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By Bruce Markusen

Author of "The Orlando Cepeda Story"

DATE: 02/14

Beginning today and continuing throughout spring training, the regular season, and the post-season of 2002, I will present a daily feature that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Oakland A’s’ 1972 World Championship team. The feature, entitled “Memories of the Mustache Gang,” will allow fans and researchers to relive one of the most memorable seasons—not only in the history of the Oakland franchise—but in all of baseball lore.

Presented in a diary-type format, the feature will be updated each day, with the exception of the few dates when the A’s did not play games in 1972, or on occasional dates when work and travel commitments may prevent me from writing new material. The objective will be to give readers as much information as possible about the ’72 A’s, who won the first World Championship team in the history of the Oakland franchise. Those A’s also became known as the “Mustache Gang” because of their unique physical appearance at a time when the baseball world remained very conservative.  Among the many topics that I’ll explore include the following: Vida Blue’s celebrated holdout and his tumultuous contract negotiations with owner and general manager Charlie Finley; the player strike that delayed the start of the 1972 season; the advent of new Finley-mandated uniforms that continued the A’s’ trend toward color and non-conformity; the 65 player transactions that Finley engineered during the season; looks at each of the 47 different players that the A’s used throughout the year; the near-firing of Dick Williams in mid-season; the suspension of Bert “Campy” Campaneris during the American League Championship Series; and dramatic post-season series against both the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds.


In today’s first installment, I’ll begin to set the stage for the start of spring training in 1972 by recapping the events that took place from October of 1971 through early February of 1972. Here are some of the biggest news items from that fall and winter:


*After winning 101 games to claim the American League West in a runway, the A’s lost the American League playoffs in three straight games to the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles, the defending World Champions. The sweep at the hands of the Birds underscored the A’s’ lack of pitching depth, especially in the starting rotation.

*On November 29, the first day of baseball’s winter meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, the A’s made a move to lengthen their starting pitching.  Owner Charlie Finley, acting in his usual role as general manager, acquired veteran left-hander Ken Holtzman from the Chicago Cubs for starting center fielder Rick Monday. The No. 1 draft choice of the Kansas City A’s in the first-ever amateur draft held in 1965, Monday had shown flashes of stardom, but had struggled in his ability to hit left-handed pitching, a shortcoming that prevented him from becoming the impact player the franchise envisioned.

*One day after acquiring Holtzman, the A’s made a surprising move by waiving veteran relief pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. Grant had pitched effectively for the A’s since being reacquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, winning one game, saving four, and posting an ERA of 1.98. Grant had also helped an unproven Rollie Fingers make the transition from starter to reliever, by giving the young right-hander advice on how to warm up and how to prepare to come into games in the late innings. So why did the A’s release Grant, who had been so helpful both on the field and in the clubhouse? The reason was simple: money. Finley did not want to pay Grant a salary of $60,000—a sum that the owner considered too high a price for a set-up reliever in 1971.

*The A’s contemplated another move by offering first baseman Mike Epstein to the New York Yankees for a frontline starting pitcher, believed to be either Mel Stottlemyre or Fritz Peterson. The Yankees turned down the offer. The inability to swing the trade might have proved fortunate, given that Epstein lost a reported 30 pounds from his sizeable frame during the winter and also equipped himself with new contact lenses, giving him hope of an improved batting eye in 1972.

*On January 5, 1972, one of Oakland’s starting rotation hopefuls barely avoided tragedy. John “Blue Moon” Odom, who had been beset with elbow soreness in 1971, tried to stop a burglary in his hometown of Macon, Georgia. Odom’s wife, Perrie, noticing some intruders at a neighbor’s house, had called her husband at his work place, a nearby liquor store that was located four blocks away. Odom hurried to the scene and tried to confront three youths involved in the robbery. One of the youths, a 16-year-old boy, responded by firing three shots with a .38 caliber pistol at Odom, from “about 15 feet away,” according to the pitcher’s testimony.  Two of the shots hit Odom, one in the neck and one in the side of the chest. Fortunately, doctors were able to treat the bullet wounds without surgery and gave Odom clearance to report to spring training as scheduled. With tragic circumstances averted, the A’s hoped that Odom would compete with Chuck Dobson for the No. 4 spot in the starting rotation, behind staff aces Vida Blue and Jim “Catfish” Hunter, and the newly acquired Ken Holtzman.


DATE: 02/15

On February 15, Charlie Finley called a press conference—not to announce the acquisition of a new player, but to herald the arrival of new uniforms for the 1972 season. 

Finley has retained his favored color scheme of green and gold, but has eliminated the effect of a sleeveless jersey over a contrasting colored undershirt. The new double-knit stretch (AKA polyester) uniforms will replace the traditional baseball flannels and now feature bright, pullover V-neck tops with sleeves, elastic waistlines instead of the traditional buckle belts, and shimmering white pants with green and gold racing stripes.  Finley also announced that the A’s will alternate jerseys, wearing a bright “Kelly green” one day, followed by a gaudy “California gold” the next, and a “Polar bear” white at Sunday home games. The new shirts feature “A’s” in white lettering on the left side of the chest, the player’s uniform number in smaller white lettering to the right, and three bright stripes—either green or gold—on the edge of the sleeves.

The A’s first adopted the green and gold pattern in 1963, while still in Kansas City.  In breaking with the tradition of wearing white, gray, and one-color trim—a color scheme that Finley disdainfully referred to as “eggshell white and prison gray”—the A’s became the first major league team to employ multicolored uniforms, along with their radical white shoes.

The changes for 1972, which further stamp the A’s as the team with the gaudiest and most garish uniforms, represent the latest stage in Finley’s efforts to promote his club. Finley hopes that the latest change in uniforms will stimulate marketing and fan interest.


(Editor’s note: Fans at the Oakland Coliseum quickly caught on, buying replicas of the new A’s’ caps and jerseys, while giving the stadium a unique feel and appearance.)


DATE: 02/16


            The biggest concerning facing the A’s in mid-February involves the contract status of their superstar pitcher Vida Blue. The American League’s Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player in 1971, Blue was also baseball’s biggest bargain. He won 24 games and led the league in ERA at 1.82, while earning a salary of only $14,750. That amount of money is going to have to change in 1972, but the question remains: by how much?

            On January 8, the ace pitcher, his representative (that term was used more often than the word “agent” in 1971) Bob Gerst, and A’s owner Charlie Finley met face-to-face to discuss a new contract for the coming season. Finley offered what amounted to a raise of more than 300 per cent—to $50,000 for a one-year contract. Blue and Gerst had a different number in mind, more than double what Finley was offering. They requested a salary of $115,000, which would have placed the youthful Blue among the highest paid pitchers in the game.

            Blue and Gerst based part of their argument on Blue’s drawing power. In 1971, he drew 43 per cent of the A’s’ overall home attendance at the Oakland Coliseum. Given that Blue was one of only four regular starters to make at least 25 starts (along with Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Chuck Dobson, and John “Blue Moon” Odom) during the 1971 season, that figure represented a staggering percentage of fan interest in the Bay Area.

            Based on the public comments of Gerst, Blue appears willing to take a hard-line approach in negotiations. “He is a tough SOB,” Gerst told Ron Bergman, corresponding for The Sporting News, in assessing his client. “He’s not going to back down from Finley. He’s not a guy who gives in.” Of course, Finley owns his own reputation for stubbornness, as evidenced by protracted—and often heated—contract negotiations that he had held with star outfielder Reggie Jackson after his breakthrough season in 1969.  The current talks between Finley, Blue, and Gerst seem destined for a similar mix of contentious rhetoric and general nastiness.


DATE: 02/17

 As the A’s prepare to begin spring training in 1972, three catchers figured to share playing time behind the plate. With two right-handed hitters and a left-handed batter available to him among his receiving corps, manager Dick Williams appears to have plenty of maneuverability with the following trio of catchers:

 *Dave Duncan: At times a lightning rod for controversy (especially after butting heads with Charlie Finley over John McNamara’s dismissal in 1970) Duncan enters the 1972 season as the A’s’ No. 1 catcher. The A’s consider Duncan their best defensive catcher, based in part on his strong throwing arm. Although defensively superior to either Curt Blefary or Gene Tenace, Duncan has never fulfilled the potential that he displayed in the minor leagues. In 1966, he had hit 46 home runs for Modesto—one of Oakland’s Class-A affiliates in the California League—but has never come close to duplicating such power numbers in the major leagues.

 *Gene Tenace: A relatively little known player heading into 1972, Tenace figures to back up Duncan and provide some right-handed pinch-hitting in the late innings. On August 8, 1971, Tenace flashed indications of future exploits when he hit home runs in each end of a doubleheader, catching each game from start to finish. In 1970 and ’71 stints with the team, Tenace’s power and extraordinary patience at the plate impressed the A’s. He also owns above-average speed, even though he’s been given the nickname “Steamboat” for the awkward way that he runs. In spite of his offensive talents, the A’s still question whether his defensive abilities will allow him to catch on an everyday basis.

 *Curt Blefary: Owning a reputation as a clutch hitter in the late innings, Blefary hit three pinch-hit home runs in 1970 and ’71, while splitting time between the A’s and New York Yankees. The left-handed hitting Blefary entered the 1972 season as Oakland’s third-string catcher—behind Duncan and Tenace. In addition to giving the A’s their best left-handed power bat off the bench, Blefary provides depth as a backup outfielder and first baseman, and as an emergency third baseman and second baseman. Although a versatile player, Blefary previously earned the nickname “Clank” for his inability to play any position particularly well. Still, Blefary carries around as many as eight gloves with him, always at the ready to fill in as a catcher, infielder, or outfielder.



DATE: 02/18

            Like the catching position, first base offers the A’s superior depth in the spring of 1972. Three veterans, all capable of playing either significant part-time or fulltime roles, figure to vie for playing time, either as first basemen or as pinch-hitters. One veteran, however, remains the clear-cut favorite to be Oakland’s No. 1 first baseman. 


*Mike Epstein: This burly left-handed hitting slugger split the 1971 season between the A’s and the Washington Senators, coming over in a mid-season trade that netted Oakland lefty relief pitcher Darold Knowles in exchange for first baseman Don Mincher, reliever Paul Lindblad, and catcher Frank Fernandez. At his best, Epstein provides the A’s with a fearsome power threat from the left side; on June 15 and 16 in 1971, he tied a major league record by hitting four consecutive home runs, coincidentally all coming against his former Senators mates. At his worst, Epstein has struggled to make contact, batting only .234 with the A’s, and playing first base stiffly with little range. During the off-season, the A’s offered Epstein around in trades, but failed to make a move, including one rumored deal with the New York Yankees. The enigmatic first baseman allayed some of their fears by dropping 30 pounds of excess weight and fitting himself with new and improved contact lenses. As a result, the A’s expect Epstein to play first base almost every day in 1972, except for occasional sit-downs against tough left-handed pitchers.

 *Tommy Davis: Although no longer the star that once drove in 153 runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1962, Davis was the A’s’ best bench player in 1971. In 219 at-bats, spent mostly as a platoon first baseman and pinch-hitter, Davis hit .324 with 42 RBIs. In spite of his success, Davis played only occasionally against left-handers during the second half of the season, compiling most of his at-bats against those southpaws that gave Epstein the most trouble. Davis lobbied manager Dick Williams for more playing time, making a sound argument for playing first base against all left-handed pitchers. Yet, Davis once again appears destined to fulfill the same role that he had in the latter stages of 1971.

 *Mike Hegan: Like Epstein, Mike Hegan joined the A’s in the middle of the 1971 season, the result of a mid-season trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Stuck behind both Epstein and Davis, Hegan didn’t play much, accumulating only 55 at-bats in 65 games with the A’s. Still, the A’s like Hegan as part of their bench, given his ability and willingness to serve as a pinch-hitter. Even more importantly, Dick Williams appreciates Hegan’s superior defensive play at first base, making him an ideal “caddy” for Epstein in the late innings of close games.


DATE: 02/19

The success of Oakland’s middle infield continues to depend on the status of second baseman Dick Green, who was contemplating retirement after the 1971 season. Even with spring training just a matter of days away, the 30-year-old Green has still not announced his decision. With Green, the A’s feature one of the best defensive middle infields in the game. Without him, they have a major hole to fill at second base.


*Dick Green: The rangy, surehanded Green forged a solid season in 1971. He finished second among American League second basemen in both putouts (366) and games played (143), while hitting 12 home runs in 475 at-bats. Although Green batted only .244, the mediocre average represented a major improvement over his .190 batting mark in 1970. 


*Bert “Campy” Campaneris: Even in 1972, Campaneris is still best remembered for becoming the first player in major league history to play all nine positions in one game—which he had accomplished at the behest of Charlie Finley on September 9, 1995. After experiencing his best major league season in 1970, with a career-high 22 home runs and 64 RBIs, Campaneris fell off in every major statistical category in 1971—except for triples. He batted .251 with only five home runs, numbers more consistent with his previous career totals. Even if Campaneris fails to improve on those statistics in 1972, his overall speed and basestealing ability, coupled with his quick feet and superb range in the field, remain crucial to any of Oakland’s blueprints for success. 


*Larry Brown: The A’s acquired this veteran utility infielder from the Cleveland Indians in the middle of the 1971 season. Brown didn’t hit much—.196 in 189 at-bats—but showed himself capable of handling defensive chores at either second base or shortstop. As a fill-in player, the A’s feel satisfied with Brown as their primary utility infielder; they just hope that neither Green or Campaneris will land on the disabled list for any extended period of time, thus exposing Brown’s lifetime batting average of .235.

 DATE: 02/20

            Of all the positions on their infield, the A’s feel most comfortable with the play of their third baseman. In 1971, he was quite simply their best everyday player, superior even to the more publicized Reggie Jackson.

 *Sal Bando: The A’s’ captain put together the second-best season of his career in 1971, finishing second to teammate Vida Blue in the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award balloting.  Bando hit 24 home runs and drew 86 walks, giving him an on-base percentage of 380, an excellent figure in a year top-heavy with good pitching. “Captain Sal” also played well defensively in 1971—not at the standard of a Brooks Robinson, but probably at an American League level second only to that of the “Human Vacuum Cleaner.” If Bando were to suffer an injury that sidelined him for any length of time, the A’s will face real problems at third base. Utility infielder Larry Brown can be relied upon to handle the position defensively, but has no power and little ability to hit for average. Another backup, utilityman Curt Blefary, swings a potent bat from the left side, but has little experience at the hot corner defensively. A fielding liability anywhere on the field, Blefary can’t be expected to play third base for any extended stretch of time without making repeated errors—and without making life miserable for Campy Campaneris at shortstop.


DATE: 02/21

Oakland’s outfield offers Dick Williams a mixed bag of possibilities—and questions. Which Joe Rudi will show up in 1972, the one who had hit .309 in 1970, or the one who tailed off badly in 1971? With Rick Monday gone, will 1971 Rookie of the Year Candidate Angel Mangual be able to maintain his level of play as the everyday center fielder? In right field, the A’s have fewer worries, with budding superstar Reggie Jackson poised to build on his solid 1971 season.


*Joe Rudi: In 1971, the young outfielder pleased the A’s with his improved play in left field, which at one time had been atrocious. Yet, the A’s still harbor concerns over the 25-year-old Rudi’s inconsistent hitting. In 1971, his batting average fell off by 42 points. One possible reason? Rudi’s periodic stints in the Marine Reserves may have hindered his timing at the plate.


*Angel Mangual: Dubbed the “Little Clemente” because of his resemblance to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ All-Star, Mangual played well enough in 1971 to earn selection to the Topps Major League Rookie All-Star team. Still, Mangual played in only 94 games while sharing time with Rick Monday. With Monday now sporting the pinstripes of the Cubs, Mangual faces the pressure of having to fill the center field slot on a daily basis.


*Reggie Jackson: After a disappointing, contract-haggling 1970 season, Jackson rebounded to blast 32 home runs and hit a career-high .277. His home runs—and emotional displays—provided some of the most memorable moments of the season. In the 1971 All-Star Game, Jackson became a household name when he ripped a tape-measure home run that caromed off a light towers high above Tiger Stadium. Then, in the American League Championship Series, Jackson hit two home runs in Game Three against the vaunted pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles. In spite of Jackson’s play, the A’s lost the game and the series—falling in three straight—prompting Reggie to cry openly on the top step of the dugout at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Photos of Jackson’s emotional outpouring provided a lasting image of a disappointing end to what had been such a prosperous season. 


*Brant Alyea: A Rule Five draft acquisition from the Minnesota Twins, Alyea has embodied extreme inconsistency by showing power and promise in 1970, only to bat a dismal .177 with a mere two home runs in 158 at-bats in 1971. A weak defensive outfielder with a below-average arm, Alyea must rebound sufficiently at the plate to fill a role as a right-handed pinch-hitter and backup to corner outfielders Rudi and Jackson.

 *George Hendrick: One of Oakland’s most talented prospects, Hendrick presents the A’s with a mild quandary as spring training approached. Should they send him back to play regularly at Triple-A Iowa, where he played well enough to earn American Association All-Star honors, or keep him on the roster as a rarely-used backup to Angel Mangual in center field? As the first player chosen in the January phase of the 1968 amateur draft, Hendrick has impressed the A’s with the power created by his quick wrists at the plate and his ability to cover ground with long, gliding strides in center field. Based purely on physical abilities, Hendrick possesses as much five-tool talent as any of Oakland’s veteran outfielders, with the exception of the stronger-armed Reggie Jackson.


DATE: 2/22

            Charlie Finley announced a player signing today—but it didn’t involve celebrated outcast Vida Blue. Instead, Finley announced that he had signed starting left fielder Joe Rudi to a new one-year contract at a “damned good raise.” It was certainly an unusual choice of words by the owner in describing Rudi’s increased salary. “I get tired of that term ‘substantial,’ ” Finley explained to Bay Area writer Ron Bergman. “It was a damned good raise.” It was also a bit surprising, considering that Rudi had suffered an off year in 1971, after hitting a career-high .309 in 1970.

Rudi claimed that stints in the U.S. Marine Reserves, which caused him to miss 35 to 40 games a year, had affected his timing and rhythm at the plate. Now that Rudi’s military obligations have ended, he is free to pursue the art of hitting to the fullest in 1972. Rudi also underwent a more extensive offseason conditioning and weight program, which was designed to add to his strength and stamina. Given the elimination of his military-induced interruptions and the definition of his newly sculpted body, Rudi expects major improvement in 1972.

A pull-hitting power hitter in the minor leagues, Rudi has transformed himself into a gap-hitting offensive player who liked to use the opposite field.  Under former Oakland batting coach Charley Lau’s tutelage in 1970, Rudi worked hard to radically change his batting approach.  Rudi began choking up on the bat while adopting a severely closed stance with a deep crouch at the plate.  Using an unusual diagonal stance, Rudi places his left foot close to the front corner of the plate, while nearly planting his right foot outside of the batter’s box.  In the meantime, Rudi rests his bat flatly on his right shoulder, making it parallel to the ground.  Although an awkward-looking Rudi hardly seems ready to handle incoming pitches, the new stance actually makes his swing quicker and more compact. “Charley Lau changed my whole theory on hitting and what I was trying to do with the ball,” said Rudi, making sure to credit his former batting instructor. “He taught me about hitting behind the runner, thinking about what I wanted to do with the ball... All of a sudden, it was there.  It was like being in the boonies all your life and walking into a big city and finding a metropolitan library.  I just milked that guy every second I could about hitting.”

DATE: 2/23

The A’s officially opened spring training today, with all pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa, Arizona on schedule—with one notable exception. Vida Blue, last year’s 24-game winner, officially became a holdout. Blue’s absence dominated the headlines in the Bay Area, but did little to bother Dick Williams. The manager, claiming that he had never known a player to sit out an entire season over a contract squabble, expressed confidence that Blue would return soon enough to have plenty of impact in 1972.

The issue of Blue aside, Williams raves about the composition of his A’s team, what with most of the players from the 1971 Western Division championship returning to the fore.  “I like our ballclub,” the second-year Oakland manager tells Ron Bergman flatly. “I like our chances of repeating. I think we are the best ballclub, barring major injuries. And I’m quite sure we are going to win it.”

             Williams did concede that as many as three teams have the capability of challenging the A’s in the West. He considers the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox, and possibly the California Angels, as strong contenders in a deep division.

            While some of those teams face the task of trying to answer questions at certain positions, Williams sees no major holes throughout his starting lineup, in starting pitching, or among his core of relievers. “We have no overriding needs to remake an position on the club,” says Williams. “I feel we’re the best team in our division.”

DATE: 02/24

            With the offseason acquisition of Ken Holtzman from the Cubs, starting pitching ranks as potentially the strongest area on the A’s. Yet, questions remain. When will Vida Blue end his holdout? If negotiations reach an impasse, will the A’s consider the possibility of trading him? Will the sore-armed duo of Chuck Dobson and Blue Moon Odom return to health? If the A’s can find positive answers to those questions, they will have five above-average starters in 1972. If the questions yield only negative results, only Holtzman and Catfish Hunter can be counted upon to give the A’s first-tier starting pitching.

*Vida Blue: While most of the media focused on Blue’s 24 wins in 1971, his ERA told the true tale of his effectiveness. A 1.82 ERA not only led the American League, but set an all-time record for the A’s’ franchise, surpassing the best marks of Hall of Famers Chief Bender, Lefty Grove, and Eddie Plank. Blue also hurled a league-leading eight shutouts, ranked second in the league in strikeouts, and tossed 24 complete games. When healthy—and signed—an overpowering Blue features the most explosive arsenal of all the Oakland pitchers.

*Jim “Catfish” Hunter: After years of flashing stardom, Hunter finally stamped himself as one of the league’s elite starters in 1971. Reaching the 20-victory plateau for the first time, “The Cat” finished in the top 10 in wins and strikeouts, completed 16 games, and tossed four shutouts. Although Hunter’s repertoire of pitches ranks as the least impressive of the A’s’ starters, he compensates with staff-best control and savvy—and a congenial personality—making him the most favored pitcher among Oakland’s catchers.

*Ken Holtzman: On the surface, Holtzman’s 9-15 record and 4.48 ERA for the Cubs in 1971 looked ghastly. Mitigating factors, however, may have played a part in Holtzman’s decline. His contentious relationship with manager Leo Durocher, who repeatedly referred to him with ethnic slurs about his Jewish heritage, most likely contributed to his worst season in the major leagues. Given his intelligence, two effective pitches—a good fastball and a terrific overhand curve—and the move from hitter-happy Wrigley Field to the pitching-friendly Oakland Coliseum, the A’s feel confident that Holtzman can regain the form that saw him win 17 games in each of the previous two seasons.

*Chuck Dobson: At his peak, Dobson ranked as one of the best right-handers in the American League. An example of his potential brilliance could be found during one stretch in 1970, when Dobson won eight consecutive starts from July 16 through August 14. Yet, at his worst, Dobson faces nagging problems with consistency—and health. A sore elbow prevented him from pitching during the 1971Championship Series, dampening a season that saw him win 15 of 20 decisions. A 3.81 ERA also belied his won-lost record, indicating Dobson’s tendency to implode during occasional starts and his too-heavy reliance on run support from the A’s’ lineup. 

John “Blue Moon” Odom: Blue Moon’s 4.28 ERA in 1971 was the highest among Oakland starters, but was more a product of continuing arm soreness than a lack of talent or effort. Still recovering from elbow surgery during the 1970 offseason, Odom made only 25 intermittent starts and had to skip the postseason series against Baltimore. When healthy, Odom and his ever-moving fastball made him unpleasant opposition for American League hitters. At his best, Odom managed to pitch three complete games and one shutout in 1971. Now one full season removed from surgery, the A’s expect both of those numbers to increase substantially in 1972.

DATE: 02/25

            One of the A’s’ principal offseason targets was traded today—but not to Oakland. The St. Louis Cardinals sent talented left-hander Steve Carlton, who had been mentioned as part of trade rumors with the A’s during the winter meetings, to the Philadelphia Phillies for veteran right-hander Rick Wise. The A’s had discussed the possibility of trading one or more of their outfielders—with names like Rick Monday and George Hendrick among the possibilities—to the Cardinals in exchange for Carlton. When the A’s couldn’t satisfy the Cardinals’ demands at the winter meetings, they instead made a move with the Chicago Cubs, acquiring Ken Holtzman for Monday in a straight-up one-for-one deal.

While the success of the A’s’ starting pitching hinges on health, the bullpen offers no similar concerns. In fact, Oakland’s relief corps appears to be the deepest area on the ballclub, with two veteran left-handers and three talented right-handers poised to take the mound in 1972.

