inside, heart and guts. And thanks to such heart, they have emerged as baseballs best team in 1972.