*Rollie Fingers: In less than one year, this talented right-hander converted himself from mediocre starter into established bullpen fireman (1970s parlance for “closer”). Fingers’ 17 saves helped him rank sixth in the American League’s Fireman of the Year race, despite the fact that he opened the season in a starting role. By season’s end, the rubber-armed Fingers racked up 48 appearances, the most on the A’s’ staff. Still, two important questions linger with regards to Fingers. How effective will he pitch as a reliever the second time around, now that opposing hitters have come to expect that he would throw his devastating slider in most key situations? And how will he react to the departure of Jim “Mudcat” Grant, the savvy right-hander who helped him learn the fundamentals of pitching in relief, including something as basic as how to warm up? The A’s will have to wait and see how Grant’s departure, fueled by Charlie Finley’s penny-pinching ways, will affect Fingers over the long term.

*Diego Segui: The veteran forkballer (often referred to as a spitballer by skeptical opponents) started Game Three of the 1971 playoffs against the Orioles, but the A’s had a different role in mind for the 1970 American League ERA champion. Dick Williams hopes to use the right-hander exclusively in relief, as a replacement for Mudcat Grant, who had served as Rollie Fingers’ set-up man toward the tail end of the ’71 season. That plan, however, hinges on the health of starters Chuck Dobson and Blue Moon Odom. If either or both go down with sore arms, Williams will likely have no choice but to use Segui as a member of his thinning rotation.

*Bob Locker: Even without Segui, Williams knows that he owns another solid right-handed middle man in Locker, the onetime relief ace of the Chicago White Sox. The colorful Locker lacks the overpowering stuff of Fingers, but his control features pinpoint accuracy; in 72 innings, he walked only 19 batters. Locker’s sidearm motion also proves extremely difficult for right-handed hitters, making him an ideal situational reliever in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. 


*Darold Knowles: Acquired in the middle of the 1971 season as part of the Don Mincher-for-Mike Epstein swap, this talented left-hander pitched solidly, if not spectacularly, in an Oakland uniform. While Knowles’ 3.59 ERA was only so-so, the A’s came away most encouraged with the liveliness and control of his pitches. In 50 innings, Knowles struck out 43 batters while walking only 16, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3-to-1. Knowles’ ability to pick up strikeouts make him a candidate to come into pressurized situations with runners on base in the late innings. And on days when Fingers might be unavailable due to overwork, Knowles gives manager Dick Williams another option as a game-ending fireman.

*Jim Roland: Although virtually unknown outside of the Bay Area, the quietly efficient left-hander has pitched solidly in middle and long relief for the A’s over the last two seasons. A veteran of both the A’s and Minnesota Twins, Roland has posted only one ERA higher than 4.00 in nine major league seasons. The versatile Roland also possesses the ability to work different roles, providing the A’s with a spot starter in the event of injuries or a pileup of doubleheaders.


DATE: 02/26

            The A’s’ non-pitchers and catchers reported to Mesa today, joining the batterymen who had reported three days earlier. As usual, Reggie Jackson made the biggest stir by showing up with a fully-grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during last year’s Championship Series against the Orioles. Jackson made additional news when he announced that he would still be wearing the mustache come Opening Day. If so, Jackson would become the first major leaguer to sport a mustache during the regular season since Wally Schang (of the Philadelphia A’s) in 1914.

            Since the days of Schang, several major leaguers have worn mustaches during spring training, only to remove them prior to the start of the season. In the 1930s, Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Stanley “Frenchy” Bordagaray created a sensation with a spring mustache, but was ordered to shave it off by a stringent team management. More recently, Dick Allen wore a mustache and long sideburns in the spring of 1970, but rid himself of the facial hair before his St. Louis Cardinals played on Opening Day.

(Editor’s note: Unlike Allen, Bordagaray, and a few others, Jackson would not give in to the pressure to conform. The saga of the rebellious A’s—and their new identity as baseball trendsetters—was just beginning.)

DATE: 02/27

            One of the A’s’ greatest fears of the offseason was calmed by the start of spring training. Starting second baseman Dick Green, who had hinted at the possibility of retirement, decided to return for another season. In a sense, the A’s should have become used to speculation about Green’s future; his threats of retirement had become an annual ritual. It wasn’t that Green disliked Charlie Finley or his A’s teammate; he had simply grown disenchanted with the general lifestyle of a baseball player. He didn’t like the constant travel. He especially didn’t like to fly. Even more importantly, he didn’t like to spend long stretches away from his family. Yet, he had decided to play at least one more season—perhaps in part because of a desire to win a World Championship.

Although Green’s inconsistent hitting relegated him to the nether regions of the Oakland lineup, he remained an indispensable part of the team because of his rock-solid fielding abilities. While several American League second basemen had surpassed in terms of range and flashiness, he remained the standard-bearer in other categories. No American League second baseman had better hands. None turned the double play as efficiently. And none inspired as much confidence from his pitchers as Richard Larry Green.



DATE: 02/28

Of the 40 men listed on the A’s’ winter roster, 38 showed up to camp on time. The lone exceptions are Vida Blue, the game’s most celebrated holdout, and little-known minor league pitcher Jim Panther. While the moral righteousness of Blue’s holdout remained a topic of spirited debate, few could quarrel with Panther’s reason for avoiding the start of spring training. As a high school teacher in Highland Park, Illinois, Panther wants to continue his educational responsibilities before beginning the baseball season.

            As of the start of spring training, Oakland’s 40-man roster consists of the following players and positional breakdowns:


*Catchers (4): Dave Duncan, Gene Dusan, Larry Haney, Gene Tenace

*Infielders (8): Dwain Anderson, Sal Bando, Larry Brown, Bert “Campy” Campaneris, Mike Epstein, Dick Green, Mike Hegan, Reggie Sanders

*Outfielders (8): Brant Alyea, Curt Blefary, Tommy Davis, George Hendrick, Reggie Jackson, Angel Mangual, Joe Rudi, Greg Schubert

*Pitchers: Vida Blue, Chuck Dobson, Rollie Fingers, Chris Floethe, Dave Hamilton, Ken Holtzman, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Ron Klimkowski, Darold Knowles, Steve Lawson, Bob Locker, Gilberto Marcano, Dennis Myers, John “Blue Moon” Odom, Jim Panther, Darryl Patterson, Jim Roland, Diego Segui, Don Stanhouse, Pat Tatom


            The roster breakdown includes two striking features, one a curiosity and the other an oddity. The curiosity? Exactly half of the 40-man roster features pitchers, even though Dick Williams already has as many as 10 established pitchers (not even including Blue) ready to stake claim to jobs on the Opening Day staff. The excessive number of pitchers serves as a testament to the depth of both Oakland’s experienced mound talent and the number of minor league prospects on the horizon at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Iowa. And the oddity? Both Curt Blefary and Tommy Davis are listed as outfielders, even though both figure to play more often at other positions—Blefary as a catcher and Davis as a first baseman. In 1971, Davis made 35 appearances at first base but only 16 in the outfield. In Blefary’s case, his 1971 outfield appearances did outnumber his catching appearances, 20 to 14, but a similar scenario seems unlikely in 1972. With the emergence of Angel Mangual, the off-season addition of veteran Brant Alyea, and the possible inclusion of George Hendrick on the Opening Day roster, Blefary doesn’t appear likely to be needed for much outfield duty during the upcoming season.

DATE: 02/29

            Minor league right-hander Darryl Patterson suffered a small injury in workouts today. An errant throw struck Patterson in the nose, giving him a severe laceration and bringing his practice session to an abrupt end. Further examination showed no break of the nose, but the A’s expects Patterson to miss at least the next few days of spring training. In spite of the injury, Patterson stands as an outside contender for the last spot in the Oakland bullpen, assuming that Vida Blue remains a holdout and Chuck Dobson continued his slow return from elbow surgery.

DATE: 03/01

In addition to the 38 rostered players in camp, the A’s also have four non-roster players who have been invited to Mesa. Of the four, none has stood out as much as Bill “Sugar Bear” Daniels, a 17-year-old right-hander attending his first spring training. As the A’s’ first pick in the June 1971 draft, Daniels brought with him a set of lofty expectations. Already billed as a “right-handed Vida Blue,” Daniels’ overpowering repertoire and impressive physique make him arguably the A’s’ best pitching prospect. The A’s like Daniels’ potential so much that Dick Williams refused to rule out the possibility that the teenager might be a part of the Opening Day 25-man roster—especially if Blue’s holdout stretches into the start of the regular season.

Three other non-roster players also received invitations to camp. One is catcher Bill Fitzgerald, who hit .277 with seven home runs in only 42 at-bats at Class-A Burlington, but is given no chance of making a major league team that already has Dave Duncan, Gene Tenace, Curt Blefary, and Larry Haney. With 20 pitchers in camp, the A’s simply needed another catcher to handle all of the hurlers in workouts. Another non-roster invitee is Venezuelan first baseman Gonzalo Marquez, who refused to sign a minor league contract in 1971 after hitting .341 for Iowa in 1970 and appeared to have only the smallest chances of making the A’s’ roster.  The last of the non-roster invites is muscular outfielder Bobby “The Hammer” Brooks, a power-hitting career minor leaguer. Unlike Fitzgerald and Marquez, Brooks has a more realistic chance—although still an outside one—of sticking as an extra outfielder, given the offseason departure of Rick Monday. Brooks certainly played well at Triple-A Iowa in 1971, hitting 23 home runs with 70 RBIs, while drawing 83 walks, batting a respectable .272, and stealing 10 bases. Brooks’ power and speed, combined with his ability to play center field, make him an intriguing option for Oakland’s Opening Day roster.

DATE: 03/02 

            So who will make the A’s’ 25-man Opening Day roster? Barring trades and injuries, the following 21 players seem like certainties to be with the team come April:


*Catchers (2): Dave Duncan and Gene Tenace

*Infielders (6): Mike Epstein, Dick Green, Campy Campaneris, Sal Bando, Tommy Davis, and Larry Brown

*Outfielders (4): Joe Rudi, Angel Mangual, Reggie Jackson, and Brant Alyea

*Pitchers (9): Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom, Ron Klimkowski, Diego Segui, Bob Locker, Rollie Fingers, Darold Knowles, and Jim Roland


With the above roster spots solidified, that leaves only four positions up for grabs. At least one will go to a third-string catcher. At the beginning of spring training, that seemed like Curt Blefary’s job safely and securely, but the A’s like the defensive work of Larry Haney, who spent all of 1971 in the minors. A right-handed batter, Haney doesn’t give the A’s an offensive bench threat like Blefary, but his ability to catch and throw far outweigh the defensive abilities of “Clank.” If the A’s keep Haney, they might trade Blefary, who has already expressed grief over a lack of playing time.

Another open roster spot will go to a second backup infielder, who will join veteran Larry Brown in a utility role. The favorite? It might be prospect Dwain Anderson, who regressed in 1971 after playing well in his Triple-A debut in 1970. While Anderson’s speed and defensive ability impress the A’s, his bat and versatility rank as question marks. The A’s also don’t know if Anderson—a natural shortstop—could play second and third base well enough to merit inclusion as a utility infielder. Another possibility is outfielder-first baseman Reggie Sanders, whom the A’s are trying to convert to third base. If the power-hitting Sanders can play third base adequately, the A’s will have a solid backup to Sal Bando and another right-handed pinch-hitting option for their bench.

A third open roster spot will likely go to a backup outfielder, specifically one who could back up Angel Mangual in center field. One possibility is George Hendrick, the A’s’ best prospect among position players. Another is Bobby Brooks, the non-roster invite who is making a good impression on the Oakland coaching staff.

            Finally, the A’s might have to consider the possibility of carrying a 10th pitcher. If Chuck Dobson regains his pitching health, he would become a likely candidate. Otherwise, the A’s could make room for one of their many impressive young pitchers, such as Chris Floethe, Dennis Myers, or Sugar Bear Daniels. And then there is always the possibility that Vida Blue will end his holdout, thereby changing the entire structure of the pitching staff. 


            Non-roster first baseman Gonzalo Marquez hurt his knee in workouts today, doing enough damage to mandate the use of crutches for the immediate future. The A’s deem the knee strain serious enough to list him as being out “indefinitely,” making him unavailable for the start of the exhibition season, scheduled to begin in exactly one week. The injury has reduced Marquez’ chances of making the Opening Day roster from remote to nonexistent.

The presence of the smooth-swinging Venezuelan in camp provides an intriguing side story. Scheduled to play for Triple-A Iowa in 1971, Marquez refused to sign his minor league contract, which he considered insufficient reward for batting .341 at Triple-A in 1970. As a result, Marquez stayed home in Caracas throughout the season, making him the most unusual kind of holdout—a minor league holdout.

In spite of his prior hitting success at Triple-A, the A’s don’t consider Marquez a true prospect. The A’s know that he can hit for average, but also realized that he lacks power and speed, and doesn’t play first base particularly well, either. At best, the A’s view him as a potential pinch-hitter at the major league level, but certainly not an everyday or even a platoon player.

Now hobbled by injury, Marquez has to hope that he can recover in time to start the minor league season at Iowa.


(Editor’s note: No one knew it at the time, but the mercurial Marquez would make a name for himself in Oakland by the end of the season.)

DATE: 03/04 

            Worried about the painstakingly slow comeback of Chuck Dobson and the lingering holdout of Vida Blue, the A’s made a major move today to bolster their skeleton-thin starting staff. Charlie Finley sent minor league right-handers Jim Panther and Don Stanhouse to the fledgling Texas Rangers for two-time Cy Young Award winner and onetime Most Valuable Player Denny McLain. With the addition of McLain, the A’s now have three Cy Young awards and two MVPs represented on their 40 man roster; of course, the absent Blue owns all of the American League hardware not belonging to McLain. 

            Unfortunately for the A’s, McLain’s award-winning seasons might have to be placed in the category of “ancient history.” In 1968, he won 31 games and claimed both the Cy Young and MVP awards in helping the Detroit Tigers to the World Championship. The following season, McLain won an American-League best 24 games, posted a league-leading nine shutouts, and shared Cy Young Award honors with Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar.

The last two years, however, have seen McLain fall into near oblivion. In 1970, he missed half of the season while suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for unsavory ties to bookmakers and the gambling world. After his return, he received another suspension for dumping a bucket of ice water on two Detroit baseball writers who had angered him with negative comments in print. So disturbed by his continuing bad behavior, the Tigers traded their onetime ace to the Washington Senators after the season. McLain responded to the trade by losing a major league-high 22 games in 1971, all the while displaying a shortened fastball, a growing waistline, and a surly attitude.

            McLain’s strained relationship with Senators (and now Rangers) manager Ted Williams also contributed to his Oakland relocation. McLain wanted to pitch as part of a four-man rotation; Williams preferred using a five-man setup. McLain argued that he had pitched successfully for the Tigers under the four-man plan, but Williams pointed to more recent statistics that showed McLain to be more effective with an extra day—or two—of rest.

            While McLain fell into disfavor with Ted Williams and the Rangers, he fills a specific short-term need for the A’s. As a result of the faltering negotiations with Vida Blue, and the concerns over the physical well-being of Dobson and Blue Moon Odom, the A’s need another body to fill out their starting rotation.  “We started talking on and off with other clubs when it looked like we would have trouble signing Vida,” Dick Williams told The Sporting News. “When you don’t have your big starter in camp, and it’s been open for two weeks, you’ve got to take action.”

            The acquisition of McLain did not come without a considerable price tag. Although the Rangers agreed to pick up $25,000 of McLain’s $75,000 salary, that still leaves the A’s with a payroll jump of fifty grand. Coincidentally, the sum of $50,000 is just about the difference between what Charlie Finley offered Vida Blue and what Blue’s agent asked for during contract negotiations.

            The addition of McLain also cost the A’s in terms of talent; Rangers owner Bob Short refers to Jim Panther and Don Stanhouse as the two best pitching prospects in Oakland’s organization. While the 27-year-old Panther is a bit too old to be considered a top-of-the-line prospect, the 21-year-old Stanhouse has received rave reviews from both the A’s internally and scouts externally. (Editor’s note: The colorful Stanhouse would go on enjoy a mildly successful career with the Rangers, Orioles, and Montreal Expos, while earning the nicknames “Full Pack” and “Stan the Man Unusual.”) Preferring not to surrender such young pitching talent, the A’s previously offered either Dobson or Odom to the Rangers as part of the package for McLain. Short rejected the offer, in part because of the fragile condition of their right arms and in part because of his desire to beef up a sagging farm system. Insisting on rookies over proven commodities, Short convinced Charlie Finley to make the two-for-one deal.

            Still, the A’s consider the deal for McLain a reasonable gamble. The depth of pitching prospects throughout their farm system lessens the blow of losing Panther and Stanhouse. Even more importantly, the A’s have a crying need for starting pitching at the major league level. The talks with Blue have only regressed, making it a longshot that he will sign in time for the start of the season. And other than Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman, Dick Williams has almost no healthy and proven commodities ready to claim berths in the starting rotation. Perhaps by default, the newly acquired McLain might have to be considered the team’s No. 3 starter by the time the calendar turns from March to April.

DATE: 03/05

            Pitching has become the main theme of spring training, but one of the more interesting backstories in camp can be found in the outfield, where 31-year-old journeyman Brant Alyea resides. At one time a surefire hitting prospect with the Washington Senators, Alyea made a memorable major league debut by hitting a home run in his first at-bat—a 1965 pinch-hitting appearance against the California Angels. After his auspicious beginning, the slow-footed, defensively-challenged Alyea struggled to find a niche with the Senators, who eventually traded him to the Minnesota Twins. In 1970, Alyea enjoyed a breakthrough, batting .291 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs in only 94 games. His single best day came in the Twins’ opener that year, when he drove in seven runs in support of veteran right-hander Jim Perry.

Alyea even achieved some notoriety on defense, where he usually struggled. In an April 25th game against the Detroit Tigers, Alyea and the rest of the Twins’ players mistakenly assumed a third out on what appeared to be a strikeout of opposing pitcher Earl Wilson. As Alyea—and the other Twins—ran off the field, he suddenly realized that Wilson had not been called out because of catcher Paul Ratliff’s inability to catch the third strike cleanly. Alyea stopped near the mound and picked up the ball, which Ratliff had rolled toward the hill. Noticing that Wilson had already rounded third and begun his sprint toward home, Alyea fired the ball to Ratliff, who engaged Wilson in a rundown. Alyea caught the return throw and tagged Wilson, marking the first time in 20th century major league history that a left fielder had received credit for a putout on a strikeout.

            The bizarre play typified the fortuitous nature of Alyea’s 1970 season. The following season, however, Alyea’s luck turned sour. He slumped at the plate, encountered injuries, and angered Minnesota management with his outspoken rhetoric. As a result, the Twins left Alyea off their 40-man roster and assigned him to Triple-A Portland, making him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The A’s decided to take a flyer on Alyea, selecting him in the draft and compensating the Twins with the standard draft payment. Under the rules of the draft, the A’s will have to keep Alyea on their 25-man roster throughout the 1972 season or else offer him back to the Twins for half of the purchase price.

Even with a bad spring, Alyea figures to make the Opening Day roster because of the Rule 5 stipulation. Yet, Alyea has shown no signs of complacency during the early days of spring training. To the contrary, he has impressed Dick Williams with his attitude—and his powerful swing in the batting cage. “When he’s hot,” Williams told sportswriter Ron Bergman, “he hits anything.” Alyea feels that he has not only regained his 1970 batting stroke, but has actually surpassed it. “Right now, I’m the best hitter I’ve ever been,” Alyea told The Sporting News. Such words typify Alyea’s brash nature.

(Editor’s Note: Although it was not reported at the time, Alyea had also achieved some off-the-field “notoriety”—so to speak. During the offseason, Alyea typically played winter ball in the Caribbean.  One winter, he met a nurse in Nicaragua and dated her for several months. The following year, Alyea returned to Nicaragua—only to be informed by several local players that he now had a son. Alyea spent the winter with his newfound son and the woman, but left because of civil unrest in Nicaragua. For nearly 20 years, Alyea would not be able to see his child again because of political revolution in the Latin American country. 

Alyea would finally enjoy a reunion with his son during the spring of 1986. By then, young Brant Alyea Jr. had signed a professional contract with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. He had already played one season with the team’s affiliate in Medicine Hat, Alberta, having escaped Nicaragua when the Blue Jays’ Latin American scouting director reportedly bribed an airport official. The younger Alyea would never make the major leagues, but would come to know the father who had once been a part of Charlie Finley’s baseball world.)

DATE: 03/06

            At the beginning of spring training, the health of starting pitchers Chuck Dobson and Blue Moon Odom headed up the list of concerns for Oakland management. By now, two weeks since pitchers and catchers had first reported to Mesa, only one of the two seems to have much of hope of making the Opening Day roster. “Dobson is throwing about 35 per cent,” Dick Williams told The Sporting News, offering a less-than-glowing prognosis of his 1971 15-game winner, “and he won’t do any more until we get approval from a doctor.” With Dobson nowhere near the physical peak that he had reached prior to his 1971 arm problems, he has almost no chance of breaking camp with the team—and nearly a 100 per cent chance of landing on the disabled list.

            In contrast, the pre-season throwing sessions of Odom gives Williams a small degree of confidence. “He said he’ll be ready and strong in two weeks,” Williams told The Sporting News in recalling a recent conversation with his talented right-hander. If healthy, Odom gives the A’s a fourth proven starter, after Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, and the newly acquired Denny McLain. Without Odom, the A’s face the unenviable task of trying to find at least one other starting pitcher amidst the continuing absence of Vida Blue.



DATE: O3/07

            With the regular season only a month away, Charlie Finley announced a front office hiring today. Finley brought in former major league outfielder Jimmy Piersall to head up group sales and season ticket sales. Aside from the timing, it was an unusual move, given that most former players became broadcasters, scouts, or general managers—not directors of group sales. Yet, it was not at all an unusual move in the context of Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s.

            During a 17-year playing career, Piersall batted a respectable .272 with 104 home runs, all the while establishing himself as one of the game’s best defensive center fielders. (Casey Stengel went as far as to say that Piersall played center field better than his own Hall of Famer, Joe DiMaggio.)Yet, Piersall is not best known for his playing ability—but for a severe mental breakdown and depression that he suffered shortly after beginning his major league career. Piersall was placed in a mental hospital, where he received shock therapy, considered an appropriate treatment for mental illness at the time. When Piersall returned to baseball, he played well (going 6-for-6 in his first game back), but suffered the verbal slings and arrows of taunting fans in opposing cities. Piersall’s plight became even more well-known in 1957, when the film Fear Strikes Out, starring Anthony Perkins as Piersall, aired in theaters nationwide.

            Piersall’s hiring by Finley—considered equally as unstable as the former player in some circles—figures to draw catcalls and one-liners from around the baseball world. Some observers may wonder how long the two men can co-exist within the same organization. Then again, on a team that already featured strong personalities in Mike Epstein, Reggie Jackson, and Denny McLain, among others, perhaps Piersall will blend in rather nicely.

DATE: 03/08

            It didn’t take long for Denny McLain to make his unique presence felt at the A’s’ spring camp. Upon his arrival at the A’s’ spring training hotel, the Newton’s Sands in Phoenix, McLain found himself being approached by a member of the national media. As McLain relaxed by the hotel pool, a reporter from ABC television asked him about his reaction to the recent trade from Texas.  The unpredictable right-hander, who had once dumped water on two sportswriters during his days in Detroit, yelled at the reporter and made indirect threats against ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell, who had previously criticized McLain.  McLain also made reference to Cosell’s Jewish heritage, a remark that became slightly more forgivable when the pitcher revealed that he was also part Jewish. Still, it was another unpleasant incident involving McLain and the media. While McLain had changed teams, he had unfortunately retained the same unpleasant streak that he had displayed in both Detroit and Washington.



DATE: 03/09

            The A’s began their Cactus League season today with an afternoon matchup against the Giants, their Bay Area rivals and defending National League West champions. Preparing to face right-hander Jim Barr, manager Dick Williams filled out the following names on his first lineup card of the spring:


Campy Campaneris, ss

Angel Mangual, cf

Reggie Jackson, rf

Sal Bando, 3b

Tommy Davis, 1b

Gene Tenace, c

Bobby Brooks, lf

Dick Green, 2b

Ken Holtzman, p


Other than Davis at first, Brooks in left, and possibly Tenace behind the plate, all of the above players figure to be mainstays in the Oakland lineup during the regular season. Davis went 3-for-3 with a run scored and Jackson drove in two runs on one hit in the Cactus League lidlifter, but the A’s lost to the Giants, 8-5. Catfish Hunter, the second of four Oakland pitchers, allowed five runs on five hits in three innings, taking the loss. The A’s played sloppily in the field, committing four errors, which contributed to two unearned runs against Holtzman. Campaneris made two miscues before leaving shortstop duties to young Dwain Anderson, while Brooks and Bando each made an error, Bando’s coming in a limited stint before giving way to Curt Blefary at third.

Thoroughly unimpressive in their spring debut, the A’s look forward to an off day on the 10th before resuming the exhibition season the following day against the Milwaukee Brewers.

DATE: 03/11

            Playing the start of a home-and-home series in Mesa, the A’s picked up their first exhibition win of spring training with a 3-1 decision over the Milwaukee Brewers. Starting first baseman Mike Epstein (hoping to prove himself worthy of playing every day) and rookie outfielder George Hendrick (vying for a backup spot on the roster) each hit home runs in support of a quartet of effective pitchers. The most impressive of the four hurlers was journeyman Ron Klimkowski, who made a strong opening bid for the fourth spot in the starting rotation. The 28-year-old right-hander, who had compiled a mediocre 3.40 ERA in long relief in 1971, allowed one hit and no walks in pinning down Milwaukee’s order over the first three innings. With Chuck Dobson struggling and Blue Moon Odom showing an unwillingness to throw his good fastball, Klimkowski’s sparkling spring debut puts him into viable contention for the No. 4 spot in the rotation. 

            In the meantime, the victory over the Brewers evened Oakland’s spring record at 1-and-1. The A’s prepare to wrap up the weekend with another game against the Brewers, this time in Tempe, on Sunday afternoon.

A’s Acorns: The A’s banged out 10 hits, with the “unretired” Dick Green collecting two safeties in three at-bats… The usually steady Sal Bando committed his second error in two games… Minor league right-hander Darryl Patterson earned the win despite walking three batters in two innings and giving up Milwaukee’s lone run. 

DATE: 03/12

            Denny McLain made his much-anticipated spring debut for Oakland today—but the results were anything but what Charlie Finley had anticipated eight days earlier, when he agreed to surrender two prospects for the veteran right-hander. Tommy Davis’ error at first base allowed two unearned runs against McLain’s record, but most of the damage against the ex-Senator was self-inflicted. Plodding through three innings against the Brewers, McLain surrendered 10 runs (eight earned) on eight hits, six walks, and one hit batsman, while striking out nary a single batter. Poor enough in and of itself, McLain’s performance looked even worse considering the lack of firepower in Milwaukee’s starting lineup, which featured immortals like Rick Auerbach, Joe Lahoud, Frank Tepedino, Paul Ratliff, and Bobby Heise. McLain’s debut helped saddle the A’s with a 14-4 loss, dropping their spring record to 1-and-2.

            The only positive performances of the day were turned in by right fielder Brant Alyea, who continued to impress with a 2-for-4 day, and Davis, who tried to make up for his fielding miscue with two hits in four at-bats, two runs scored, and an RBI.


A’s Acorns: Curt Blefary made his first catching appearance of the spring, spelling Gene Tenace behind the plate and picking up a hit and an RBI in two at-bats. Blefary had played a few innings at third base in the spring opener… Rookie infielder Dwain Anderson, vying for a utility role, batted leadoff and went 1-for-3 with an RBI while playing a flawless shortstop… Minor league right-hander Chris Floethe, already facing long odds of making the staff, allowed three hits and two runs in a two-inning relief stint.

DATE: 03/13

            Three different A’s hit home runs today, but a lack of control on the part of Ken Holtzman and a crucial error by Larry Brown at second base led to a 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Uncharacteristically wild, Holtzman walked seven batters in five innings, allowing all seven Indians runs. Three of the runs came across as unearned, as a result of Brown’s first spring training error.

            Offensively, the A’s showed signs of explosiveness for the first time in the early Cactus League season. First baseman Mike Epstein and center fielder Bobby Brooks (continuing to surprise this spring) hit solo home runs, while Reggie Jackson contributed a two-run shot in a pinch-hitting role. Another bright spot could be found in the pitching performance of Blue Moon Odom, who made his spring debut with two scoreless innings in relief of Holtzman. Odom, while walking three batters, allowed no hits and pitched without pain, giving Dick Williams some hope that he might be ready to vie for the fourth spot in the starting rotation.

A’s Acorns: Jackson’s two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth brought the A’s within three runs of the Indians, who had raced out to leads of 4-0 and 7-2. Jackson did not stay in the game to play right field, where rookie Greg Schubert played most of the game before being replaced by a pinch-hitting Tommy Davis… Only 615 fans showed up in Mesa to watch the A’s drop to 1-and-3 on the spring.


DATE: 03/14

            Oakland’s frontline pitching continued to struggle, as Catfish Hunter allowed 11 hits and seven runs in a 7-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs today. The A’s’ offense staked “The Cat” to an early 2-0 lead, but the Cubs exploded against Hunter in the fourth inning, sending 11 men to bat during a seven-run frame. Longtime Cubs third baseman Ron Santo both started and finished the rally, beginning with a solo home run and ending with a two-run double. Veteran slugger Jim Hickman, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Joe Decker, also contributed a two-run double, as the Cubs scored all of their runs in one inning.

            While Chicago’s offense did plenty of damage against Hunter, the A’s mustered little against a trio of Cub pitchers, managing a total of five hits. Most of the offensive highlights were supplied by a pair of rookie outfielders contending for a backup spot on the 25-man roster. Right fielder Greg Schubert continued to make an impression with two runs scored and a double in four at-bats. Another minor league flychaser, Bobby Brooks, added a run, an RBI, and a triple in four times to the plate.


A’s Acorns: For the first time this spring, the A’s played an errorless game in the field. Oakland’s infield contributed to five double plays… Minor league pitcher Dennis Myers made a bid for the last spot in the bullpen with two shutout innings of relief. Veterans Jim Roland and Rollie Fingers each followed with a scoreless inning… Veteran infielder Tim Cullen, just signed after being released by the Texas Rangers, made his debut in an Oakland uniform. Expected to battle Larry Brown and Dwain Anderson for a utility infield spot on the 25-man roster, Cullen went 0-for-3 in playing the entire game at third base… With the loss, the A’s fell to 1-and-4 in Cactus League play.

DATE: 03/15

            Prior to the spring of 1972, few A’s fans had even heard of Bobby “The Hammer” Brooks. By the middle of March, Brooks was now threatening to make himself a household name in Oakland—or at least in Mesa, where the A’s played their home games in the spring. The Hammer banged out two more home runs today, capping off a 3-for-4 performance at the plate and helping the A’s to a 12-1 bombing of the rival California Angels. 

            Batting fifth in Dick Williams’ starting lineup, Brooks finished the game with two runs, three hits, and four RBIs. Another rookie outfielder, Greg Schubert, came off the bench to hit a home run, with two RBIs, and two runs scored. Joe Rudi and Brant Alyea also went deep, as the A’s hit a preseason-high four home runs in by far their most impressive game of the spring.


A’s Acorns: The recently-signed Tim Cullen made his second consecutive start, this time at shortstop. Batting leadoff, Cullen went 2-for-5 with a run scored… Alyea, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter for starter Diego Segui, stayed in the game to play second base. The veteran outfielder had never before played the middle infield during his major league career… Segui looked impressive in his first spring start, striking out five Angels and allowing only one run in four innings… The A’s are now 2-4 on the spring. 

DATE: 03/16

            Vida Blue announced his retirement today, but no one in A’s camp took the “news” seriously. Speaking in between giggles at a press conference, the celebrated holdout declared that he will work for Dura Steel Products as the vice president of public relations. While his agent tried to maintain a straight face, Blue smirked and laughed repeatedly throughout the press conference, leading most observers to doubt the credibility of his future in plumbing. On the surface, Dick Williams tried to offer a serious reaction to Blue’s announcement. “We certainly hate to lose Vida,” Williams told sportswriter Ron Bergman, “and that has to be the understatement of the year. But I feel we can win with or without Vida.”

Without Vida, the A’s continued their early pre-season schedule. Ron Klimkowski made his second straight eye-opening start of the spring, blanking the San Diego Padres over the first three innings of Oakland’s 4-0 shutout win. “Klem” scattered four harmless hits and picked up three strikeouts, while rookie hopefuls Chris Floethe and Dave Hamilton each chipped in with two scoreless innings of relief, as the A’s won consecutive games for the first time in Cactus League play.

            The A’s scored three of their runs in the fourth inning, thanks mostly to three Padre errors, but helped also by Reggie Jackson’s double and Floethe’s run-scoring single. The A’s also played sloppily in the field—with Mike Epstein, Larry Haney, and Larry Brown committing miscues—but their mistakes did not hurt Oakland pitchers, who helped their own cause by combining to issue only one walk.


A’s Acorns: The A’s’ hottest hitter in the pre-season, outfielder Bobby Brooks, did not play… Newcomer Tim Cullen made his third straight appearance, this time not as a starter but in relief of Sal Bando at third base… The versatile Curt Blefary, who has appeared sparingly this spring, played the final few innings of the game in right field. He had caught and played third base in his previous Cactus League appearances… The A’s are now 3-and-4 in the pre-season.

DATE: 03/17

            The A’s lost a heartbreaker today to the rival Giants, who plated the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-8 victory in Phoenix. Two of the Giants’ young outfielders teamed up for the winning rally: left fielder Bernie Williams delivered a triple that scored center fielder Jimmy Rosario, who had tried but failed to advance a baserunner with a sacrifice bunt earlier in the inning.

            In what has become a disturbing trend, the A’s once again played atrociously in the field. Three more errors—including two committed by the usually reliable likes of Sal Bando and Joe Rudi—raised Oakland’s spring training total to an alarming 15 in only eight games, including six in the last two games. The defensive shortcomings betrayed the efforts of Ken Holtzman, who allowed three runs—but only one earned—in five innings.  The loss dropped the A’s to a lackluster 3-and-5 in the Cactus League.


A’s Acorns: Darold Knowles picked up the loss, retiring only one of three batters he faced in the ninth, the out coming when he fielded Rosario’s bunt and caught Giants third baseman Alan “Dirty Al” Gallagher in a rundown between second and third… Tommy Davis continued his impressive spring at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, an RBI, and a run scored after entering the game to play left field… Sal Bando hit the only home run of the game for either team… Yesterday’s day off did little to hamper the pre-season swing of Bobby Brooks, who picked up two more hits in five at-bats, while scoring a run and driving in another. With Angel Mangual bothered off and on by injury, Brooks has now emerged as a legitimate contender for the center field slot left vacant by the off-season trade of Rick Monday.

DATE: 03/18

            Another day and another lackluster spring performance for the defending champions of the American League West. The A’s lost for the sixth time in nine Cactus League games, dropping a flat 5-0 decision to the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. Catfish Hunter allowed three runs in five innings, the Oakland offense mustered a grand total of four hits, and the defense once again lapsed, this time in the form of Bobby Brooks’ second error of the spring.

            Perhaps the only amount of satisfaction that Charlie Finley could extract from the game was the performance of ex-Athletic Rick Monday. Now the Cubs’ starting center fielder, Monday went 0-for-4 against Oakland pitching.


A’s Acorns: Accounting for the A’s’ only extra-base hit of the day with a harmless double, Brooks started the game in the cleanup slot against Cubs ace Ferguson Jenkins… In a six-inning stint, Jenkins allowed only one hit—a bad-hop single… Billy Williams and Ron Santo each drove in two runs for Chicago, which improved to 2-and-0 against Oakland in head-to-head Cactus League play.

DATE: 03/19

            Throughout his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees, Curt Blefary gained a reputation as something of a malcontent, a player who hesitated little when it came to complaining about playing time and alleged mistreatment by management. Blefary has tried to change that reputation during his tenure in Oakland, becoming an important part of Dick Williams’ bench in 1971. In the spring of ’72, Blefary vows to continue his recent transition from “clubhouse lawyer” to “clubhouse contributor.” “I’ve got three things to do this spring,” Blefary tells The Sporting News. “I’m going to get in shape, take my swings, and keep my mouth shut.”

            If Blefary can fulfill those three promises, he figures to be the A’s’ most important bench player, even more so than pinch-hitter extraordinaire Tommy Davis. No one on Oakland’s roster possesses as much versatility as Blefary, who lists catcher, first base, third base, and the outfield as his areas of experience. While Blefary’s defensive limitations prevent him from playing any of those positions on an extended basis, his ability to fill in at a moment’s notice gives Williams the option to rest regulars, pinch-hit in the late innings, and maneuver his defensive alignments.

            Additionally, Blefary provides Williams with his only proven left-handed hitting option off the bench. The rest of the team’s projected reserves—Gene Tenace, Tommy Davis, Larry Brown, George Hendrick, and either Dwain Anderson or Tim Cullen—all bat from the right side. Blefary’s ability to hit the long ball—or work out a walk with his patient batting eye—make him an attractive pinch-hitting commodity against the league’s tougher right-handed relievers.


A’s Acorns: The A’s took the day off from Cactus League play today, instead playing their second spring exhibition against the Tokyo Lotte Orions. Tokyo, one of the oldest franchises in the Japanese Leagues, is spending the spring touring Arizona and Florida while playing exhibition games against major league clubs.

DATE: 03/20

            Playing some of their most inspired ball of the spring, the A’s bounced back from an early 5-1 deficit to defeat the Chicago Cubs, 7-6. Rookie infielder Dwain Anderson made his strongest impression of the spring, rapping out three doubles as the starting shortstop and leadoff man. Anderson, who drove in three runs and scored three times, combined to form a dominating tandem with No. 2 hitter Joe Rudi, who also enjoyed a three-hit, three-RBI afternoon.

            With the score tied at 6-6 in the fifth inning, one of the newest A’s—and Anderson’s main competitor for a roster spot —played a role in pushing across the game-deciding run. Sal Bando started the inning with a single, before giving way to a pinch-runner. Veteran infielder Tim Cullen, recently claimed off the waiver wire, replaced “Captain Sal” on the basepaths. Cullen proceeded to move up to second base on an infield out, then deftly stole third base, before alertly coming home on Mike Hegan’s infield grounder. Darryl Patterson, Chris Floethe, and Darold Knowles combined to pitch scoreless relief over the final four innings, with Patterson picking up his second win of the exhibition season.

A’s Acorns: Anderson and Rudi teamed up on six of Oakland’s nine hits, as the A’s improved to 4-and-6. Only Bando, Dave Duncan, and the torrid Bobby Brooks managed singles among the rest of the A’s hitters… Former Athletic “Broadway” Frank Fernandez clubbed a grand slam for the Cubs in the second inning, when Chicago scored five times. Fernandez had spent the 1971 season as a human yo-yo, starting off with the A’s before being shuttled off to Washington, eventually returning to Oakland, and then finishing up the year in the Windy City. “Broadway Frank” also spent time with the A’s’ and Cubs’ minor league affiliates… For only the second time all spring, the A’s did not commit an error.

DATE: 03/21

            In his first few exhibition starts, Ken Holtzman had been harmed by Oakland’s shoddy defense and his own wildness. He had pitched creditably, but nowhere near the level that he had shown in his National League heyday.

            Facing the Angels in Palm Springs today, Holtzman looked very much like the pitcher who had thrown two no-hitters during his best days with the Cubs. The talented left-hander blanked the Angels over six innings, scattering only four hits, allowing no walks, and earning the victory in the A’s’ 6-0 whitewash. It was by far Holtzman’s best performance in the green and gold of the A’s, and gave Dick Williams hope that he still had a left-handed ace to turn to, even with the continuing absence of holdout Vida Blue.

            Dick Green supplied half of Oakland’s offense with three RBIs. Brant Alyea and Holtzman also drove in runs, as the A’s won their second consecutive Cactus League game. The A’s are now 5-and-6 in exhibition play.


A’s Acorns: Alyea, who had played as an outfielder and second baseman in earlier games, made his first spring appearance at first base… The A’s’ offense managed five runs and six walks against Angels starter Nolan Ryan, an offseason acquisition from the New York Mets. Two of the runs against Ryan were unearned, as California’s defense committed a total of five errors… Ron Klimkowski continued his fine spring showing for Oakland, pitching two more scoreless innings in relief of Holtzman. Rollie Fingers finished off the shutout with a scoreless ninth. 

DATE: 03/22

            The A’s made it three straight spring training victories with another 6-0 blanking of the Angels, matching the score from yesterday’s game. With the two teams playing at the neutral site of Holtville, California, Catfish Hunter scattered five hits in an impressive five-inning stint, but was overshadowed by the performance of Blue Moon Odom. According to the Oakland coaching staff, Odom threw harder and more effectively than he has at any time in the last two and a half years. Throwing without pain, Odom shut down the Halos on two hits and one walk over the final four innings of the game. Odom pitched so impressively that he might have put himself in the lead for the No. 4 slot in the starting rotation, after Hunter, Ken Holtzman, and Denny McLain.

A’s Acorns: Making the most of his one at-bat, Brant Alyea continued a promising spring by delivering a three-run double in a pinch-hitting role. Alyea came in for Joe Rudi in the sixth inning, helping the A’s open up a 5-0 lead, and then gave way to rookie Greg Schubert in left field… Sal Bando and George Hendrick each had two hits… Tim Cullen continued his push for a roster spot with a pinch-hit single in place of Sal Bando… The A’s played errorless baseball for the third straight game… With the win, the A’s reached .500 in Cactus League play.

DATE: 03/23

            Denny McLain’s second start in an Oakland uniform was better than his first, but that hardly represented good news for the A’s. McLain, who had surrendered eight earned runs in three innings in his A’s debut, lasted five innings in his second start, but gave up seven runs (all earned) on a whopping 14 hits. Unable to recover from the 7-1 deficit that McLain had left them with, the A’s lost to the San Diego Padres, 8-3, in Yuma.

            McLain pitched fairly well through the first four innings, allowing only single runs in the second and fourth. In the fifth inning, he tired badly, surrendering triples to Derrel Thomas and “Downtown” Ollie Brown, a double to opposing pitcher Tom Phoebus, three singles, and a sacrifice fly. Manager Dick Williams opted to leave McLain in for the entire inning, wanting to extend his pitch count at the expense of a spring training loss.


A’s Acorns: The defeat ended the A’s’ winning streak at three games, dropping their record below .500 at 6-and-7… Making his first appearance at first base, Curt Blefary went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando also had two-hit days, with Campy adding a stolen base… Joe Rudi drove in two of Oakland’s runs with a single… Dick Green committed his first error of the spring… Derrel Thomas and Dave Campbell (Editor’s note: the future ESPN broadcaster) each had three hits for the Padres.

DATE: 03/24

            The A’s continued to struggle against the lowly Padres, shut down by the hardly indestructible pitching combination of Bill Grief and Mike Corkins, 1-0.

            With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the ninth inning, A’s reliever Darold Knowles allowed a leadoff single to left fielder Leron Lee. After retiring slugging first baseman Nate Colbert, Knowles faced center fielder Jerry Morales, who tripled in the game-winning run. The loss dropped the A’s to 6-and-8 in exhibition play.

            Oakland’s offense mustered only eight baserunners, including two walks, and struck out eight times. The anemic hitting might have been deemed a bit disturbing considering that Dick Williams started what could be his Opening Day lineup:

Campaneris, ss

Rudi, lf

Jackson, rf

Bando, 3b

Epstein, 1b

Tenace, c

Hendrick, cf

Green, 2b


            Of the above eight positions, only catcher and center field seem like question marks for Opening Day, with challenges being posed to Tenace (by Dave Duncan) and Hendrick (by Bobby Brooks and Angel Mangual).

            Looking at the upside, Diego Segui turned in his best performance of the spring, allowing only four hits and no runs over six innings. Bob Locker, with another solid inning in middle relief, remained unscored upon in exhibition play.


A’s Acorns: Mangual, who has been bothered by injuries throughout spring training, did make a hitless appearance as a pinch-hitter. In fact, Mangual was the only substitution among position players for the A's, as Dick Williams played the game more like a regular season affair than an exhibition tilt.   

DATE: 03/25

            Since spring training games don’t count in the regular season standings, it might be difficult to categorize a spring loss as heartbreaking. Yet, today’s defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers might have come close to such a description.

            With a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth and spring training sensation Ron Klimkowski on the mound, the game seemed securely in Oakland’s favor. Unscored upon in Cactus League play, the A’s committed a costly error before “Klem” buckled and allowed two home runs to catchers Paul Ratliff and Darrell Porter. Within moments, the Brewers had scored three runs to take a 5-3 lead, which they held onto for the victory.

            The ninth inning implosion overshadowed another terrific start for Ken Holtzman, who allowed only one run in six innings. Shortstop Larry Brown and outfielder Bobby Brooks continued to experience shaky springs defensively, each committing an error. The A’s had gone five straight games without a miscue prior to the meltdown.


A’s Acorns: Joe Rudi homered for the A’s. He was hit by a pitch in his only other plate appearance and left the game… Campy Campaneris drove in the other two runs for Oakland… Mike Hegan singled in his one at-bat, ending a drought that had seen him start the spring hitless in 17 at-bats… The Brewers started Skip Lockwood, who allowed only one earned run in five innings. Lockwood began his career in the A’s’ organization—the Kansas City A’s—as a third baseman.

DATE: 03/26

A’s Acorns: Joe Rudi and Sal Bando each hit two-run home runs in today’s Cactus League game in Mesa, lifting the A’s to an 8-3 win over the Padres. Catfish Hunter put forth his best effort of the spring, allowing only one earned run over seven innings… Dick Green continued his fine hitting in the exhibition season, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Reggie Jackson added two hits, two RBIs, and a run scored… Rookie infielder Dwain Anderson continues to turn heads. “D,” as he’s known to teammates, scored two runs while batting out of the leadoff spot and once again played a flawless shortstop… With the win, the A’s snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-and-9 in the Cactus League.

DATE: 03/27

            After two disastrous spring training starts, members of the A’s’ coaching staff held their fingers as Denny McLain took to the mound against the Cleveland Indians today in Tucson.  Showing improved life with his fastball, McLain turned in seven respectable innings, allowing all three runs in a 3-2 loss to the Tribe. Although McLain permitted eight hits and four walks, he worked out of several jams, allowing runs in only the sixth and seventh innings. The Indians scored the game’s decisive run in the seventh, on a single by pinch-hitter Lou Camilli, a sacrifice bunt by Del Unser, and an RBI single by Eddie Leon.

            While McLain’s performance offered encouragement, the A’s’ offense produced only frustration. Three of the A’s’ rookies each produced three hits—Bobby Brooks, Dwain Anderson, and George Hendrick—but as a team, the A’s plated just a pair of runs. None of the other A’s managed a single hit against Cleveland’s Dick Tidrow and Chuck Machemehl. 


A’s Acorns: The A’s employed an unusual lineup today, with third baseman Tim Cullen batting leadoff and catcher Curt Blefary batting second. The unusual 1-2 combination went hitless in seven at-bats, reaching base only once (on a Blefary walk). None of the A’s’ 1971 regulars appeared in the game except for Mike Epstein, who batted cleanup and played first base… The A’s preseason record now stands at 7-and-10.



DATE: 03/28

            Blue Moon Odom didn’t pitch as well as he had in his spring training debut, but still managed to strike out five and last a full six innings in a losing effort to the Angels in Mesa. Odom allowed four runs and nine hits in a 6-1 defeat to the Halos. Odom’s outing proved encouraging enough for the A’s to pencil him into their season-opening starting rotation.

            In the meantime, the A’s’ erratic spring offense continued to sputter. Oakland managed only five hits against Andy Messersmith and Rickey Clark, with their one run coming on a bases-loaded walk to Campy Campaneris. Regulars Reggie Jackson, Mike Epstein, Dave Duncan, and Campaneris combined to produce only one hit in 13 at-bats, as the A’s fell to 7-and-11.

A’s Acorns: Once again, Bobby Brooks shone as the only offensive bright spot. The impressive rookie picked up two hits in three at-bats and scored Oakland’s only run… The A’s recalled non-roster infielder Vic Harris from their minor league camp to play second base and bat second behind Campaneris. The switch-hitting Harris, who batted .291 with 84 runs scored at Class-A Burlington (Midwest League) in 1971, went hitless in four at-bats.

DATE: 02/29

Even though neither player has asked to be dealt, the names of Gene Tenace and Dave Duncan continue to be mentioned in trade talk during the spring.  With the A’s possessing two catchers of starting caliber in “Dunc” and “Steamboat,” in addition to a solid bat in Curt Blefary, and a fine defensive receiver in Larry Haney (who has had an impressive spring), Charlie Finley has been shopping both Duncan and Tenace. In exchange, the A’s would love to acquire a starting second baseman with the capability of beating out Dick Green, either now or in the near future. 

Oakland scouts have salivated over the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pair of young second basemen, Dave Cash and Rennie Stennett, but know that the Bucs already have a fine No. 1 catcher in Manny Sanguillen.  As for other options, the Orioles’ Dave Johnson and Chicago Cubs veteran Glenn Beckert represent two of the better veteran second basemen that might be available in a trade. Both the Orioles and Cubs would like to improve their receiving corps with a top-flight catcher. In 1971, the Orioles platooned journeymen Andy Etchebarren and Elrod Hendricks, while the Cubs struggled to find a replacement for the injured Randy Hundley, who came to bat only 27 times.



DATE: O3/30

In the most stunning development of spring training, the A’s today waived veteran first baseman-outfielder Tommy Davis, who batted over .320 in a part-time role in 1971.  “I knew I was in trouble when I got my contract,” Davis said of the pact that Charlie Finley had mailed him during the winter.  “I hit .324 for him and he offered me [only] a $3,000 raise,” Davis told Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News.  In 1971, the 33-year-old Davis performed exceedingly well as the A’s’ best bench player. He led all American League pinch-hitters in batting average and responded brilliantly in clutch situations, collecting 13 RBIs with his 12 pinch-hits.  

Davis continued to hit well in the spring exhibition games, assaulting pitchers at a .563 clip prior to his release.  So why are the A’s essentially throwing away such a valuable bench player while receiving nothing in return?  The A’s claim that the condition of Davis’ oft-injured legs prevent him from playing a position in the field; Davis had not appeared in a game since March 23, or one week ago.  “He could no longer do the job defensively,” Dick Williams told Murray Chass of the New York Times.

In reality, Davis’ defensive limitations have little to do with his sudden unemployment, since the A’s rarely used him in the field anyway.  The real reason can be found in the name of Davis’ agent—Bob Gerst—the same man representing celebrated holdout Vida Blue.  Davis had first introduced Blue to Gerst, an act that Finley now considered unconscionable.  “If that’s the reason they cut me,” Davis reasoned to the New York Times, “there’s nothing I can do about it.  If it is [the reason], it’s very childish.”

Davis explained that he had brought Blue and Gerst together during the first half of the 1971 season, when the left-hander’s assault of American League batters had attracted commercial suitors. “I didn’t introduce Gerst to help Blue with his contract,” Davis explained to Bob Cottrol of Black Sports Magazine. “I introduced him to help him with endorsements and personal appearances—and that was early in the season.” Regardless of Davis’ intentions, Finley apparently sought retribution for the current crumbled state of salary negotiations with his star pitcher.  “He wanted a scapegoat,” Davis said. “He didn’t want to get rid of Blue, but he wanted to show how strong he could be.”

With teams looking to reduce their rosters to the 25-man limit late in spring training, the timing of the release does not help Davis. “I figure I had a job, hitting for Oakland and maybe playing sparingly… the next thing I’m out of baseball,” Davis told Black Sports.


(Editor’s note: Davis would eventually find work with the Chicago Cubs and in later years would make Finley regret his foolish decision to release him by becoming one of the American League’s most productive designated hitters.)


A’s Acorns: The release of the popular Davis overshadowed today’s exhibition game against the Indians—a 6-5 win in Mesa. Ken Holtzman forged his second consecutive outstanding start, allowing only an unearned run in seven innings. Holtzman could be in line to be the Opening Day starter over Catfish Hunter, who also pitched well in his most recent appearance… The A’s took an early 4-0 lead after two innings, but barely held off the Indians’ late-inning charge against reliever Jim Roland, who was cuffed for four runs in one and two-thirds innings… Campy Campaneris paced the offense with three hits and three RBIs, Dick Green added a pair of hits and two runs scored, and Joe Rudi blasted his team-leading fourth home run of the spring.

DATE: 03/31

            Playing one of their best games of the spring, the A’s routed the Padres, 8-0, in Mesa today. The A’s scored all of their runs on home runs, supporting the shutout pitching of Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. With seven innings of scoreless ball, Hunter matched Ken Holtzman’s performance yesterday, giving Dick Williams a tough call as to who might become the Opening Day starter. Even the A’s’ shaky spring defense contributed to the victory, completing three double plays while committing no errors.

            The A’s took an early lead on George Hendrick’s first-inning home run, and then added it to it on Mike Epstein’s two-run shot in the fourth. In the seventh, Hendrick hit his second home run of the game—this time a two-run blast. Campy Campaneris, rebounding from a weak spring, concluded the scoring with a three-run blow in the eighth, capping off a two-hit day.


A’s Acorns: Hendrick finished the game with three hits in four at-bats, three RBIs, and three runs scored. He became the second member of the A’s to hit two home runs in a game this spring, joining his competitor in center field, Bobby Brooks… Larry Brown went 2-for-4 while playing the entire game at third base. Brown will likely make the Opening Day roster as the primary utility infielder, with Dwain Anderson and Tim Cullen still battling for the secondary position… Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson were the only two Oakland regulars who did not play… With their second consecutive win, the A’s improve to 9-and-11 in spring play.

DATE: 04/01

            The A’s were supposed to play a spring training game today, but that became a non-entity as major league baseball’s Players’ Association called the first general strike in the history of the sport. The April Fool’s Day announcement effectively means the end of the exhibition season, while putting in jeopardy the start of the regular season, which is scheduled for April 5 (with the A’s slated to play their first game on April 6).

            The reason for the strike? The Players’ Association, under the direction of Marvin Miller, wants improvement in the pension fund, long a sore point among players. The Association has asked for a 17 per cent increase in fixed retirement benefits, a request that has met with both indifference and resistance from the owners. On March 30, Miller completed a spring training canvass of the major league players, with 662 voting in favor of a strike and only 10 voting against a walkout, with two voters choosing to abstain. Miller found unanimous support among the A’s’ players, who voted 25-0 in favor of striking.

At today’s meeting, which included player representatives from each of the 24 teams, the reps voted 47-0 in favor of a strike (Wes Parker of the Los Angeles Dodgers elected not to vote), making the walkout official. Oakland’s Reggie Jackson made one of the most passionate appeals in favor of an immediate strike and found support from the team’s alternate player representative, Chuck Dobson.

Without a quick settlement, the scheduled start of the regular season has almost certainly been placed in an endangered state. And spring training—which always seems to begin with so much promise and hope—has come to an abrupt and sorrowful end.

DATE: 04/02

A’s Acorns: Thanks to the onset of the strike, the exhibition season has ended, leaving the A’s with a mediocre record of 9-and-11 in Cactus League play. In spite of the team’s generally sporadic play, several individual players put forth standout performances. Catcher-first baseman Gene Tenace hit .316 in Cactus League play, far bettering the mark of incumbent receiver Dave Duncan, who batted only .138. Still, manager Dick Williams has not announced who will start behind the plate once the strike comes to an end… Among hitters, none produced as much as non-roster invitee Bobby Brooks, who batted .344 with three home runs and piled up 11 RBIs in 61 spring at-bats. Brooks’ surprising performance not only gained him a spot on the 25-man roster, but also impressed Dick Williams sufficiently to earn him a starting job in the A’s’ outfield. Brooks, the new center fielder, will be flanked by Joe Rudi in left and Reggie Jackson in right field. Now Brooks just has to wait for the strike to end before he can enjoy his first action in the major leagues since a cup of coffee in 1970… In order to make room for Brooks on the 25-man roster, the A’s demoted 1971 sensation Angel Mangual to Triple-A Iowa. Mangual had reported to spring training with a torn leg muscle and incurred a series of other injuries throughout the spring, damaging both his performance and his playing time… From a pitching standpoint, both Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman excelled toward the tail end of spring training. Either would seem like a logical candidate to start the opener—whenever that is… Unfortunately, any momentum that either pitcher might have gained toward the regular season will likely be negated if the player walkout continues for any length of time…Three relievers—Rollie Fingers, Ron Klimkowski, and Bob Locker—also stood out. Locker did not allow a run in seven innings of work. The side-arming Locker will serve in middle relief, helping to set up Fingers, the team’s No. 1 fireman.

DATE: 04/03

            Over a span of seven seasons, he had toiled in the minor leagues without ever making an Opening Day roster. Over the last two consecutive springs, he was the final player cut by the A’s and sent back to the minors. The A’s apparently thought so little of him that they didn’t even include him on the 40-man roster heading into the spring of 1972. Given such circumstances, few could have blamed this obscure minor league journeyman for calling it quits.

            Six weeks of spring training had completely changed the career outlook for the five-foot, eight-and-a-half inch slugger. Shortly before the Players’ Association went on strike, manager Dick Williams announced that “Hammer”—AKA Bobby Brooks—had made the A’s’ Opening Day roster. Better yet, Brooks’ performance had earned him a berth in the starting outfield as Oakland’s regular center fielder.

            Once Williams made up his mind, he called Brooks into his office to deliver the good news. An unsuspecting Brooks expected only the worst. “I thought the axe was swinging and the hog was high,” the colorful Brooks told The Sporting News. In other words, he thought he was being sent back to the minor leagues—yet again.

            That wasn’t going to happen, not after Brooks had opened the eyes of the Oakland coaching staff with a .344 batting average and three home runs in 18 games. Brooks’ performance also garnered applause from his teammates—even from those competing with him for a roster spot. “I’m very glad the Oakland organization has finally seen what the players have been seeing in Bobby Brooks all these years,” observed George Hendrick, who lost out to Brooks in the center field derby. After seven years of hardship, Bobby Brooks had finally made it to Opening Day. Now if only the strike would end and Opening Day would actually take place.

(Editor’s note: Brooks would hit only .179 in 39 at-bats before losing the A’s’ center field job early in 1972. He would play a brief seven-game stint for the California Angels in 1973, bringing his major league career to an end. Unfortunately, Brooks would meet with tragedy in his post-playing days. On October 11, 1994, Brooks died from a heart attack at the age of 48.)

DATE: 04/05

            Lost amidst the clamor created by the ongoing baseball strike is the composition of the A’s’ Opening Day roster. In somewhat of a surprise, Dick Williams and Charlie Finley have decided to retain journeyman Larry Haney as the third-string catcher. A defensive stalwart and onetime member of the Seattle Pilots, Haney did not play in the majors during the 1971 season and had been given little chance of making the team at the start of spring training. In another surprise, both Bobby Brooks and George Hendrick have made the team, beating out the injury-plagued Angel Mangual, who will start the season at Triple-A. In a more expected move, the A’s have decided to keep Rule Five acquisition Brant Alyea as a backup outfielder rather than offer him back to the Minnesota Twins.

In other developments, Rangers castoff Tim Cullen narrowly edged out rookie Dwain Anderson for a spot as a utility infielder. Along with Anderson, rookie left-hander Dennis Myers and journeyman right-hander Ron Klimkowski (despite a sensational spring) were two of the final roster cuts. And veteran right-hander Chuck Dobson, nowhere close to being ready after offseason elbow surgery, will start the new season on the disabled list, while Vida Blue remains an unsigned holdout, leaving the A’s with nine pitchers for Opening Day. 

Although no one knows for sure when the strike will come to an end, these are the players that Williams and Finley have decided upon to fill out the 25-man roster:


Catchers (3): Dave Duncan, Larry Haney, Gene Tenace

Infielders (7): Sal Bando, Larry Brown, Bert “Campy” Campaneris, Tim Cullen, Mike Epstein, Dick Green, Mike Hegan

Outfielders (6): Brant Alyea, Curt Blefary, Bobby Brooks, George Hendrick, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi

Pitchers (9): Rollie Fingers, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Bob Locker, Denny McLain, Darold Knowles, John “Blue Moon” Odom, Jim Roland, Diego Segui 

Disabled List (1): Chuck Dobson

Restricted List (1): Vida Blue


DATE: 04/06

            If all had gone according to plan, the Oakland A’s would have opened up the regular season at historic Comiskey Park against the Chicago White Sox today. Unfortunately, the plans for the A’s and the Western Division rival White Sox—and the rest of the major league teams—have been disrupted by the player strike, which has effectively wiped out today’s Opening Day slate of games. So instead of Catfish Hunter or Ken Holtzman taking the Comiskey Park mound against knuckleballing ace Wilbur Wood (22-13 with a 1.91 ERA in 1971), Marvin Miller and the Players’ Association continue their battle with major league owners over the issue of increased pension benefits. 

DATE: 04/08

As the A’s and the rest of major league baseball wait for a resolution to the first general strike in the history of the game, we’ll present profiles of the players most pivotal to Oakland’s success in 1972:

A native of Cuba, Bert “Campy” Campaneris had arrived in the major leagues in 1964 with the Kansas City A’s, as a replacement for injured shortstop Wayne Causey.  After an all-night, sleep-depriving plane ride, Campaneris arrived at the ballpark. The A’s’ equipment manager thought the 155-pound Campaneris too frail to be a ballplayer and initially refused to give him a uniform. Campaneris surprised the equipment manager by homering in his first at-bat against Minnesota’s Jim Kaat—on the very first pitch.  Campaneris followed up by hitting a second home run against Kaat in the seventh inning.  The dual home runs tied a modern day record for most home runs in a major league debut. The 22-year-old speedster added a single, a stolen base, and an impressive running catch on a short pop-up into left field.

Separated from his mother, father, and seven brothers and sisters, who still lived in Cuba, the shy, reserved Campaneris had few American friends, no girlfriend or wife, and lived by himself in a small apartment near Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. “He was such a loner,” says former teammate Jack Aker. “I played with him there for three or four years and never really got to know him.”  Several of the A’s attempted to incorporate Campaneris into the social atmosphere of the clubhouse. “We tried to get him at least psychologically to be a part of the team,” Aker explains, “which we never were able to achieve while I was with the team.”

Campaneris’ tendency to stay to himself may have been caused by his problems with a new language.  At first, Campaneris spoke such little English that teammate Diego Segui, who eventually became his best friend on the team, served as his interpreter for interviews with the media.  Although A’s’ coaches had difficulty communicating with him, they quickly came away impressed with his speed and daring base-running style.  “He’s got guts,” Kansas City A’s coach Gabby Hartnett told sportswriter Joe McGuff in 1964.  “He’s got the best pair of wheels I’ve ever seen. I saw a lot of great basestealers, including Max Carey, but I wouldn’t rate any of them ahead of this kid.” A’s third-base coach Luke Appling, also a Hall of Famer like Hartnett, raved about Campy’s baseball instincts, calling them “exceptional.”

The language barrier forced a determined Campaneris to study pitchers on his own and develop base-stealing techniques by himself.  In 1965, Campaneris led all American League basestealers with 51 thefts.  Campy topped the 50-stolen base mark three straight seasons, before swiping 62 bases in 1968. At the plate, Campaneris hit consistently in the .260 to .270 range.  “We felt he was more of an offensive weapon than a defensive weapon at that time,” recalls Jack Aker. Only elements of his defensive play remained a concern.  “An outstanding defensive player as far as his range at the time,” Aker says. “He wasn’t as steady as Dick Green was at second. But he made the spectacular plays.”  Campaneris’ quick, scampering feet allowed him to reach grounders that other shortstops couldn’t touch, but he tended to bobble grounders because of his unsure hands.  Campy made over 30 errors in three of his first four full seasons before settling down defensively in 1969.  As with his base stealing, Campy improved his fieldwork through his self-imposed work ethic.  

Campaneris wasn’t satisfied with improvements on the field.  He hoped to learn English to the point where he no longer would need bilingual teammates like Orlando Pena and Diego Segui to help him conduct interviews.  He spent one winter with his second cousin, Angels’ outfielder Jose Cardenal, whose wife gave him lessons in the new language.  Thanks in part to his improved skills in speaking English, Campaneris eventually met and married an American woman.

In 1971, Campaneris represented one of the few offensive disappointments for the A’s, this after slugging a career-high 22 home runs in 1970. “He hit some home runs leading off one year,” Rollie Fingers says, recalling Campy’s unusual power output in 1970. “Right out of the shoot, you were up 1-0, and that certainly helped.”

In 1971, Campaneris struggled through an up-and-down season at the plate. Much to the chagrin of Dick Williams, Campaneris tried to hit home runs the way he had in 1970, rather than concentrate on putting the ball in play and getting on base.  “We called him ‘Baby Hondo,’ ” Fingers says with a chuckle, “because everybody thought he swung the bat like Frank Howard.” The six-foot, seven-inch Howard weighed well over 250 pounds, while Campaneris measured five feet, ten inches tall and weighed barely 155 pounds. Using a long, overextended swing, Campaneris hit only five home runs and saw his batting average, runs scored, and stolen base totals fall off from his career-best season of 1970. 

On the plus side, Campy rebounded from a poor start defensively—which had seen him make 10 errors in his first 24 games, including errors in four consecutive games—and began to emerge as a reliable, sure-handed shortstop who still had excellent range to either side of the ball.

 DATE: 04/09

As an amateur player, Sal Bando had starred at Arizona State University, where he played with his onetime Oakland teammate, Rick Monday.  His collegiate coach—future A’s coach and manager Bobby Winkles—worked with him on the principle of hitting to all fields, rather than trying to pull every pitch.  Winkles hoped to make the slow-footed Bando a catcher in his senior season, but the young third baseman foiled the plan by making himself eligible for the professional draft.  After hitting .480 in the 1965 College World Series, the Kansas City A’s made Bando the third choice in that year’s amateur draft.

Bando showed improvement in each of his three minor league seasons, hitting for a higher average while advancing one level each summer.  Kansas City scouts loved Bando’s game, especially the powerful throwing arm that had made him an all-city quarterback in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. Scouts from other teams labeled Bando the best third base prospect they’d seen in years.

In 1967, the A’s traded mediocre journeyman Ed Charles to make room for Bando, whom manager Alvin Dark considered the second coming of Brooks Robinson.  At the urging of Dark, Bando altered his batting stance, adopting a deeper crouch. Bando should have retained his old approach; he hit only .192, injured himself, and received a return ticket to Triple-A Vancouver.

Bando returned to the major leagues the following season—sans the crouching stance preferred by Dark.  Batting out of a straighter, more comfortable position, Bando continued to struggle. A subsequent tip from Hall of Fame batting instructor Joe DiMaggio reversed his failures at the plate. “I was getting jammed on everything,” Bando explained to Ron Bergman. “Then Joe D. told me to close up my stance.”

By 1969, Bando became Oakland’s cleanup hitter and team captain. Even though Bando was only 25 years old, manager Hank Bauer recognized the leadership qualities and intelligence of his rugged, respected third baseman. “We didn’t have a lot of veteran players when I was with Oakland,” Reggie Jackson says of his first few years with the A’s.  “My intensity on the field was helped by playing with our captain, Sal Bando. We lived near each other in our very early years and he was very influential in my career.”

“He was very friendly; off the field, he was one of the guys,” says Jack Aker, a teammate of Bando’s for two seasons. “On the field, you could sense that he was a leader. Even so much as when the manager would come out to talk to the pitcher, it got to where a lot of times the manager would come out and talk to Bando in front of the pitcher—which is rare. A lot of times the manager will talk to the catcher about the pitcher. Bando was so much in the ballgame and so aware; he could pick up that a pitcher might be tiring, even better than sometimes the catchers could. So he was very valuable.” 

Aker considered Bando a natural selection as team captain. “In the late sixties, all these fellows, like Bando, Campaneris—who was already there— Catfish came along, Reggie Jackson, Rick Monday, all of these fellows came up at almost the same time. I think everyone knew right away, as far as the veteran players, that they were gonna have some kind of team here. We didn’t have a veteran who was in the right age group that could have carried on as captain when these young fellows came in. So I think partly the reason that Sal Bando was named the captain and fit in so well: he had the aptitude for it; he was a hard-nosed type of player who gave all he had everyday and expected everybody else to do. And he also was a very bright player; he made very few mistakes on the field… I think they definitely picked the right fellow.”


DATE: 04/10

Most observers who followed the A’s in 1972 recognized that Reggie Jackson was their best and most talented everyday play. The star outfielder had been drafted by the Kansas City A’s in 1966 after a terrific sophomore season at Arizona State University.  After making Jackson the A’s’ first pick in the draft, Charlie Finley personally recruited Jackson’s signature on a contract.  The owner offered the college star an $85,000 bonus and a new car, in the hopes that he would give up his football scholarship with the Sun Devils.  “He came driving up in a big Cadillac,” Jackson told Glenn Dickey of Sport Magazine in describing his first meeting with Finley.  He “kept talking about what a big star I was going to be and how we were going to be champions. He really overwhelmed me.”

Finley wanted to start Jackson at Double-A, but Kansas City scouts Bob Zuk and Ray Swallow begged the owner to start him at a lower level. For once, Finley gave in. Jackson debuted professionally that summer, making two pitstops for Class-A teams in Lewiston and Modesto.  Reggie moved up to Double-A Birmingham in 1967 and so dominated Southern League pitching that he earned a promotion to the major leagues midway through the season. When Jackson batted only .178 in 35 games, the A’s targeted him for additional work in the Instructional League. Kansas City coaches tutored Jackson on hitting inside pitches and cutting down on his frequent strikeouts.

In 1968, with the A’s now entrenched in Oakland, Jackson spent his first full season in the majors and worked daily with batting coach Joe DiMaggio, the former New York Yankees’ great. For over an hour each day, DiMaggio schooled Jackson on the art of making better contact. “Reggie is still green as grass,” DiMaggio admitted to sportswriter Ed Rumill. “We’ve just got to bring his talents to the surface. They’re all there, no question.”

Jackson terrorized American League pitchers during the first half of the 1969 season, setting a record with 37 home runs before the All-Star break. Jackson seemed destined to break Roger Maris’ single-season record for home runs, but encountered a second half power drought brought upon by nerves and excessive media scrutiny.  In addition to his obvious power, Jackson possessed all the other requisite skills to become a star: a burst of speed that reminded some of Willie Mays in his prime, and a thunderous throwing arm that reminded others of a young Al Kaline or even an older Roberto Clemente.

During the winter following the 1970 campaign, Jackson started to make some important changes in his approach to the game.  While playing for Santurce in winter ball, Jackson tinkered with his batting stance by crouching at the plate.  “I’ve torn down my batting style and I’m reconstructing it,” Jackson told Ron Bergman. “I’ve forgotten about hitting the home run ball and I’m just hitting the ball somewhere.” The crouch helped Jackson improve his ability to make contact with the ball.  “This way, as long as I stay down in the crouch and swing, I don’t lose contact with my eyes and overswing and hit the ball all over.”

By accident, Jackson also discovered that he needed to wear eyeglasses.  Jackson visited an eyewear store in search of some new sunglasses and met with an eye doctor.  The doctor performed an examination of Jackson’s eyes and discovered the slugger to be nearsighted.  After donning his new eyeglasses, Reggie raised his batting average 70 points in Winter League play.  “I’ve hit five home runs in the six games I played after I began wearing them,” Reggie exclaimed to The Sporting News. “It’s amazing.”

During that same offseason, the A’s hired Dick Williams as their new manager, replacing John McNamara. Based on what he had heard about Williams, Jackson reacted negatively to the move. “I’ve heard a lot of bad things about him from other players, unfavorable comments, ” Jackson admitted to The Sporting News. “I heard that when things get tough, he wouldn’t stick up for you.”  Jackson initially asked Williams to trade him. Reporters circulated rumors that the A’s might trade Jackson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for slugging outfielder Willie Stargell, or to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Paul Blair and pitcher Tom Phoebus. 

Jackson later retreated from his trade request—after meeting with Williams.  “I saw Reggie down in Puerto Rico,” Williams told The Sporting News after watching his slugger play for the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rican Winter League. “His attitude was so good it was scary.”

By 1972, Jackson had completely changed his opinion of Williams, whom he considered tough but fair. With Jackson and Williams on the same page, there was little chance of dispute between the team’s manager and the team’s best all-around player. 

DATE: 04/11

In 1964, the year before baseball established an amateur draft, a horde of scouts had launched an all-out assault on Hertford, North Carolina, and its population of 2,012 residents. That’s where Jim Hunter, one of the best high school pitchers in the country, resided.  Charlie Finley shooed away other scouts major league when he arranged for a police escort and a black limousine to bring him to the modest Hunter home.  “Mr. Finley started passing out green warm-up jackets and green bats and orange baseballs,” Hunter told Pat Jordan of Sport Magazine, “and it sort of scared off all the other scouts.  They figured Mr. Finley had me all sewed up.” Finley and the Kansas City A’s didn’t, at least not yet. The owner refused to give Hunter the new Thunderbird he wanted, but relented on a $75,000 bonus and a major league contract.  For the hard-working farming community of Perquimans County, a $75,000 check represented an unheard-of windfall.

Shortly after his signing in June, Finley discovered that Hunter’s right foot contained 30 shotgun pellets. During a high school rabbit-hunting expedition, Hunter’s brother had tripped and accidentally shot him in the foot, resulting in the loss of his small toe. “My folks worried I would get hurt playing football,” Hunter told the New York Daily News. “So, instead, my brother shot my toe off accidentally.” His brother fainted, forcing Hunter to slap him in the face in an effort to bring him back to consciousness. The two boys then walked off together to a local hospital.

Taking a passive approach, a local doctor had decided to leave the buckshot pellets in Hunter’s foot.  Finley wanted to tear up his major league contract with the injured teenager and replace it with a minor league, for far less money.  The Commissioner’s Office ruled that the original contract remain valid.  Having failed to destroy the contract, Finley wanted to repair Hunter’s foot. Finley instructed the scout who had signed Hunter—Clyde Kluttz—to take the teenager to the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Doctors removed half of the pellets and some bone fragments from Hunter’s four remaining toes, but the surgery knocked him onto the disabled list for all of the 1964 season.  Baseball’s bonus role and the possibility of losing Hunter to the first-year draft forced the A’s to keep the 19-year-old on the major league roster in 1965, even though he had displayed only an average repertoire in spring training.  The following spring, the A’s planned to send Hunter to the minor leagues, but his surprising maturity and injuries to a few veteran pitchers enabled him to stay with Kansas City. 

“It just so happened that he was my roommate,” says Jack Aker, a reliever who had first joined the A’s in 1964, one year before Hunter’s arrival.  “They decided he could stay with me, that I was safe and wouldn’t lead him astray. Catfish was so impressive, not because of what he did pitching, but here’s a kid right out of high school who goes on the major league mound and pitches as if he were a veteran.  Catfish never showed a bit of fear or nervousness, anything that most rookies would show in that situation.  He just picked up on major league baseball like it was another day back at his high school in Hertford, North Carolina.” Hunter remained with the A’s on a full-time basis, never spending a single day in the minors.

Hunter quickly impressed the veteran A’s players with his demeanor, both on the pitching mound and in the clubhouse. “Very calm, cool customer on the field,” Aker says. “Very personable off the field.  Very shy when he was young. But a guy that, even though it took awhile to get to know him, everybody liked.”

Although Hunter insisted that he continued to push off the mound with his foot as hard as ever, the high school hunting misadventure appeared to have robbed Hunter’s fastball of some its velocity. Still, baseball scouts liked Hunter’s control, ball movement, and pitching instincts so much that they predicted he would become a right-handed Whitey Ford. The A’s liked Hunter enough to reject an enticing trade proposal from the Orioles, who had offered former American League Rookie of the Year Mike Epstein and two pitchers for Hunter. From 1966 to 1970, Hunter pitched creditably, earning selection to a pair of American League All-Star teams. Yet, he fell short of the level of stardom predicted by Charlie Finley, who had hoped Hunter would become a 20-game winner in 1968.  That didn’t happen until 1971, when Hunter finally became a bonafide star. Aided by the development of a slider, continued improvement of his control, and the addition of deception to his pitching motion, Hunter won 20 games for the first time in his career and established himself as one of the aces of the Oakland staff.

DATE: 04/12

Standing six feet, four-inches, Rollie Fingers gave the A’s some cause for concern from time to time because of his tendency to add weight. Ironically, Fingers had been anything but heavy as a teenager growing up in Steubenville, Ohio. In 1964, the gangly beanpole had won the American Legion Player of the Year award and signed a professional contract with the Kansas City A’s. After debating whether to make Fingers a pitcher or a position player, the organization assigned him to moundwork with Leesburg of the Florida State League. Fingers ascended the ladder slowly, making it to Class-AA Birmingham in 1967. On opening night, Fingers threw a change-up to a minor league hitter named Fred Kovner. A line drive soon returned in Fingers’ direction. “I saw it,” Fingers told Ron Bergman, “about three feet from my face.” Fingers tried to block the ball with his glove, but reacted too late, the drive striking him in the jaw. Fingers fell to the dirt, face first.  When manager John McNamara rolled him over, he fixated on a stream of blood flowing from Fingers’ right eye. Doctors repaired the eye, which had caused blurred vision, and wired his jaw shut. When a nurse gave him a drug that created an allergic reaction, he had to vomit repeatedly—through his teeth. Fingers spent three days in the hospital, losing several pounds along the way.

After the 1970 season, Fingers located the answer to his weight problems.  Once again, the solution arrived in an undesirable way. Rollie experienced a severe bout with intestinal flu and lost 25 pounds in the process.  The illness proved to be a blessing, as Fingers reported to spring training lighter, quicker, and more durable.  In just over 36 spring training innings, Fingers compiled a record of 4-0, with an ERA of 2.23. On March 27, Fingers pitched the most masterful exhibition game of any Oakland starter to date.  Despite struggling with his control, Fingers shut down the San Diego Padres, 9-2, with a complete game, five-hit effort.  The performance marked the first complete game for an A’s starter in spring training.

Dick Williams hoped that Fingers would prosper as a starter.  In his first major league start in 1969, Fingers had pitched a complete game shutout against the Twins, whose lineup included Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and Harmon Killebrew.  With his hard, sinking fastball that moved in two different directions and a knee-buckling slider, Fingers owned the physical requirements needed to become an excellent starting pitcher. Yet, Fingers’ personality and make-up posed a problem, working against him as a starter. “When I was a starting pitcher,” Fingers told Ron Bergman, “I’d start thinking about it the day before the game. I’d be all shaky and everything.” An onslaught of nervous anxiety and anticipation plagued Fingers’ mind and body.  “I just couldn’t handle a starting job,” Fingers conceded in later years. “If Dick Williams hadn’t moved me to the bullpen in 1971, I would have been out of baseball a long time ago.”

Fingers initially resisted the move to the bullpen, considered an unglamorous residential area in 1971.  “Rollie thought it was banishment to begin with, to go to the bullpen,” says Rick Monday, a member of the A’s through the end of the 1971 season.  “Bill Posedel was the pitching coach and did a wonderful job, and constantly stayed on top of Rollie.” At the time, the decision to move Fingers to the bullpen created few headlines. No one around the A’s realized the significance of what was to become a critical career change.

DATE: 04/13

            At 2:15 p.m. Pacific Time this Thursday afternoon, baseball fans heard the only news they had wanted to hear since April Fool’s Day. The strike is over—thanks to an agreement between Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Players’ Association, and John Gaherin, the lead labor negotiator of the owners’ Player Relations Committee.

            The end of the strike may have been facilitated by the intercession of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who had called for all of the owners to gather in a meeting yesterday. Kuhn had previously kept himself out of the negotiating process, but felt that the time was right to intercede.

            Earlier today, at about 12 noon Pacific Time, Gaherin called Miller with the owners’ latest proposal—a one-year contract that allowed for some concessions with regard to the players’ pension plan. As part of the offer, the owners stipulated that all players would be docked their salaries for the games missed because of the strike and that none of the cancelled games would be made up. Miller agreed to the stipulations—and the new collective bargaining agreement. As a result, the regular season will now open in two days, with the A’s among the teams scheduled to begin play on Saturday afternoon.


 DATE: 04/14

On the eve of the opening game against the divisional rival Minnesota Twins, Curt Blefary has expressed his dissatisfaction by issuing a play-me-or-trade-me order.  The veteran utilityman has become famous for making such proclamations during his journeyman career with the Orioles, Astros, Yankees, and now the A’s.

Blefary began spring training as the team’s third-string catcher behind Dave Duncan and Gene Tenace.  After hitting .360 during the spring, Blefary managed to fall to fourth-string catcher behind Duncan, Tenace, and Larry Haney. He also finds himself as the third-string first baseman behind Mike Epstein and Mike Hegan, and as the team’s sixth outfielder, behind backups Brant Alyea and George Hendrick.  

In the view of the Oakland brass, Blefary’s clumsy play behind the plate makes him too much of a liability to play except on an occasional basis.

{Editor’s note: “Sometimes my mouth went into gear before my brain was engaged,” Blefary would tell the Baltimore Sun in later years in explaining his frequent criticisms of managers who did not play him regularly.  “I had to play every day or I was mad.”}

DATE: 04/15

Sporting their new Charlie Finley-mandated uniforms, the A’s opened the 1972 regular season today on a Saturday, an oddity created by the duration of the players strike.  Most likely upset by the Players’ Association walkout, the fans didn’t seem too curious about the new look in pullover polyester, as only 9,912 showed up for the lidlifter at the Oakland Coliseum. With holdout Vida Blue still unsigned, Dick Williams handed the Opening Day ball to former Cub Ken Holtzman, who had worked out, by his own estimation, for the grand total of five minutes during the players strike.

The rest of the Oakland lineup looked much the same as it had in 1971:


Campy Campaneris, ss

Joe Rudi, lf

Reggie Jackson, rf

Sal Bando, 3b

Mike Epstein, 1b

Bobby Brooks, cf

Dave Duncan, c

Dick Green, 2b

Ken Holtzman, p


Aside from the installation of the previously unknown Bobby Brooks in center field, the biggest surprise involves the catching position. At the start of spring training, Williams declared an open competition between Dave Duncan and Gene Tenace. In Cactus League play, Duncan batted only .138, while Tenace sizzled at .316. Tenace believed that his superior spring hitting earned him the first-string position, but on Opening Day, Duncan finds himself behind the plate.  Duncan’s shotgun throwing arm and agility behind the plate give him a stronger defensive presence than the offensive-minded Tenace.

Williams diplomatically told Tenace that he wanted Duncan to catch Holtzman in the opener since the two worked together more frequently during the spring. In actuality, Tenace caught Holtzman more often in exhibition games. Once again, Williams has decided to reward the better defensive catcher with the honor of opening the season as the starting receiver. Perhaps as much as anyone associated with the A’s, Williams respects Duncan’s ability to read other teams’ hitters and help his own pitchers make in-game adjustments. 

With Duncan behind the plate, former National Leaguer Ken Holtzman took the ball in today’s opener and pitched well in his A’s debut, giving up just two runs in eight innings.  The A’s went on to defeat the Twins in the 11th inning, when Joe Rudi raced home from third on a one-out grounder to third base. Eric Soderholm’s throw easily beat Rudi to the plate, but catcher George Mitterwald dropped the ball when the Oakland left fielder crashed into him.  The results of the fierce collision gave the A’s a dramatic 4-3 win. Bob Locker picked up the win in relief, while Twins left-hander Dave LaRoche suffered the loss.


A’s Acorns: Jack-of-all trades Curt Blefary apologized to Dick Williams for making such a public outburst and putting his manager on the spot right before Opening Day… The A’s have signed veteran pitcher Joel Horlen, who was released by the Chicago White Sox during spring training. Some observers in Chicago have speculated that Horlen was given his release because of his active role in the union as the White Sox’ player representative, a previously overlooked position that has drawn more notice because of the player strike.

 DATE: 04/16

            The top of Oakland’s order struggled badly today—with the first, second, and third-place hitters combining to go hitless in 11 at-bats—as the A’s suffered their first loss of the new season. Jim “Catfish” Hunter and reliever Darold Knowles pitched creditably in defeat, allowing a combined four hits in a 3-2 loss to the Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.

            Campy Campaneris (0-for-4), Joe Rudi (0-for-4), and Reggie Jackson (0-for-3) failed to ignite the offense, which gathered a total of only six hits on the afternoon. Of the half-dozen hits, the seventh and eighth-place hitters (Gene Tenace and Dick Green) each picked up a pair. Yet, it was not enough to counteract the Twins, who broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth. Cesar Tovar reached first when Hunter hit him with a pitch, moved up to second on an infield out, and scored on Rod Carew’s double.  Bobby Darwin accounted for the Twins’ other runs with a two-run homer in the fifth, which negated Oakland’s early 2-0 advantage.


A’s Acorns: Only 9,051 fans attended the game, watching the A’s drop to 1-and-1 on the season… The A’s left nine runners on base, as Ray Corbin earned a win and side-arming fireman Wayne Granger picked up a save… Gene Tenace, who collected a single and a double, made his first start behind the plate. Dave Duncan had started the Opening Day game as Ken Holtzman’s batterymate… Campy Campaneris and Sal Bando each stole a base… The A’s will enjoy an off day tomorrow, as they await the arrival of another Western Division foe, the Kansas City Royals, for a three-game series at the Coliseum.

DATE: 04/16

            The top of Oakland’s order struggled badly today—with the first, second, and third-place hitters combining to go hitless in 11 at-bats—as the A’s suffered their first loss of the new season. Jim “Catfish” Hunter and reliever Darold Knowles pitched creditably in defeat, allowing a combined four hits in a 3-2 loss to the Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.

            Campy Campaneris (0-for-4), Joe Rudi (0-for-4), and Reggie Jackson (0-for-3) failed to ignite the offense, which gathered a total of only six hits on the afternoon. Of the half-dozen hits, the seventh and eighth-place hitters (Gene Tenace and Dick Green) each picked up a pair. Yet, it was not enough to counteract the Twins, who broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth. Cesar Tovar reached first when Hunter hit him with a pitch, moved up to second on an infield out, and scored on Rod Carew’s double.  Bobby Darwin accounted for the Twins’ other runs with a two-run homer in the fifth, which negated Oakland’s early 2-0 advantage.


A’s Acorns: Only 9,051 fans attended the game, watching the A’s drop to 1-and-1 on the season… The A’s left nine runners on base, as Ray Corbin earned a win and side-arming fireman Wayne Granger picked up a save… Gene Tenace, who collected a single and a double, made his first start behind the plate. Dave Duncan had started the Opening Day game as Ken Holtzman’s batterymate… Campy Campaneris and Sal Bando each stole a base… The A’s will enjoy an off day tomorrow, as they await the arrival of another Western Division foe, the Kansas City Royals, for a three-game series at the Coliseum.

DATE: O4/17

            The 1972 A’s are off today. They will resume action tomorrow night at the Coliseum against the Royals, marking the start of a three-game series. Making his A’s regular season debut, former Tiger and Senator Denny McLain will start the game, while the Royals will counter with young right-hander Mike Hedlund.

A’s Acorns: The A’s face a bit of a dilemma with regard to recent waiver-wire pickup Joel Horlen. In order to add Horlen to the 25-man roster, the A’s will have to either demote or release a player. Candidates include third-string catcher Larry Haney, utility infielder Tim Cullen, and outfielder George Hendrick.

DATE: 04/18

            Denny McLain had given the A’s little reason for optimism during an atrocious spring training. He had earned a spot in the starting rotation on reputation—and little else.

            Once again, spring training statistics and performances can prove to be exceedingly misleading. In making his regular season debut for the A’s tonight, McLain shut down the Kansas City Royals over seven-plus innings, allowing only two unearned runs. McLain’s inauguration in green and gold resulted in a 3-2 win, giving him a prosperous start to the new season after losing a league-high 22 games in 1971.

            With the A’s leading by one run heading to the eighth, McLain allowed leadoff singles to Cookie Rojas and Amos Otis, Kansas City’s seventh and eighth hits on the night. Sensing that McLain’s gas tank had reached a dangerously low level, Dick Williams called on Darold Knowles, his top left-handed reliever. Knowles struck out John Mayberry, the Royals’ most dangerous longball threat from the left side. Rollie Fingers then came on in relief of Knowles, inducing a double play ground ball off the bat of Lou Piniella. The work of Knowles and Fingers ended the rally—and essentially the game, as the A’s held on for a one-run win.


A’s Acorns: With the win, the A’s improved to 2-and-1… Mike Epstein and Dave Duncan supplied most of the A’s’ offense by hitting solo home runs. Duncan also hit a home run on Opening Day… McLain did his best to help his own cause offensively by laying down two sacrifice bunts… Tonight’s game against Kansas City, which drew only 4,494 fans to the Coliseum, was Oakland’s first night game of the new season.

DATE: 04/19

            For perhaps the first time in 1972, the A’s truly looked like defending champions of the American League West. The A’s swept a twi-night doubleheader from the divisional rival Kansas City Royals tonight, winning 4-0 and 3-1, thanks mostly to stellar pitching from their two best active starters (as Vida Blue remains a holdout).  In the first game, Ken Holtzman followed his impressive no-decision in his first-ever Oakland start by spinning a five-hit shutout. In the nightcap, Catfish Hunter pitched five solid innings before turning the game over to the bullpen, which shut down the Royals’ offense completely over the final four frames.

            The A’s scored all of their runs in the first game during a fourth-inning rally. A wild pitch, coupled with consecutive singles by the heart of the order—Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Mike Epstein, and Bobby Brooks all reached against starter Dick Drago—allowed the A’s to build a four-run lead. Rudi, Bando, and Epstein all finished the game with two hits, while Brooks enjoyed the first two-RBI game of his short career. Oakland’s nine-hit attack more than ably supported Holtzman, whose control was pinpoint throughout the night (allowing no walks and few three-ball counts).

            In the second game, the A’s found themselves tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, when Rudi started a game-winning rally with a triple. With two outs, the Royals elected to pitch to Jackson, which proved to be a mistaken mission. Reggie singled home Rudi, then came around to score after a walk to Bando and an RBI single by Epstein. Rollie Fingers then came on to pitch the ninth and recorded his first save, helping veteran reliever Bob Locker earn his second win.

A’s Acorns: With the two wins, the A’s improve to 4-and-1… The announced attendance for the twinbill was 5,671… Prior to the doubleheader, the A’s activated recent waiver pickup Joel Horlen, giving manager Dick Williams a 10-man pitching staff. To make room for Horlen, the A’s sent veteran utility infielder Tim “The Worm” Cullen to Triple-A Iowa. Cullen had been picked up during the spring after being released by the Texas Rangers.

DATE: 04/20 AND 04/21

            Some call him Joe, while others call him Joel. Whatever the case, at 34 years of age, he is the newest member of the A’s. Veteran right-hander Joel Horlen, who hurled 137 innings as a spot starter and long reliever during the 1971 season, surprisingly drew his release from the Chicago White Sox during the spring. More than a few observers have speculated that Horlen’s release was prompted not by his ability, but by his involvement in the Players’ Association as the White Sox’ player representative.

Horlen posted a lofty 4.27 ERA in 1971, but did pitch well at times, logging three complete games. He also had a good strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 82 K’s and only 30 bases on balls in 137 innings of work.

At his peak, Horlen was one of the top right-handed pitchers in the American League. In 1967, he led the American League in ERA, winning percentage, and shutouts. He also pitched a no-hitter in September, falling short of a perfect game because of a fielding error committed by Ken Boyer at first base. Some writers considered Horlen the league’s best pitcher in 1967, but he finished second to Boston’s Jim Lonborg in the Cy Young Award balloting.

Horlen no longer has the ability to contend for the league’s Cy Young Award, but if he shows the capacity to pitch well in middle relief, he might make the A’s’ bullpen the deepest in all of baseball.


A’s Acorns: Due to an unusual quirk in the American League schedule, the A’s are off for two consecutive days—April 20 and 21. The extra days off will push back Dick Williams’ need for a fourth starter, which is expected to be Blue Moon Odom. The A’s have used only three starters—Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, and Denny McLain—in their first five games. Oakland’s next game is scheduled for the 22nd against the Twins. 

DATE: 04/22

            After an unusual two-day layoff provided by the schedule, the A’s were supposed to play their first road game of the season today. Instead, the A’s enjoyed a third consecutive day off, as their matchup in Minnesota—with Denny McLain scheduled to take the mound—was postponed by snow. The game will not be played during this series, but will be made up during the A’s’ next visit to the Twin Cities, which is scheduled for August 4, 5, and 6. 

A’s Acorns: As a result of the postponement, McLain will lose a start and will not take his regular turn in the rotation. Ken Holtzman will start tomorrow’s game, weather permitting. 

DATE: 04/23

After three days of rest and watching snow fall, the A’s finally played their first road game of the season and fulfilled one of their worst fears—a vulnerability against quality right-handed pitching. Handcuffed by one of the league’s toughest right-handers, the A’s fell to the Minnesota Twins, 8-4. Bert Blyleven, who allowed four runs on only three hits, bested Ken Holtzman, who was rocked for eight hits and six runs in three-plus innings.

The A’s, who start only two left-handed hitters on most days, took a 1-0 lead in the first. They then watched the Twins score three runs in the second, three more in the fourth, and a pair of runs in the sixth. Bobby Darwin’s fourth home run of the season and Danny Thompson’s three-hit afternoon highlighted Minnesota’s offensive outburst. The A’s did make the final score more respectable by scoring three runs in the top of the eighth—two on Dick Green’s RBI triple—but failed to draw any closer against the curveballing “Dutchman.”

A’s Acorns: Through his first two games, Holtzman had pitched 17 nearly impeccable innings, without having surrendered a single walk.  He didn’t walk anyone against the Twins either, but allowed eight hits, including four doubles and a triple… Joel Horlen made his Oakland debut, pitching a perfect eighth inning in relief of an ineffective Jim Roland… Reggie Jackson hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the first inning… Curt Blefary drove in one of the A’s’ runs with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth inning… With the loss, the A’s fall to 4-and-2.

DATE: 04/24

            When the Chicago White Sox placed veteran pitcher Joel Horlen on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release during spring training, every major league team passed on the opportunity to claim him. A few days later, Horlen signed a contract with the A’s, but the veteran right-hander still feels the sting from the initial snub that he received from the 24 major league teams. “I couldn’t believe it,” Horlen tells The Sporting News in discussing his temporary state of unemployment.

            As the White Sox’ player representative, Horlen also understands who was responsible for giving him his release in the Windy City. He places no blame on manager Chuck Tanner, instead hinting that Chicago’s front office no longer wanted any part of him. “Someone else did the dirty work and poor Chuck was left to hand me the bad news.”

            Horlen made his A’s debut in Oakland’s last game, pitching a scoreless inning of mop-up relief against the Twins.

 A’s Acorns: The 1972 A’s are not scheduled to play today. The A’s will return to action tomorrow when they visit the Bronx to take on Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, and the rest of the Yankees.  

DATE: 04/25

            Mike Hegan began his major league career eight years ago with the New York Yankees, but never received much playing time in Pinstripes before being sold to the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1968. In tonight’s game against the Yankees, Hegan showed his former team what they might have missed out on by smacking a game-winning pinch-hit double with two outs in the 12th inning. Hegan’s timely extra-base hit gave the A’s their first road win of the season—a 4-3 decision at Yankee Stadium.

With one out, rookie center fielder Bobby Brooks (who had entered the at-bat 0-for-4) drew a walk against Yankee right-hander Lindy McDaniel. Opting for some unusual strategy, Dick Williams asked Dick Green, his No. 8 hitter, to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Williams then called on Hegan to pinch-hit for Rollie Fingers, the third pitcher of the night for the A’s. With the go-ahead run on second base, the lefty-swinging veteran faced McDaniel, one of the Yankees’ best relief pitchers.  Hegan laced a McDaniel fastball into right-center field, just a few feet in front of his father, Jim, the Yankees’ bullpen coach. As the elder Hegan watched from the Yankee bullpen beyond the right-field fence, Mike chugged into second base, the owner of a game-winning hit. Bob Locker came on to pitch a scoreless bottom of the 12th, notching his first save of the season.   

Hegan’s clutch pinch-hit may have scored Brooks to win the game, but he was still thinking about his father, who would have preferred to see him draw an intentional walk rather than beat the Yankees with a hit.  “I kind of took a look toward the bullpen when I got to second,” the younger Hegan revealed to the Associated Press, “but I didn’t see him.”  Mike remembered that he had scheduled a post-game dinner date with his father. While the dinner with Jim was still on, Mike realized that his hit would cost him a few dollars. “I bought lunch,” Jim pointed out to the AP, “so he better buy dinner.”

 A’s Acorns: Catfish Hunter pitched creditably over the first seven innings, allowing three runs and no walks. Hunter left the game with the score tied at 3-3… Fingers worked three and one third scoreless innings of relief to post his first win of 1972… Joe Rudi and Sal Bando each went 2-for-5 at the plate… Gene Tenace, who has alternated behind the plate with Dave Duncan in the early going, hit his first home run of the season.

DATE: 04/26

            Denny McLain’s second regular season start in an Oakland uniform looked a lot more reminiscent of his failed efforts in spring training than his impressive debut against the Royals. Currently the A’s’ No. 3 starter, McLain allowed five hits and three runs in a four inning stint, losing a 4-2 decision to the Yankees in the Bronx.

            McLain’s poor outing might have been a bit more understandable if he had given up home runs to the Yankees best hitters, Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer. Instead, McLain found himself victimized by the Yankee’s eighth-place hitter, Gene “Stick” Michael. The light-hitting shortstop, who had only eight career home runs heading into the 1972 season, swatted a three-run shot in the fourth inning to give the Yankees the jump on McLain and the A’s.

            The A’s did make a comeback in the top of the seventh, scoring a pair of runs on Bobby Brooks’ two-run single, but could draw no closer against Yankee reliever Fred Beene, who earned his first save of the season. With the loss, the A’s fall to 5-and-3 on the season.

 A’s Acorns: Brooks, Campy Campaneris, and Mike Epstein all had two-hit games for the A’s… Oakland used four pinch-hitters on the night—Mike Hegan, George Hendrick, Brant Alyea, and Curt Blefary—three of them for the pitcher’s spot in the order.  Blefary, the last of the pinch-hitters, stayed in the game to play second base. Dick Green, the usual starter at second base, was unavailable due to injury.

DATE: 04/27

            The 1972 A’s are off today. They will resume their road trip tomorrow night in Milwaukee against the Brewers. Ken Holtzman will make his fourth start of the season.

A’s Acorns: During the A’s’ two-game series in New York, manager Dick Williams and traveling secretary Tom Corwin (who are roommates on the road) were robbed while they slept in their room in the Americana Hotel. The burglary continues a recent run of theft against members of the A’s’ organization. Reggie Jackson’s cap was stolen during the team’s stay in Minnesota as they practiced in a fieldhouse at St. Olaf University. Reggie did identify the culprit, but allowed the young man to keep the cap. As a result, Jackson has been wearing his batting helmet while playing right field. 

DATE: 04/28

            For the third time in four starts, Ken Holtzman has made Charlie Finley look like a very smart man. The key acquisition of Oakland’s offseason, Holtzman turned in another stellar complete game performance, shackling the Brewers, 5-1, at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. The stylish left-hander scattered five hits and two walks in improving his record to 2-and-1.

            Oakland’s offense supported Holtzman with an unusual rally in the sixth inning. The A’s sent 10 batters to the plate during the frame, scoring four runs on only three hits—all singles. The A’s helped themselves by drawing three walks in the inning, with Gene Tenace, Joe Rudi, and Reggie Jackson providing RBI safeties and Campy Campaneris lofting a sacrifice fly. Rudi and Jackson stood out as the offensive stars of the night; Rudi collected two hits in five trips and Jackson enjoyed a 3-for-5, two-RBI performance. 


A’s Acorns: The A’s managed to win despite leaving a season-high 13 runners on base… Milwaukee’s normally slick-fielding first baseman, George Scott, committed two errors, but neither contributed to Oakland’s run-scoring efforts… Larry Brown made his second consecutive start at second base in place of the ailing Dick Green… The A’s are now 6-and-3 on the season. 

  DATE: 04/30

            Every time that Denny McLain takes the mound, the A’s can consider it a test as to whether he has regained some of the enormous ability that made him one of the American League’s most dominant starters in the late 1960s. Today McLain passed the test, but lost the game, as the A’s fell to the Brewers, 3-1.

            McLain pitched reasonably well, allowing three runs on seven hits through six and one-third innings, but Oakland’s offense failed to provide him with any tangible support. The A’s managed only two hits against Brewers starter Ken Brett, who struck out seven and allowed one unearned run in seven and one-third innings. Former A’s hurler Ken Sanders, now the fireman for the Brewers, came on to pitch the final inning and two-thirds to earn his third save of the season.

A’s Acorns: One of the best hitting pitchers in either league, Brett helped himself at the plate by picking up two hits in three at-bats, driving in one run, and scoring another… Campy Campaneris, Sal Bando, and Larry Brown had the only hits for Oakland. Brown made his fourth consecutive start at second base while Dick Green continues to deal with back problems… Spring training sensation Bobby Brooks had arguably his worst game of the regular season, going 0-for-3 and committing an error in center field… With the loss, the A’s finish the month of April with a record of 7-and-4.

DATE: 05/01

            The 1972 A’s are off today. They return to action tomorrow when they begin a two-game series at Fenway Park against Carl Yastrzemski and the Boston Red Sox.


DATE: 05/02

            The 1972 A’s were supposed to begin the concluding portion of their eastern swing with the opening of a two-game series in Boston tonight, but the matchup at Fenway Park was postponed due to rain. Ken Holtzman, who would have made the start tonight on three days’ rest, will be pushed back to tomorrow.

DATE: 05/03

            Another day in Boston and another day of rain. As a result, the A’s will not be able to play either game of their scheduled two-game set against the Red Sox. The two teams will attempt to make up the games in late July, when the A’s are scheduled to return to Boston for the second and final time.


A’s Acorns: The A’s concluded their eastern swing with a record of 3-and-3. The A’s were supposed to play nine games on the trip, but two games were rained out and one game (in Minnesota) was postponed due to snow.

DATE: 05/04

            It isn’t often that major league teams enjoy four days off in a row, even at All-Star time, when the break usually consists of three days. Yet, that is exactly what has happened to the A’s, who enjoyed another day off—this time for travel purposes as they make their way back to the West Coast after a mediocre 3-and-3 Eastern trip. The A’s will finally resume their schedule tomorrow night, when they play host to the New York Yankees at the Coliseum. In a matchup of veteran left-handers, Ken Holtzman will take aim at his third win, opposed by winless southpaw Fritz Peterson, who is off to an 0-and-3 start.


DATE: 05/05

            Manager Dick Williams has been employing an unusual system behind the plate this year, alternating his catchers, Dave Duncan and Gene Tenace, every other day. In spite of its unorthodoxy, the system seems to be working for Duncan, who slammed his third home run of the season in Oakland’s 3-1 win over the visiting Yankees. Duncan also singled in the fourth inning to give the A’s a 2-1 lead over the Pinstripers, and added his solo home run in the seventh to account for the game’s final margin.

            Duncan also did his usual fine work behind the plate, handling Ken Holtzman’s complete-game, one-run effort. Holtzman allowed no walks and only four hits in improving his record to 3-and-1.

A’s Acorns: Sal Bando accounted for the A’s’ other run with a single in the fourth inning, which tied the game at 1-1. Two batters later, Duncan ripped the first of his two hits to give the A’s a lead they would not relinquish.

DATE: 05/06

            Two of Oakland’s hallmark players took center stage in today’s Saturday afternoon game at the Coliseum. Reggie Jackson drove in two runs with a fifth-inning home run and Catfish Hunter came within one out of pitching a complete game, as the A’s posted a 4-1 victory over the visiting Yankees.

            Jackson also contributed to an insurance run in the eighth, when he singled and scored on a double by cleanup hitter Sal Bando. Then, in the top of the ninth, Hunter ran into trouble, allowing two runners to reach base and bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Sensing that Hunter had tired, Dick Williams called upon his bullpen, bringing in side-arming right-hander Bob Locker to face Rick McKinney. Locker promptly struck out the Yankee third baseman to end the game and earn his second save of the season. 


DATE: 05/07

            Rebounding from an early 5-0 deficit, the A’s scored three runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth to post their third straight win, a 7-5 victory over the Yankees. With the triumph, the A’s swept the three-game weekend series from the Bombers.

            Denny McLain, continuing to struggle since donning the green and gold of Oakland, allowed eight hits and five runs through the first three innings, before giving way to Joel Horlen. Dave Duncan springboarded the Oakland comeback with a three run homer in the fourth, cutting the deficit to two runs. The A’s then took advantage of four Yankee errors, putting up a four-spot to take the lead. Horlen picked up the win—his first since joining the A’s as a free agent after his surprising release by the White Sox. 

A’s Acorns: Diego Segui made his most impressive appearance of the young season, hurling three innings of scoreless relief in support of Horlen. Darold Knowles then came on to notch his first save… Mike Epstein had two hits, two RBIs, and two runs scored for the A’s… Ron Blomberg drove in four of the Yankee runs with a home run and a double… Blomberg, Gene Michael, Thurman Munson, and Steve Kline committed errors for the Yankees.

DATE: 05/08

            The 1972 A’s, who have won three straight games to improve to 10-and-4, are off today. They await the arrival of the Milwaukee Brewers, who will take on Oakland in a three-game series at the Coliseum beginning tomorrow.


DATE: 05/09

The A’s swept a doubleheader from the Brewers today, while showcasing all aspects of their multi-faceted game.  In the opening game, the A’s scored all 10 of their runs in the fourth inning to support Ken Holtzman, who improved to 4-1 with yet another complete-game effort—his fifth of the season.  Utilityman Curt Blefary, filling in for Joe Rudi in left field, contributed a single, a double, and a run scored.  Angel Mangual drove in three runs, clearing the bases with a double. 

In the nightcap, Blue Moon Odom and Rollie Fingers combined on a six-hit, 3-0 shutout.  Fingers pitched four scoreless innings to extend the current domination of the Oakland bullpen.

A’s Acorns: With the doubleheader sweep, the A’s stretched their winning streak to five games. They are now 12-4 on the season.

DATE: 5/10

            Limited to three hits and one walk, the A’s once again found themselves at the mercy of the Brewers’ Ken Brett. Milwaukee’s veteran left-hander shut out the A’s, 4-0, to end Oakland’s winning streak at five games. Brett is now 2-and-0 against the A’s this season.

            With the game scoreless through the first three innings, the Brewers broke through with two runs in the top of the fourth. Dave “Daisy” May and George “Boomer” Scott banged out back-to-back doubles for one run, with a second run scoring on Catfish Hunter’s error. The Brewers then padded their lead with two more runs in the seventh, courtesy of Billy Conigliaro’s third home run of the season.


A’s Acorns: Backup outfielder Brant Alyea accounted for most of the A’s’ offense. Subbing for a flu-riddled Joe Rudi in left field, Alyea picked up two hits in three at-bats, including a double. Fill-in second baseman Larry Brown had the only other hit for Oakland… Hunter allowed only four hits and three earned runs in eight innings, but fell to 2-and-2… Angel Mangual made his sixth consecutive start in center field in place of the slumping Bobby Brooks… The A’s made a player transaction yesterday, sending minor league outfielder-infielder Reggie Sanders to the Detroit Tigers for left-handed pitcher Mike “Killer” Kilkenny. The curveballing Kilkenny, who had made only one appearance for the Tigers—allowing one run in one inning—will give the A’s a second left-hander in their bullpen. The A’s have lacked a second lefty reliever since dispatching Jim Roland to the Yankees earlier in the season… The A’s regard the departed Sanders as a very good Triple-A player, but not a legitimate prospect to make the major leagues.  

DATE: 05/11

The A’s have managed to win 12 of their first 17 games, despite a lack of contribution from 1971 ace Vida Blue, who didn’t sign until May 2, and isn’t expected to pitch his first game for several weeks.  Without Blue, Dick Williams has smartly used a three-man starting rotation—Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, and Denny McLain—which has been facilitated by several open dates and rainouts. 

The bullpen has also picked up the slack for the absence of the reigning Cy Young award winner.  Through the first 17 games of the season, Oakland relievers have allowed only one run in 33 and a third innings. The bullpen troupe of Rollie Fingers, Bob Locker, Diego Segui, Joel Horlen, and Darold Knowles has played a direct hand in winning or saving nine of Oakland’s first 12 victories.

“Without a doubt, the best bullpen in baseball,” Dick Williams assessed of his relievers in an interview with The Sporting News. “They throw hard and have good control. My three stoppers, Fingers and Locker from the right side and Knowles from the left, can get either right-handers or left-handers out... My two long and middle men, Segui and Horlen, are just outstanding.”

Perhaps the most intriguing personality among the relievers can be found in the 34-year-old Locker. During the 1960s, the side-arming Locker used his hard, moving sinker to become the relief ace of the White Sox and one of the best firemen in the American League.  As a 27-year-old rookie in 1965, the offbeat Locker drew snickers from his veteran teammates by wearing a 10-pound weighted canvas vest that looked like a bullet-proof jacket used by members of a SWAT team. When Chicago reporters asked him about wearing the vest during spring training drills, Locker offered some unconventional logic. “You see,” Locker told Edgar Munzel of The Sporting News, “most of the players come to camp about 10 pounds overweight, while I never gain an ounce [during the offseason]. The fellows with the extra weight are strengthening their legs just carrying it around during these workouts before they finally take it off. Since I never am overweight, I saddle myself with those extra pounds to put me even with them.” At least Locker doesn’t wear the vest while pitching.

Away from the field, Locker loves to hunt and fish, to the extent that he often wakes up at 2:30 in the morning to embark on various expeditions. An expert fisherman, Locker has caught as many as 100 fish in a lake—in one day.  He has other interests, too. Locker avidly follows the philosophies professed in the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which he encourages his A’s teammates to read as a way of life.


A’s Acorns: The A’s enjoy another day off today before beginning a weekend series at home against the Red Sox.

 DATE: 05/12

In his shortest outing as a member of the A’s, Denny McLain lasted only two innings, the victim of a four-run pounding at the hands of the Red Sox.  The early outburst against McLain helped send the A’s to a 7-6 loss at the Oakland Coliseum. McLain’s fifth start with the A’s now leaves him with an ERA of 6.05—and leaves Dick Williams wondering what to do with the enigmatic right-hander. With Vida Blue unavailable for at least the next two weeks, Williams continues to search for a solid No. 3 starter to back up Ken Holtzman and Catfish Hunter.

A’s Acorns: The A’s (at 12-and-6) have now lost two straight games to fall a game and a half out of first place in the American League West.

 DATE: 05/13

            Reggie Jackson belted a pair of home runs today, but the right fielder’s power outburst couldn’t prevent a 9-6 loss to the visiting Red Sox. The Beantowners scored six runs against a surprisingly ineffective Ken Holtzman, who suffered his second loss in what amounted to his worst performance as a new member of the A’s.

            Red Sox utilityman John Kennedy, filling in for the slumping Rico Petrocelli at third base, drove in five runs, three of them scoring on his first home run of the season. Reggie Smith added a home run for the Red Sox, who managed to torch reliever Joel Horlen for three runs after Holtzman’s departure.

A’s Acorns: Jackson enjoyed his finest game of the season to date, driving in four runs on the strength of his two home runs in five at-bats. Jackson now leads the A’s with four home runs… Newly acquired left-hander Mike Kilkenny made his Oakland debut today, retiring all three batters he faced in the eighth inning.


DATE: 05/14

            For the second time in the last week, Oakland’s previously impenetrable relief corps suffered a late-game breakdown, but the A’s managed to overcome the bullpen blip with a game-winning run in the ninth inning. Loading the bases with one out against Boston reliever Ken Tatum in the ninth inning, the A’s managed to pull out a dramatic win on Sal Bando weak tapper toward first base. Duane Josephson, a converted catcher playing out of position, threw wildly toward the plate, allowing pinch-runner Blue Moon Odom to score the winning run in a 6-5 decision at the Oakland Coliseum. Odom, the fastest runner among the Oakland pitchers, had come in to run for Curt Blefary, who started the winning rally with a pinch-hit double.

            The Red Sox had tied the score in the top of the eighth, when Josephson stroked a two-run homer against Rollie Fingers. Josephson’s blast was the Red Sox’ third home run of the game, following shots by Rick Miller and Ben Oglivie. For the A’s, Mike Epstein (his 2nd) and Reggie Jackson (his 5th) went deep, accounting for two of Oakland’s six runs. 


A’s Acorns: Campy Campaneris, Joe Rudi, and Sal Bando each picked up two hits and an RBI… Bob Locker, the A’s best reliever thus far, earned his third victory of the season against no losses after pitching a scoreless ninth inning… Catfish Hunter pitched seven innings of three-run ball in notching another no-decision.

DATE: 05/15

The A’s have exiled Denny McLain to the minor leagues. After winning his first start, the two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched poorly virtually every time he took to the mound, resulting in his demotion to Double-A Birmingham of the Southern League.  In his second start, McLain lasted only four innings against the Yankees, giving up five hits and three runs.  In his next outing, McLain pitched creditably against the Brewers, but took the loss after pitching six and one-third innings of three-run baseball.  On May 7, McLain failed to reach the fourth inning, giving up eight hits and five runs to the Yankees.  Five days later, McLain lasted only two innings when the Red Sox pounded him for four runs. 

The most recent start left McLain with an ERA of 6.05. Most alarmingly, in all five of his starts, McLain exhibited extremely poor velocity.  One rival player was asked to compare the difference between McLain’s fastball now and the heater he threw in 1968, when he won 31 games for the Tigers.  “About 20 miles an hour,” Red Sox catcher Duane Josephson told Sports Illustrated.  “McLain’s ball comes up to the plate as straight as a string.”

Rumors have circulated that Charlie Finley will offer McLain a $25,000 settlement if he will retire and forego the balance of the $50,000 that the A’s owe him.  Another report says that Finley might release McLain if he continues to pitch ineffectively while in the minor leagues.  The right-hander reacted philosophically to such speculation.  “If the game ends tonight,” McLain told the Associated Press after his last appearance as a starter,  “I’ve had thrills other people never dreamed of having… They’ll have to rip the uniform off me.”

A’s Acorns: The A’s opened up a Western Division road trip with a 2-1 win over the Angels today. Blue Moon Odom, in his finest performance since his slow comeback from elbow problems, allowed only two hits in pitching a complete game victory. Odom allowed merely five baserunners, with two coming on walks and another on his own fielding error. Offensively, Angel Mangual supported Odom—making only his second start—with his first home run of the season and Joe Rudi went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Mangual has completely seized the center field job from the slumping Bobby Brooks… In addition to the demotion of McLain, the A’s announced another player transaction today. Charlie Finley now  has a third left-handed reliever with the acquisition of veteran Don Shaw from the Cardinals for backup infielder Dwain Anderson. Two years ago, the A’s regarded Anderson as one of their top prospects among position players, but a poor year at Triple-A Iowa in 1971 altered their evaluation of the middle infielder. Anderson had played for parts or all of eight seasons in the A’s’ minor league system since making his professional debut in 1965.



DATE: 05/16

            The A’s fell to the Angels and young right-hander Rickey Clark today, losing 4-2, as Diego Segui made his first start of the season. Segui, who is currently Oakland’s No. 4 starter, lasted four innings, allowing three runs, four hits, and two walks before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.


A’s Acorns: Prior to the game, the A’s recalled infielder Ron Clark from Triple-A Iowa. Clark, who was hitting .298 in the minor leagues, came in to play second base after Larry Brown left for a pinch-hitter, but did not come to bat… Dick Williams called on four pinch-hitters tonight: Gene Tenace, Mike Hegan, Curt Blefary, and Brant Alyea. Tenace and Hegan each picked up hits… Joe Rudi stroked three hits in five at-bats.


DATE: 05/17

The A’s have made several player moves this month, but engineered their most puzzling move today, trading valuable backup Curt Blefary, a player to be named later, and recently acquired reliever Mike Kilkenny to the Padres for veteran outfielder “Downtown” Ollie Brown, whom Finley has been seeking off and on since 1969. The trade leaves the A’s with only one reliable left-hander in the bullpen [Darold Knowles], deprives them of Blefary—one of their best left-handed bats off the bench—and gives them a slumping right fielder in Brown, who was hitting just .171 with no home runs and three RBIs with San Diego and happens to play the same position as Reggie Jackson.

The trade of the versatile Blefary seems mystifying, at least on the surface.  Although Blefary had requested a trade moments before the start of the season, he served the A’s well in a backup role, rapping out five hits in 11 at-bats.

So why did Finley decide to trade him for Ollie Brown, who figures to be a backup right fielder? Blefary’s constant complaints over playing time may have sealed his fate with an annoyed Finley, but his lack of defensive prowess may have contributed to the transaction. Blefary has long since earned the nickname “Clank,” which represents the imaginary sound the ball make when it caroms off any of his less-than-reliable gloves.  Blefary carries around eight different gloves, in the eventuality that he might catch, play first, second or third base, or patrol the outfield.  Although Blefary brings enthusiasm and versatility to the utility role, he represents a defensive liability everywhere.

Ollie Brown, despite playing the same outfield position as Reggie Jackson, does bring some strengths to Oakland. Reds superscout Ray Shore once called Brown’s throwing arm the best he’d ever seen from an outfielder. Other scouts rate Brown’s arm on a par with the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente, often referred to by fans and writers as the owner of the game’s greatest throwing arm. Brown has also shown some power and production at the plate—at least earlier in his career. In 1970, Brown enjoyed his most productive season, reaching career highs with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs.

A’s Acorns: Ken Holtzman pitched brilliantly again today, shutting out the Angels, 4-0. Holtzman, who now has two shutouts, also supplied half of the A’s’ run-scoring with a two-run single against Rudy May… Joe Rudi, continuing to show signs of rejuvenation after returning from the flu, hit his first home run of the season.

DATE: 05/18

What would a day be like in Charlie Finley’s kingdom without another trade or two? Well, we’ll all have to wait for that experience because the Oakland owner engineered not one, but two trades today, continuing a whirlwind of activity that began earlier this month. In the first of the two announced transactions, Finley has sent little-used backup outfielder and Rule 5 draftee Brant Alyea to the St. Louis Cardinals for utility infielder Orlando “Marty” Martinez.  In the second deal, Finley dispatched Opening Day center fielder Bobby Brooks, who had slumped badly after a sensational spring training and was recently demoted to Triple-A Iowa, to the Detroit Tigers’ organization. In the span of only three weeks, Finley has now completed six transactions involving 12 players.

Through Oakland’s first 23 games, Alyea had played sparingly, a product of the A’s carrying as many as seven outfielders at a time. The journeyman Martinez, who had three hits in seven at-bats for the Cardinals, is a slap hitter who has been respectable offensively in limited roles. A native of Cuba, Martinez can play second base, shortstop, or third base, but is not adept at any position. With Dick Green on the disabled list and Dwain Anderson dispatched to St. Louis, Martinez will become the A’s’ primary utility infielder, ahead of recent call-up Ron Clark.

On yet another front, Denny McLain finally reported to Double-A Birmingham, three days after the A’s had announced his demotion. As a veteran player, McLain had the choice of refusing the demotion, but that option would have meant sacrificing the balance of his 1972 salary. When McLain delayed reporting to the minor leagues for three days, some writers speculated that he was pondering retirement.  Others claimed McLain was intentionally stalling, so as to continue drawing paychecks at the rate of his annual salary for an extra few days.  That theory didn’t make sense, however, since the A’s would have to pay McLain his major league salary regardless of whether he pitched for them or in the minor leagues. Finally, McLain agreed to report to Birmingham—as a matter of survival.  “There were a lot of reasons for my decision [to report to the minor leagues],” McLain explained to The Sporting News. “But when you come right down to it, it’s a matter of eating.”

Eating may have been the root of McLain’s problems in the first place.  During his days with the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, McLain had gained too much weight, which had affected his pitching.  Prior to the trade to Oakland, he had begun taking diuretic pills, a medication that results in weight loss.  The pills helped McLain lose weight, but also resulted in a loss of fluids and a reduction in potassium, which had caused a general weakening of the muscles.  Although observers in Washington insisted McLain had already lost his good fastball by 1970, the loss of strength may have been responsible for robbing him of further velocity.  “He can’t throw that high, hard one anymore,” Dick Williams told Arthur Daley of the New York Times. A reporter asked Williams if McLain could still pitch at the major league level. “From the way he’s throwing, and the statistics show it,” Williams candidly told the Associated Press, “I don’t think he could help anybody right now.”

Other factors—besides a bulging waistline—may have contributed to McLain’s decline.  He had been stricken with the flu almost immediately after joining the A’s in the spring.  The players’ strike had limited his ability to work out and improve his conditioning.  Furthermore, his wife, Sharon, had undergone a difficult pregnancy that had forced her into an unexpected stay in the hospital. Whatever the reasons for his decline and fall, McLain will have to begin rebuilding his career in Birmingham, Alabama.

A’s Acorns: Although it was overshadowed by the roster shenanigans and the latest chapter in the McLain saga, the A’s did manage to play a game today. In a matchup of former 20-game winners, Catfish Hunter faced off against left-hander Clyde “Skeeter” Wright. Neither starter earned a decision in the 12-inning marathon, which the Angels won, 4-3. Newcomer Don Shaw suffered the loss in his second appearance with the A’s… “Downtown” Ollie Brown made his Oakland debut, drawing a walk in a pinch-hitting appearance… With the loss, the A’s are now 15-and-9 and have fallen two games out of first place in the American League West.

DATE: 05/19

            Suffering their worst loss since moving from Kansas City to Oakland four years ago, the A’s endured an embarrassing 19-1 loss to the rival Royals tonight. The Royals scored three runs in the first, five runs in the fifth, and seven more in the seventh in setting their own club record for most runs and most hits (20) in a single game. John Mayberry clubbed two home runs for the Royals, while Amos Otis swatted four hits in six at-bats, driving home a half-dozen runs. Paul Splittorff earned the victory with a complete game six-hitter.

            In contrast to his brilliant performance against the Angels four days earlier, Blue Moon Odom lasted only three and two-thirds innings, having been pounded for eight runs and four hits. Two of Oakland’s relievers fared even worse. Rollie Fingers failed to retire a single batter while giving up three hits and three runs, and left-hander Don Shaw pitched horrendously, scathed for nine hits and nine runs in three innings. Shaw has been ineffective in two of his three appearances since joining the A’s from the Cardinals.


A’s Acorns: Ollie Brown made his first start for the A’s, batting fifth and playing center field in place of Angel Mangual. Brown, a better defensive outfielder than Mangual and the owner of one of the game’s most potent throwing arms, went 0-for-4 against Splittorff.


DATE: 05/20

            Ollie Brown collected his first hits as a member of the A’s and Mike Epstein launched a three-run homer, leading Oakland to an 8-5 win over the Royals. The A’s scored four of their runs in the first inning, as Campy Campaneris walked, stole second and third, and scored on Reggie Jackson’s single. After a walk to Sal Bando, Epstein went deep against Al Fitzmorris, helping to end the A’s’ brief two-game losing streak.

            Brown doubled and singled in four trips to the plate, as he made his second consecutive start in center field. Bando added three hits and a pair of RBIs and Joe Rudi went 2-for-5 with a run scored.


A’s Acorns: Rollie Fingers, rebounding from his disastrous performance on Friday night, picked up the win by pitching the final four innings. He allowed only one run, which was unearned, in relief of the ineffective duo of Diego Segui and Joel Horlen.

DATE: 05/21

            Dave Duncan has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season, his career high coming during the A’s’ successful run at the American League West last summer. This year, Duncan is now on pace to hit over 35 home runs, after clubbing a pair of four-baggers in Oakland’s 5-2 win over Kansas City today. With Mike Epstein on base in the fourth inning, Duncan came to bat against Mike Hedlund and extended the A’s’ lead  to 4-0 over the Royals. Duncan then added a solo blast in the ninth, giving him a team-leading seven homers on the season and capping off Oakland’s scoring.

            While Duncan has prospered with the long ball, Sal Bando has struggled to reach the fences. After a season-long drought that approached 30 games, Bando finally hit his first home run, launching a two-run blow to give the A’s a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The trio of Ken Holtzman, Darold Knowles, and Bob Locker made the home runs hold up, with Holtzman pitching six innings of one-run ball to improve his record to 6-and-2. In the meantime, Locker continues to outshine all other residents of the bullpen, spinning two and two thirds innings of spotless relief to earn his third save.


A’s Acorns: Ollie Brown made his third consecutive start in center field, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. Williams has decided to give Brown a shot at playing center field every day because of the defensive advantage he holds over the sometimes adventurous Angel Mangual… Joe Rudi, continuing to blossom after a recent bout with the flu, banged out a double and triple in five at-bats.


DATE: 05/22

            For six innings, Nolan Ryan showed the arsenal of overpowering pitches that made the New York Mets consider him one of their top pitching prospects in the late sixties. A five-run explosion by the A’s in the seventh inning, however, exhibited why the Mets may have willingly parted with their young right-hander in the deal that sent shortstop-turned-third baseman Jim Fregosi to New York. After being held to one run by Ryan over the first six innings, the A’s broke loose for a five-spot in the seventh, with Reggie Jackson’s three-run homer proving the key blow in Oakland’s 6-3 win over California.

            Having allowed only two hits through six innings, Ryan buckled badly in the seventh, allowing singles to pitching counterpart Catfish Hunter and the red-hot Joe Rudi. Jackson followed with his sixth home run of the season, breaking a 1-1 tie. Perhaps shaken by the home run, Ryan walked Sal Bando, marking the seventh free pass that the hard-throwing right-hander allowed on the night. Ryan then gave way to lefty reliever Steve Barber, who promptly walked Mike Epstein and Ollie Brown to load the bases. An ineffective Barber quickly left the game, replaced by right-hander Mel Queen, who continued the lack of pitching control by throwing a wild pitch—which scored another run—yielding a walk, and then allowing a sacrifice fly by the light-hitting Larry Brown. Now up by five runs, Hunter finished the game off, permitting a pair of harmless runs in the ninth before sealing his third win of the season.

A’s Acorns: Jackson finished the game with two hits in four at-bats, three RBIs, and a run scored… Larry Brown continues to provide excellent defensive play at second base during the prolonged absence of Dick Green, who remains on the disabled list with back problems. Brown, who can also play shortstop and third base, has shown good range and terrific hands in place of the slick-fielding Green.


DATE: 05/23

            The A’s won their second straight game against the Angels tonight—and fourth in a row overall—playing the Halos even for eight innings before winning the game with dramatics in the ninth. With the game tied at 2-2, veteran reliever Eddie Fisher came on in relief of young right-hander Rickey Clark, who turned in a second straight solid performance against the A’s. Making his first—and only—pitch of the night, Fisher surrendered a long home run to the resurgent Reggie Jackson. Reggie’s seventh blast, tying him with the surprising Dave Duncan for the team lead, sent the crowd of 2,860 Oakland Coliseum fans to a contented climb toward the exits.

A’s Acorns: Blue Moon Odom pitched eight and one-third innings of two-run ball (with only one run earned), but settled for a no-decision. Rollie Fingers, who retired the final two batters in the top of the ninth, earned his third win against one loss. 

DATE: 05/24

            After missing all of spring training, remaining unsigned through the players’ strike, and sitting out the first 29 games of the regular season, Vida Blue finally returned to the mound tonight, marking his first appearance since being named the American League’s Cy Young and MVP in 1971. Blue’s re-emergence resulted in disappointment, however, as he allowed two runs in one inning of relief. The two runs proved costly, as Blue suffered the loss in the A’s’ 6-5 defeat at the hands of the Angels, who thus avoid a three-game sweep.

            With the score tied at 4-4, Blue came on to pitch the sixth inning, replacing fellow reliever Joel Horlen, who had been lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Facing the bottom of the Angels’ order, the rusty left-hander walked No. 8 hitter Art Kusyner on four straight pitches. Blue unfurled a wild pitch before retiring opposing pitcher Don Rose, but then issued a one-out walk to Sandy Alomar. With runners on first and second, Blue surrendered consecutive run-scoring singles to Ken Berry and Vada Pinson. In the bottom of the sixth, the A’s did manage to draw within a run on Dave Duncan’s eighth home run of the season, but failed to score against Rose and reliever Steve Barber over the final three innings.  

A’s Acorns: The A’s have reached the 30-game mark with a record of 19-and-11… For the third straight time, Diego Segui struggled in a starting role, allowing three runs in two and two-thirds innings before giving way to Horlen. Once Blue builds up his arm strength, Dick Williams hopes to put him in the rotation and return Segui to the bullpen, where he has pitched far more effectively… Joe Rudi and Mike Epstein each went 2-for-5 with a home run, with Rudi hitting his second and Epstein his fourth… Angels starter Don Rose, who earned the victory despite giving up five runs, achieved baseball notoriety by becoming only the second pitcher—and the seventh player overall—to hit a home run on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat. [Editor’s note: Rose would never hit another home run and would never win another game during his three-year career in the major leagues.]

DATE: 05/25

            The 1972 A’s are off today, awaiting the arrival of the surprising White Sox, who have won five straight games and lead the AL West with a record of 21-10, a game and a half ahead of Oakland. In tomorrow night’s series opener, ace left-handers Ken Holtzman and Wilbur Wood will square off at the Coliseum.  

DATE: 05/26

            The A’s’ top left-hander was better than the White Sox’ top left-hander—at least in tonight’s start of the showdown series between the two best teams in the American League West. Ken Holtzman forged another complete game—his seventh of the season—in limiting the Sox to two runs, while Wilbur Wood allowed four runs in a mediocre seven-inning performance. The A’s won the game, 4-2, to stop the White Sox’ winning streak at six games and pull within a half-game of first place in the West. 

            The A’s gave Holtzman an early lead on Reggie Jackson’s first-inning solo home run. The smooth-throwing southpaw maintained the edge until the fourth and fifth innings, when he gave up single runs in each frame. Now down, 2-1, the A’s mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Dave Duncan, who has emerged as the regular catcher after rotating with Gene Tenace earlier in the season, started the rally with a walk against Wood. Mike Epstein then doubled, putting runners at second and third. With No. 8 hitter Larry Brown scheduled to bat, Dick Williams decided to forego the option of a right-handed pinch-hitter like Gene Tenace or Ollie Brown. The strategy paid off, as Brown delivered a two-run single, enabling the A’s to retake the lead. The A’s then added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on Duncan’s sacrifice fly.


A’s Acorns: Jackson now has eight home runs, tying him with Duncan for the team lead… Jackson, Epstein, and Brown each had two hits… In addition to another excellent performance on the mound, Holtzman laid down two successful sacrifice bunt… After six straight starts in center field, Ollie Brown sat out the game. Brown had picked up two hits in his second start with the A’s, but managed a total of only three hits in 19 at-bats during the stretch. Rookie George Hendrick, starting for Brown against the knuckleballing Wood, went 0-for-4.


DATE: 05/27

            At the start of the regular season, Dick Williams alternated his first two catchers, a decision that stemmed in part from his confidence in both receivers, and in part from his desire that one would eventually emerge as the No. 1 backstop. Well, the manager’s desires have been fulfilled. Since the second week in May, Dave Duncan has caught almost every game the A’s have played, an understandable circumstance given his sudden emergence as the American League’s most prolific home run hitter. Showing no fatigue despite the recent heavy workload, Duncan took over the league lead in long balls today, with his ninth blast highlighting Oakland’s 6-3 win—and second consecutive victory over the White Sox. Thanks to Duncan, along with pitching and hitting assistance from Catfish Hunter, the A’s have now taken over the divisional lead in the American League West.

            Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, the tail end of the A’s’ order helped launch a comeback rally. Hunter, one of the best hitting pitchers in either league, started the onslaught with a single and scored all the way from first on Joe Rudi’s double. Reggie Jackson followed with a single—one of his three hits on the afternoon—to give the A’s a 2-1 margin. Duncan started the next rally, by hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. After two errors by White Sox second baseman Mike Andrews and another single off the bat of Hunter, the Oakland lead stood at 4-1. Andrews later drew the Sox closer with a two-run homer in the fifth, but Campy Campaneris reinstated the three-run lead with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the sixth.

            In addition to collecting two hits and scoring one run in four at-bats, Hunter found enough energy left to notch a complete game, successfully scattering eight hits and three walks. With the win, Hunter improves to 4-and-2, while the A’s’ overall record surges to 21-11, one-half game ahead of the White Sox.


A’s Acorns: Campy Campaneris and Joe Rudi, the first two hitters in the Oakland lineup, effectively set the table by reaching four times in eight at-bats. Rudi doubled twice while Campaneris hit his second home run of the year…. As well as the A’s have played, they continue to struggle in their efforts to find a worthy successor to Rick Monday in center field. George Hendrick, making his second straight start in center, went 0-for-4, making him hitless in eight at-bats since taking over for Ollie Brown. Aside from Brown and Hendrick, Angel Mangual and the now departed Bobby Brooks have all taken turns in center field—and all without success… Vida Blue is scheduled to make his highly anticipated first start tomorrow afternoon in the finale of the three-game series with the White Sox.


DATE: 05/28

            At one time during the spring, the A’s didn’t know if they would enjoy the services of the American League’s best pitcher in 1971. Now they know that they have him; they just don’t know how effective he will be after missing all of spring training and nearly the first six weeks of the regular season. If today’s performance was any indication, the A’s might have not only the reigning Cy Young and MVP in tow, but also the best starting rotation of any team in the American League. Making his first start of the season, former holdout Vida Blue pitched brilliantly against the White Sox today, shutting out Dick Allen and Co. over five innings while allowing only one base hit. Although Blue’s performance earned him nothing more than a no-decision, it did help lift the A’s to a 5-4 win in extra innings and raised the confidence that manager Dick Williams and pitching coach Bill Posedel have in their starting pitching.

            Pitching in front of a season-high crowd of 32,602 fans at the Oakland Coliseum, Blue allowed only Dick Allen to dent him for a hit—a meaningless single in the third inning. Blue struggled with his control, allowing three walks, but made up for it with his typically explosive arsenal of fastballs and curveballs. Blue then left the game in the bottom of the fifth, removed in favor of a pinch-hitting Angel Mangual.

            After Blue’s departure, the A’s managed to take a 3-0 lead against White Sox starter Tom Bradley in the bottom of the sixth. Unfortunately, the relief tandem of Bob Locker and Darold Knowles allowed the White Sox to score three times in the eighth and ninth, tying the score. The White Sox then took the lead against Rollie Fingers in the 10th, scoring the go-ahead run on Jay Johnstone’s single.

            In the bottom of the 10th, Sox reliever Steve Kealey retired the first two A’s batters, bringing Chicago to the cusp of victory—and a return to first place in the American League West. All seemed hopeless for the A’s as Mike Hegan, who had been brought in for defensive purposes at first base, came to the plate. Hegan promptly laced a single to keep Oakland’s hopes alive and bring rookie center fielder George Hendrick into the spotlight. To the surprise of everyone, the struggling Hendrick walloped a two-run homer—the first of his major league career—to give the A’s their most dramatic win of the season. Hendrick’s heroics capped off a personal 2-for-5, three-RBI day, while putting the finishing touch to a 5-4 victory and a three-game sweep of the Sox. The A’s now lead the AL West by a game and a half. 


A’s Acorns: Since replacing the slumping Ollie Brown in center, Hendrick had been hitless in his two prior starts. In addition to today’s game-winning home run, Hendrick also stole a base and played flawlessly in center field… Joe Rudi and Larry Brown each had two-hit days for the A’s… Locker, who has been brilliant in the early going, allowed three hits and two runs in an unsuccessful three-inning stint.


DATE: 05/29

            The A’s are scorching—and they can point to the home run as the principal weapon in their recent destruction of the American League West.  Sweeping a pair of games from the Rangers, 4-1 and 7-1, the A’s successfully opened up a marathon 14-game road trip—their longest of the season. The A’s have now won five consecutive games.

            In the first game, George Hendrick provided home run heroics for a second straight day. His three-run shot in the seventh broke a 1-1 deficit and helped make a winner of reliever Joel Horlen, who pitched five and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief in support of an ineffective Blue Moon Odom. Joe Rudi had homered earlier in the seventh, tying the game against right-hander Pete Broberg, who surrendered all of Oakland’s runs.

            In the second game, the A’s went to work early rather than attempting to play the kind of comeback baseball that has characterized them of late. They scored five runs in the first inning against left-hander Jim Shellenback, with three of the runs coming home on Mike Epstein’s fifth home run of the season. Reggie Jackson later added his ninth, tying him with Dave Duncan for the team lead, and padding the advantage for rookie starter Dave Hamilton. The young left-hander, just recalled from Triple-A Iowa, permitted only one run in six and one-third innings to notch his first major league win.

The A’s won the second game despite the absence of two of their hottest home run hitters. Duncan took the nightcap off, giving way to Gene Tenace, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Another reserve, the recently benched Ollie Brown, filled in capably for Hendrick with two hits in five at-bats. 


A’s Acorns: Oakland committed four errors in the doubleheader (Duncan, Campaneris, Larry Brown, and Gene Tenace), but none of the miscues contributed to Ranger scores… Utility infielder Marty Martinez, acquired on May 18, finally made his Oakland debut. The versatile Martinez filled in for Campaneris at shortstop in the latter stages of the game… In addition to hitting a home run in game one, Rudi went 3-for-5 with an RBI in the nightcap.


DATE: 05/30

            The Rangers applied the upper “hand” to the A’s today, snapping Oakland’s five-game winning streak. Young right-hander Rich Hand gave up two runs over eight and one-third innings, as the A’s fell just short in a 3-2 loss.

            With one out in the ninth and Hand holding a one-run lead, Sal Bando gave the A’s hope with a single. Rangers skipper Ted Williams lifted Hand, replacing him with former A’s reliever Paul Lindblad, now scheduled to face the lefty-hitting Mike Epstein. Dick Williams countered with Gene Tenace, who responded with a pinch-hit single, pushing Bando into scoring position. Ted Williams then made his second move of the inning, calling on side-arming right-hander Horacio Pina to face two of the A’s’ hottest hitters, George Hendrick and Dave Duncan. In contrast to their recent late-game histrionics, Hendrick and Duncan (who had homered earlier in the night) both failed to come through, as Pina nailed down his seventh save of the season.


A’s Acorns: Ken Holtzman pitched well again, giving up just two earned runs in seven innings. With the loss, he falls to 7-and-3… The A’s managed only three hits against Hand, including a double by Joe Rudi and Duncan’s 10th home run. Duncan once again leads the A’s in long balls, one better than Reggie Jackson.

DATE: 05/31

            Reggie Jackson played a part in all three of Oakland’s run-scoring rallies, as the A’s resumed their winning ways with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. Jackson homered in the first, walked as part of a three-run rally in the sixth, and was then hit by a pitch in the seventh, when the A’s tacked on their final run. The errant pitch struck Jackson in the jaw, knocking him from the game.

            Catfish Hunter allowed 14 baserunners on the night (nine hits and five walks), but stranded 14 baserunners in picking up a complete-game win. With a record of 5-and-2, Hunter ranks second on the staff in victories to Ken Holtzman.


A’s Acorns: After being hit by a Mike Paul fastball, Jackson left the game immediately, replaced by pinch-runner George Hendrick. The rookie outfielder stayed in the game to play center, with Ollie Brown moving over to take Jackson’s position in right. Brown, who had been slumping since joining the A’s, picked up two hits in four at-bats and drove in a run… Jackson was taken to an Arlington hospital for X-rays on his jaw. An examination showed no fracture of the bone, which means that he will likely be available to play in Oakland’s next game… Jackson’s homer, his 10th of the season, once again puts him in a tie with Dave Duncan for the team lead… The A’s have now won six of their last seven.


DATE: 06/01

            The 1972 A’s are off today. They will continue their road trip tomorrow night when they play in Baltimore. Vida Blue will make his second start of the season, opposed by Orioles ace Jim Palmer.  


DATE: 06/02

            After making an impressive first start of the season, Vida Blue took a step backward in start No. 2, giving up four runs in five innings as the A’s fell to the Orioles, 5-1. Blue pitched creditably over the first four innings, allowing two runs, but then lost command of his pitches and ran into major trouble in the fifth. After walking the bases loaded, he allowed a two-run double to Paul Blair, enabling the Orioles to open up the game. With the loss, Blue falls to 0-and-2.

            Oakland’s offense did little to support Blue, mustering only one run against Birds  ace Jim Palmer. Hurling a complete game, Palmer earned his sixth win of the season against three losses.


A’s Acorns: Dave Duncan and Reggie Jackson were the lone offensive bright spots for the A’s. Duncan drove in Oakland’s only run, while Jackson went 3-for-4 with a double… Prior to the game, the A’s recalled journeyman outfielder Adrian Garrett from Triple-A Iowa and placed little-used catcher Larry Haney on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. The well-traveled Garrett, a veteran of three major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, has spent most of his career in the minor leagues since making his professional debut in 1961. He is expected to fill a role as a left-handed pinch hitter, a quantity the A’s have missed since the trade of Curt Blefary to the San Diego Padres. Garrett appeared as a pinch-hitter in tonight’s loss to the Orioles, but failed to pick up a hit… Haney appeared in only five games for the A’s, going hitless in four at-bats. Although an excellent defensive receiver, Haney found himself stuck behind two quality catchers in Duncan and Gene Tenace. 

DATE: 06/03

The last nine times the A’s and Orioles had played—including last year’s American League Championship Series—the Birds had emerged as the superior team. Baltimore’s recent stretch of dominance over Oakland finally ended today, as the A’s pulled out a 4-2 win at Memorial Stadium. Mike Epstein’s sixth home run, which came in the eighth inning of a tie game, supplied the difference in a 4-2 win over the O’s. Epstein’s two-run shot against Pat Dobson, one of four 20-game winners for the Orioles in 1971, scored Sal Bando ahead of him and gave Ken Holtzman a two-run advantage. Holtzman made the lead hold up by pitching scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, thereby earning his eight win against only three losses.

The top of Oakland’s order did significant damage to Dobson. The first five batters in the lineup—Campy Campaneris, Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, and Epstein—combined for eight hits, three runs, and four RBIs in 20 at-bats. Campaneris, Rudi, and Bando each had two hits on the afternoon.


A’s Acorns: Holtzman economized his pitches well, allowing only one walk while striking out two. Of the nine hits he surrendered, one was a home run by Don Baylor, his sixth of the season… The A’s and Orioles have split the first two games of this four-game rematch of last year’s American League playoffs. The two teams will wrap up the series with a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon.

DATE: 06/04

Perhaps the A’s have grown so tired of the Orioles’ recent domination of them in head-to-head play that they’ve decided to start a winning streak of their own against the Birds of Baltimore. After losing nine straight games to the O’s over the last two seasons, the A’s have now built up a three-game win streak against the defending American League champions. Two of the wins came today, as the A’s swept a doubleheader from the Orioles with matching scores of 2-0. With the two victories and 18 innings of shutout pitching, the A’s succeeded in taking three of four from the Orioles in the weekend series at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

In the first game, Catfish Hunter blanked Baltimore on two hits and earned his 100th career victory in the process. Hunter allowed only harmless singles to Don Buford and Elrod Hendricks in improving his season record to 6-and-2. Sal Bando supplied virtually all of the A’s’ offense with a two-run homer vs. Mike “Crazy Horse” Cuellar in the first, scoring Campy Campaneris ahead of him. 

The A’s received another stellar pitching effort in the nightcap, this time from a more unexpected source. Rookie left-hander Dave Hamilton, making only his second career start, stifled the Orioles on six hits and no walks over six innings. Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles maintained the shutout, with Knowles pitching the final two and one-third innings to post his second save. Knowles struck out four batters in arguably his most impressive effort of the season.


A’s Acorns: The A’s scored all four of their runs in the first innings of the two games, then sat back and watched their pitching throttle the usually potent Oriole attack… Backup second baseman Larry Brown, who continues to fill in capably for the injured Dick Green, enjoyed an especially productive afternoon. Brown picked up three hits in seven at-bats and helped the A’s turn three double plays.

DATE: 06/05

Of all of the A’s’ current regulars, the two least likely sources for home run power are middle infielders Larry Brown and Campy Campaneris. (And we should probably put an asterisk next to Brown’s name, since he’s only filling in for regular second baseman Dick Green, who does have home run capability.) Except for a 1970 season that saw him hit 22 home runs, Campaneris has spent most of his career as a singles-and-doubles slap hitter who creates havoc on the bases with his natural speed and daring instincts. In tonight’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Campaneris dipped into his 1970 arsenal and surprised the Tribe with an extra-inning show of power, blasting a game-winning solo home run in the top of the 10th. The unexpected long ball, coming against Indians ace Gaylord Perry, gave the A’s the winning margin in a 3-2 victory at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. Oakland has now won four straight games, all on the road.

The A’s scored their earlier runs on another home run—this one from the team’s leader in power, Reggie Jackson. Jackson’s two-run shot in the third gave the A’s a temporary 2-0 lead, before the Indians rallied to tie on an RBI single by Graig Nettles in the seventh and a home run by Eddie Leon (another middle infielder not known for power) in the eighth.


A’s’ Acorns: Jackson’s home run, his 11th of the season, puts him in the American League lead… After the game, several players complained that Gaylord Perry threw repeated spitballs during his 10-inning stint. The A’s, however, refrained from bringing up the subject with the umpires during the game… Perry’s counterpart, Blue Moon Odom, earned his third win in four decisions by pitching nine and two-thirds innings of two-run ball. Although such a workload might have seemed high for a pitcher coming off elbow troubles, consider that Odom threw only 76 pitches over the first nine innings. Manager Dick Williams says he can’t recall a pitcher making as few pitches as Odom did over a nine-inning stretch… Darold Knowles retired the final batter of the game to post his third save. Williams found little consolation in the win, given how poorly the A’s played in one facet of the game. Afterwards, Williams called a team meeting to discuss Oakland’s poor baserunning throughout the game.


DATE: 06/06

            Vida Blue’s third start of his holdout-interrupted season was not as good as his first and better than his second, but still not sufficient to earn his first win of 1971. Instead, Blue settled for a no-decision as the A’s won their fifth consecutive game, 7-2 over the Indians.

            Blue worked six innings, having allowed only two runs and no walks. Yet, he still trailed, 2-1, and departed the game after surrendering singles to Buddy Bell and Chris Chambliss to start the seventh. The Indians then loaded the bases when the A’s failed to register a forceout on Jack Brohamer’s ground ball, but Rollie Fingers came on to quell the rally, starting a double play on a ball back to the box and then fanning Eddie Leon to end the inning.

            The A’s managed to take Blue off the hook in the eighth, when they ralled for two runs on a Joe Rudi double and a Sal Bando single. Now leading by a run, the A’s blew open the tight game in the ninth, with Reggie Jackson clubbing a three-run homer as part of a four-run outburst.


A’s Acorns: The first four batters in Oakland’s lineup combined for nine hits. Campy Campaneris went 2-for-5 with three runs scored, Joe Rudi enjoyed a 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, Reggie Jackson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Sal Bando managed a 2-for-4 with a pair of runs driven in… Bob Locker continues to flourish as one of Dick Williams’ three firemen (along with Fingers and Darold Knowles). Locker allowed one hit over the final two innings in picking up his fourth save of the season… One day after pitching a near complete game in extra innings, Blue Moon Odom made an appearance as a pinch-runner, subbing for starting first baseman Mike Epstein… The A’s are now 30-and-13, a season-high 17 games over .500.


DATE: 06/07

Encouraged by the fine pitching of rookie Dave Hamilton and veteran Joel Horlen, Charlie Finley has deemed one of his veteran pitchers expendable. Finley sent former American League ERA champion Diego Segui to the St. Louis Cardinals today for future considerations, which are believed to entail cash and not players. The sale of the utility pitcher, who has been ineffective as a starter after pitching capably in relief, marks the third time he has been traded or let go by the A’s’ organization

Segui’s presence in the clubhouse figures to be missed. His gentlemanly demeanor and refusal to complain about his many pitching roles made him a likable figure with his teammates. The other A’s also respected the physical strength of Segui, regarded by some as the strongest man pound-for-pound in all of baseball.

Some players are openly wondering how the trade of Segui might affect Campy Campaneris, who felt closer to the veteran pitcher than any of the other A’s. In 1969, the two Cubans spent so much time together that fans regularly mistook one for the other. Curiously, Campaneris and Segui simultaneously enjoyed career seasons in 1970. Segui won the American League’s ERA title that summer, before tailing off somewhat in 1971.


A’s Acorns: The A’s won their sixth straight game tonight with a 10-4 clubbing of the Indians. Oakland scored three runs in the first, four in the fourth, and two in the seventh as part of a 14-hit assault against Cleveland pitching. Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Mike Epstein, Ollie Brown, and pitcher Ken Holtzman each collected a pair of hits, with Rudi and Epstein hitting home runs… Sporting an unusual pitching line, Holtzman earned a complete-game win despite giving up 14 hits to the Indians. Of the four runs that Holtzman allowed, three were unearned, due to a rare error by Campy Campaneris. Holtzman leads the A’s’ staff with nine victories… Dick Williams shifted his outfield alignment tonight, giving Ollie Brown his first start in right field and moving Reggie Jackson over to center field. The reason? Jackson has more speed than Brown, making him a better alternative in center field, while Brown’s powerhouse throwing arm makes him a natural for right field. Another factor played into the decision, as well; Williams has been upset with the defensive play of his two young center fielders, rookie George Hendrick and second-year man Angel Mangual. In particular, Williams cited Hendrick for a failure to “take charge out there.”


DATE: 06/08

            The 1972 A’s, who have won six straight games and remain in first place in the AL West, are off today. They are traveling to Detroit to open up a three-game weekend series against the Tigers. Catfish Hunter will face right-hander Tom Timmerman in the opener on Friday night.



DATE: 06/09

            Downtown Ollie Brown’s first home run as a member of the A’s highlighted yet another Oakland victory—the team’s seventh in a row. Brown, Sal Bando, and Gene Tenace each homered in a 10-5 come-from-behind win over the Detroit Tigers.

            The Tigers took an early lead against Catfish Hunter, scoring a single run in the third and three more in the fifth. An inning later, the A’s rallied to tie the game with a four-spot, with Bando and Brown each blasting two-run homers. The Tigers regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the seventh, only to watch the A’s explode for six runs in the top of the eighth. Pinch-hitting for reliever Darold Knowles, Tenace launched a three-run shot and then stayed in the game to play first base. Despite pitching ineffectively in two-thirds of an inning (giving up a hit and a walk and making an error), Knowles earned his first win of the season, with Rollie Fingers registering his sixth save.


A’s Acorns: Hunter was uncharacteristically wild, walking six batters in his six and one-third innings of work… While Brown hit his first home run in the green and gold, Tenace ripped his second of the season, and Bando added his third. Bando also doubled as part of a three-hit, three-RBI night… Detroit’s Norm Cash hit his 10th home run in a losing cause, as part of a three-hit day for the veteran Tiger first baseman… The top of the A’s’ order remains red-hot; Campy Campaneris (two singles, two stolen bases), Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson (three singles), Bando, and Mike Epstein (two singles) combined for 11 hits and five RBIs. As a team, the A’s collected 15 hits, giving them 29 hits over their last two games.

DATE: 06/10

            Two streaks continued today. The A’s won their season-high eighth consecutive game, while Joe Rudi extended his hitting streak to 17 games, setting a new record for the Oakland franchise. Rudi hit his fifth home run of the season—accounting for his one hit and two RBIs on the afternoon—helping the A’s to a 5-2 win over the Tigers.

            With the A’s trailing early, 1-0, Sal Bando homered for the second straight day, his solo shot victimizing Tigers ace Mickey Lolich in the top of the second. The A’s then gave rookie left-hander Dave Hamilton the lead in the sixth, when Campy Campaneris reached first on a hit-by-pitch and Rudi followed with his home run. The A’s added two insurance runs in the seventh, extending Hamilton’s lead to four runs. Hamilton left the game after seven and one-third innings, earning his third consecutive win against no losses as a major leaguer. Bob Locker picked up his fifth save with an inning and two-thirds of spotless relief.


A’s Acorns: Prior to Rudi’s 17-game string, infielder Danny Cater held the record for the longest hitting streak in the history of the Oakland franchise, not including the team’s pre-1968 years in Kansas City or Philadelphia. Cater, now a first baseman with the Boston Red Sox, compiled a 16-game hitting streak for the A’s in 1969… For the third straight game, Dick Williams started Ollie Brown in right field and Reggie Jackson in center field. Brown went hitless in three at-bats, but Jackson picked up a hit, two RBIs, and a stolen base in three trips to the plate.


DATE: 06/11

            Two streaks that had reached extended proportions both came to an end this afternoon in Detroit. As Joe Rudi went hitless in three at-bats, the A’s saw their winning streak snapped at eight games, courtesy of a 3-2 loss to the Tigers. Rudi had picked up hits in his last 17 games prior to today’s setback.

            Despite pitching another complete game, Ken Holtzman took the loss. Holding a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Holtzman surrendered a triple to Aurelio Rodriguez and a game-tying sacrifice fly to Tony Taylor. Holtzman then ran into immediate trouble in the ninth. Bill Freehan, swinging at Holtzman’s first pitch of the inning, delivered a tie-breaking, game-winning home run. Holtzman may have been overly aggressive in trying to jump ahead of Freehan in the count, considering that earlier in the game he had walked the Tigers’ catcher to force home the Tigers’ first run.


A’s Acorns: Including Freehan’s game-winning blast, Holtzman allowed only four hits. Yet, he was uncharacteristically wild, yielding four walks over nine innings… Mike Epstein hit his eighth home run, a solo shot in the fifth inning against Tigers starter Joe Coleman.


DATE: 06/12

            Playing in their fifth season since the move from Kansas City to Oakland, the A’s would have liked nothing better than to win a game in front of the largest crowd in the franchise’s West Coast history. The A’s pitched well and defended well, but failed to muster any kind of offensive attack against one of the Orioles’ quartet of 20-game winners, losing to Pat Dobson, 1-0, at the Oakland Coliseum.

            A record crowd of 50,182 filled the Coliseum, in part because of the “Family Night” discount and in larger part because of the mound presence of Vida Blue. The reigning Cy Young Award winner pitched brilliantly, allowing only one run and five hits in eight innings—easily his best performance of the 1972 season. Blue held the Orioles scoreless until the eighth, when Dave Johnson, Andy Etchebarren, and Don Buford touched the left-hander for three consecutive ground singles. Pinch-runner Mark Belanger scored on Buford’s timely hit, which proved to be a sufficient margin for Dobson. The Oriole right-hander finished off the A’s with scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth to improve his record to 7-and-6.

DATE: 06/13

            In his last start, Blue Moon Odom pitched at his most brilliant, motivating some to say that he has made a full recovery from elbow trouble. Today, Odom came close to pitching at his worst, leading some to wonder whether he can be relied upon as one of Dick Williams’ regular starters. Odom allowed three earned runs in an inning and a third—his shortest start of the season—as the A’s dropped a 5-1 decision to Mike Cuellar and the Orioles.

            The Orioles jumped on Odom early, scoring two runs in the top of the first. In the second inning, Odom issued a walk to Dave Johnson before coughing up a home run to his pitching counterpart. Cuellar’s two-run blast gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead on their way to an easy victory at the Oakland Coliseum.


A’s Acorns: Williams used three relievers in succession of Odom: Joel Horlen, Rollie Fingers, and Darold Knowles. The trio pitched effectively, allowing only one run in seven and two-thirds innings of work… Sal Bando accounted for Oakland’s lone run with a home run, part of a 2-for-4 day at the plate… Angel Mangual made his second consecutive start in right field and also went 2-for-4…. The A’s’ defense turned three double plays in the loss.


DATE: 06/14

The second meeting of the year between the A’s and Orioles looked all too much like last year’s American League Championship Series. The defending AL champions beat the A’s for a third straight game, this time winning in extra innings. Bobby Grich’s solo home run, coming at the expense of starter Catfish Hunter, gave the O’s a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.

            Hunter contributed to his own misfortune earlier in the game, when he committed a key error while covering first base. In the third inning, Hunter dropped a throw from first baseman Mike Epstein, thereby extending the inning and allowing Dave Johnson to score the first run of the game. The A’s rallied the following frame, when Joe Rudi doubled, advanced to third base on a single by Reggie Jackson, and then came home to score on a single by Sal Bando. Little did the A’s realize it at the time, but they would collect only more hit the rest of the evening against Dave McNally, who earned his seventh win with a complete-game four hitter.


A’s Acorns: Other than the safeties by Rudi, Jackson, and Bando, only Epstein managed a hit against McNally. Epstein then left the game for a pinch-runner, replaced by pitcher Blue Moon Odom. Manager Dick Williams has used Odom frequently as a pinch-runner this season, often in place of the slow-footed Epstein… The O’s won despite committing three errors, one each for McNally, Grich, and catcher Johnny Oates… Disturbed by Oakland’s lack of scoring over the first two games against Baltimore, manager Dick Williams shuffled his lineup. He started Gene Tenace behind the plate and Ron Clark at second base, but neither reserve managed a hit in place of regulars Dave Duncan and Larry Brown, respectively.


DATE: 06/15

            The 1972 A’s are off today. They will begin a three-game weekend series with the Cleveland Indians tomorrow night at the Oakland Coliseum.


DATE: 06/16

            After watching his team score only two runs in the last three games, Dick Williams decided to make another adjustment to his lineup. Williams gave the recently acquired Marty Martinez his first start as a member of the A’s, putting him at shortstop and installing him as the leadoff man in place of the slumping Campy Campaneris. Martinez didn’t exactly make Williams look like a genius, going 0-for-4 while making an error in the field, but the A’s still managed to end a four-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over the Cleveland Indians.

            Oakland’s dormant attack showed immediate signs of resuscitation in the first inning, when Reggie Jackson clubbed his 13th home run and Dave Duncan added a two-run single. The early 4-0 cushion made circumstances that much easier for Ken Holtzman, who pitched another complete-game shutout in improving his record to 10-and-4. The newfound Oakland ace scattered seven hits and struck out five in reaching the double-figure mark in wins. Holtzman won only nine games all of last season while pitching with the Cubs… Martinez, who was acquired in the trade for Brant Alyea in mid-May, appeared in only his second game for the A’s.


A’s Acorns: In addition to unseating Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue as the current ace of the staff, Holtzman is also making a run at Hunter as the team’s best hitting pitcher. Holtzman racked up three hits in four at-bats against Cleveland pitching, while driving in one of Oakland’s five runs.

DATE: 06/17

            Once again employing an improvised lineup, Dick Williams watched his A’s win their second consecutive game after a four-game losing skid. Yet, it was again the team’s pitching—and not the new-look-lineup—that proved most responsible for a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

            Rookie left-hander Dave Hamilton continued his early string of successful starts with eight innings of one-run ball, earning his fourth win against no losses. Hamilton, who has solidified a place in the rotation alongside Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, and Vida Blue, allowed only six hits and two walks in beating his far-better-known pitching counterpart, Gaylord Perry.

            For the second straight day, the A’s used Marty Martinez as their starting shortstop and leadoff man. In four at-bats against Cleveland pitching, Martinez picked up his first hit as a member of the A’s, but it was the No. 2 through No. 7 hitters who delivered most of the damage against the Indians. The A’s scored all of their runs in the fourth inning, when Joe Rudi took first on a hit-by-pitch and came home to score on a double by Reggie Jackson. After Mike Epstein drew an intentional pass, the resuscitated Angel Mangual scored a second run with an RBI single and Dave Duncan plated the final run with a double.


A’s Acorns: Rudi, Jackson, and Duncan each had two hits, with Reggie adding a stolen base… The A’s won the game despite leaving nine runners on base… The A’s drew one of their stronger crowds of the year. A total of 28,934 fans attended the game at the Oakland Coliseum, enticed by the “Helmet Day” promotion.



DATE: 06/18

            Vida Blue did something today that he hasn’t done since September 26, 1971: win a ballgame. Looking very much like he did throughout his 24-win season in 1971, Blue provided every indication that he has recovered from the after-effects of a long holdout that delayed the start of his current season until May. Having lost his first three decisions of 1972, Blue twirled a four-hit shutout against the reeling Indians. The 9-0 whitewash gave the A’s a sweep of the three-game weekend series at the Coliseum, where a crowd of 26,210 bore witness to Blue’s domination of Indian hitters.

            Mike Epstein gave Blue an early cushion with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, his ninth blast of the season. George Hendrick added to the margin with his third home run, a two-run shot in the fourth. Two innings later, the A’s exploded for six runs against Indians relievers Denny Riddleberger and Steve Hargan—and a shaky Cleveland defense which allowed four unearned runs. 

  A’s Acorns: After a two-game absence, leadoff man Campy Campaneris returned to the lineup with a single and double in five at-bats. Batting right behind Campy, Joe Rudi went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base… The bottom of the Oakland order also contributed. Dave Duncan collected three hits in four at-bats, Larry Brown went 2-for-3 with a run scored, and Blue added a hit, a run, and a sacrifice bunt in four appearances at the plate… Brown struggled through a miserable day in the field and on the basepaths. He committed two errors—his first multiple-error game of the season—and also found himself mired in embarrassment in the fourth inning, when he was thrown out at the plate by Indians left fielder Alex Johnson, one of the weakest-armed outfielders in either league. 


DATE: 06/19

            The A’s typified the concept of “manufacturing” a win tonight, loading the bases in the eighth inning and then driving home four runs without the benefit of a hit. The unusual rally gave the A’s a 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers.

            With the game tied at 3-3, the A’s came to bat in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Chuck Seelbach. Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson opened the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back singles. Sal Bando followed by dropping down a sacrifice bunt, which turned into a hit when the Tiger infield failed to retire him at first base. With the bases loaded and the lefty-swinging Mike Epstein coming to the plate, Tiger manager Billy Martin summoned southpaw Fred Scherman from the bullpen. The A’s now shifted from a hitting mode to a more passive approach. Epstein, who had already hit two home runs, patiently drew a walk, driving in his fourth run of the game. Dave Duncan also worked out a walk, forcing in a second run and giving the A’s a 5-3 lead. The A’s then watched the third pitcher of the inning—Phil Meeler—unleash a wild pitch, allowing another run to score. The next batter, George Hendrick, plated an additional run with a sacrifice fly, capping off a rally that saw all four runs come to the plate on something other than a base hit.


A’s Acorns: With three home runs in his last two games, Epstein now has 11 on the season. He is now only two behind Reggie Jackson for the team lead… Sal Bando had two hits and two runs scored… Blue Moon Odom pitched creditably, surrendering three runs in seven-plus innings of work… Bob Locker earned his fourth win against no losses, despite giving up four hits in two innings.

DATE: 06/20

            The emergence of Joe Rudi as an American League star continues. “Gentleman Joe,” as he’s known throughout the A’s’ clubhouse, led off the bottom of the 11th and launched the first pitch he saw into the bleachers of the Oakland Coliseum. The solo home run, which victimized Tiger reliever Chuck Seelbach and made him a loser for a second straight day, gave the A’s a dramatic 3-2 victory.

Rudi’s extra-inning bomb capped off a day that saw him collect three hits in four at-bats, while also stealing a base (a rare occurrence for Rudi). His batting average, which has never topped .309 for a single season, is now approaching .340, by far the best among A’s hitters. Rudi’s sixth home run of the season made a winner of workhorse Catfish Hunter, who lasted all 11 innings. Hunter allowed only five hits and struck out nine in improving his record to 7-and-3.

 A’s Acorns: George Hendrick also homered for the A’s. The rookie outfielder, who continues to shuttle with Angel Mangual and Ollie Brown in the ever-changing right field derby, now has four home runs… Al Kaline and Norm Cash went deep for the Tigers against Hunter. The venerable Cash, a Tiger veteran since 1960, has 14 home runs in 1972… The 25-man merry-go-round continues for the A’s. Prior to the game, Charlie Finley announced yet another trade, sending backup infielder Ron Clark to the Milwaukee Brewers for backup outfielder Bill Voss. The left-handed hitting Voss hit a career-high 10 home runs as a part-time player in 1971—more than tripling his previous career high—but slumped badly the first half of this season, scraping only three hits in 36 at-bats to accumulate a diminutive .083 batting average. Still, the A’s are hoping that Voss, who has played for the White Sox and Angels during an eight-year career, will give them a capable left-handed pinch-hitter to fill the role of the departed Curt Blefary, who was traded to San Diego earlier in the season.


DATE: 06/21

            After producing a series of clutch hits in winning their last five games, A’s bats fell silent today against journeyman pitcher Tom Timmerman. The Tiger right-hander, who has spent most of his career in the minor leagues in between occasional trips to the Motor City, held the “Swingin’ A’s” to five hits in Detroit’s 5-2 victory at the Oakland Coliseum. 

            While Timmerman pitched brilliantly, Oakland’s defense did little to support A’s starter Ken Holtzman. Errors by shortstop Campy Campaneris, center fielder Reggie Jackson, and second baseman Tim Cullen—just up from Triple-A Iowa—made Holtzman work harder and longer than he should have, while also contributing to an unearned tally. In spite of the porous defense, Holtzman kept the A’s within one run until the eighth, when he gave up a two-run, bases-loaded double to Oakland nemesis Bill Freehan. Still, Holtzman recovered to complete the inning and the game, helping himself with eight strikeouts and one walk along the way.

 A’s Acorns: Offensively, Mike Epstein picked up two of Oakland’s five safeties, including his 12th home run of the season. Epstein has hit four home runs in his last four games.


DATE: 06/22

            The 1972 A’s are off today. Their homestand will continue tomorrow against the rival California Angels.


DATE: 06/23

            Dave Hamilton continues to make a bid for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, but the A’s’ shaky outfield defense and their all-too-inconsistent offense managed to saddle him with his first defeat as a major leaguer. The young left-hander allowed only one earned run in forging a complete-game, eight-strikeout effort, but lost a 2-1 decision to the California Angels.

            With the A’s holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, right fielder Angel Mangual committed a crucial error, leading directly to an unearned run for California. The game remained tied until the ninth, when slugging first baseman Bob Oliver touched Hamilton for a two-out home run. Nolan Ryan then shut the A’s down in the ninth, capping off a two-hit, 10-strikeout gem at the Coliseum.


A’s Acorns: Dave Duncan and Reggie Jackson produced the only hits against Ryan. In the first inning, Jackson hit his 14th home run, putting him two ahead of Mike Epstein for the team lead… Hamilton, who fell to 4-and-1, did not issue a single base-on-balls… Tim Cullen, recently recalled from the minor leagues, made his second consecutive start at second base and went 0-for-3.

DATE: 06/24

            Given his long holdout, the lack of spring training, and his delay in starting the season, it shouldn’t be too surprising that stamina is currently the main stumbling block for Vida Blue. The A’s’ left-hander was brilliant over the first six innings of today’s game against the Angels, but tired badly with two outs in the seventh on his way to losing a tough 3-1 decision to California.

            Courtesy of Reggie Jackson’s team-leading 15th home run of the season, Blue held a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh. Blue retired the first batter—former Oriole Curt Motton, a 1971 playoff nemesis of the A’s—allowed a one-out single to Bob Oliver, and then put down Ken McMullen. Needing just one out to end the inning, Blue faltered. He allowed successive singles to Leroy Stanton, Leo “Chico” Cardenas, and the light-hitting Jeff Torborg, allowing the Angels to take a 2-1 lead. Blue eventually closed out the inning without further score, but departed the game in the bottom half of the seventh, lifted for a pinch-hitting Gene Tenace. The Angels added an insurance run in the eighth, nicking Rollie Fingers for a walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly.


A’s Acorns: After piling up five consecutive victories, the streaking A’s have suddenly lost three straight games… California’s Clyde “Skeeter” Wright pitched a complete game, limiting the A’s to five hits. In the meantime, the more heralded Blue fell to 1-and-4. After the game, the outspoken Wright made some critical remarks about his counterpart, saying he was unimpressed by Blue. Wright also made reference to Blue’s sub-.500 record while citing his own mark of 8-and-3… The venerable Vada Pinson stole two bases for the Angels, even though he entered the game in the later innings as a pinch-hitter for Motton. 


DATE: 06/25

            The A’s should schedule more doubleheaders—perhaps as often as every other day. The green and gold swept its fifth consecutive doubleheader, seizing impressive 6-1 and 6-0 victories over the Angels while bidding adieu to a three-game losing streak.

            Catfish Hunter handcuffed California in the opener, allowing only three hits and a walk in picking up a complete-game victory. Hunter would have enjoyed a shutout, if not for a pair of errors by Oakland’s latest second-baseman-of-the-day, Tim Cullen. Playing in place of the now-disabled Larry Brown, Cullen’s defensive adventures led directly to California’s unearned score in the third inning.

            Not surprisingly, Hunter overcame the fielding hiccup and also helped himself with two hits and an RBI at the plate. Oakland’s order provided a balanced offensive attack, with Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, and Mike Epstein also depositing two hits apiece. Bando’s performance included a rare triple and stolen base, while Campy Campaneris added a pair of steals despite an 0-for-4 at the plate.

            In the nightcap, the A’s’ most inconsistent starter once again gave Dick Williams hope for improvement from the bottom end of the Oakland rotation. Blue Moon Odom pitched eight scoreless innings, keeping the Angels off the board despite the allowance of six hits and four walks. With two men on and no one out in the ninth, a tiring Odom gave way to Darold Knowles, who finished off the game by retiring the next three batters to pick up his fifth save. Offensively, Sal Bando and Gene Tenace supplied Odom with most of the support that he would need. Bando blasted a three-run homer (his sixth of the season) as part of a 3-for-3 effort, while Tenace chipped in with his third home run and three RBIs.

A’s Acorns: Hunter is now 8-and-3, while Odom improves to 4-and-2… The newly acquired Bill Voss made his Oakland debut in the second game, earning a start against right-hander Rickey Clark. Batting fifth and playing right field, Voss went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs scored, and an RBI. Voss had accumulated all of three hits during his early-season stay in Milwaukee… Joe Rudi left the game after being hit by a pitch. He was replaced in left field by rookie George Hendrick.

DATE: 06/26

            Ken Holtzman is not a complete game machine after all! After pitching five consecutive route-going performances, the Oakland left-hander lasted “only” seven and one-third innings at Turnpike Stadium, but still pitched brilliantly in the first game of the A’s’ road trip. Allowing no runs and a mere three hits, Holtzman helped shut down the Texas Rangers, 3-0, and give the A’s their third straight victory.

            The game remained scoreless until the seventh, when Holtzman broke the tie by driving in Tim Cullen with a clutch double. The A’s then padded the lead in the eighth, stringing together five singles and scoring two more runs. The multi-run lead proved more than sufficient for Holtzman and Darold Knowles, who recorded the final five outs in notching his sixth save.


A’s Acorns: Cullen enjoyed his finest day as a member of the A’s. In addition to scoring the tie-breaking run, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Cullen had spent most of spring training with the Rangers before drawing his release… Cullen’s double-play partner, Campy Campaneris, added two hits and a stolen base.


DATE: 06/27

            Oakland pitchers did it all today. Rookie Dave Hamilton doubled for his first major league hit, Rollie Fingers picked up his first hit of 1972 via a surprising home run, and both pitchers combined to limit the Rangers to a trio of runs in a 9-3 victory at Turnpike Stadium.

            With the score deadlocked at 1-1 in the top of the sixth, the A’s loaded the bases, as Hamilton started the rally. Hamilton doubled, Joe Rudi walked, and Reggie Jackson reached base on an error. After Dick Williams inserted fellow pitcher Blue Moon Odom as a pinch-runner for Hamilton, Bando plated a pair of go-ahead runs with a single. Two innings later, reliever Rollie Fingers, who had succeeded Hamilton on the mound, swatted a two-run homer to give the A’s a 5-2 lead. The A’s then put the game away in the ninth, scoring three times against former Oakland farmhand Jim Panther and adding a tack-on run against left-hander Mike Paul.


A’s Acorns: Hamilton has now won five of six decisions since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa…. In addition to Fingers, Campy Campaneris proved another unlikely longball source, blasting his fourth home run… Rudi returned to the lineup after missing two games with a minor injury… Tim Cullen enjoyed his second straight productive game at the plate. The A’s second baseman—who spent part of spring training with the Rangers after playing last season with the Washington Senators—continued to haunt his old team with two hits, two RBIs, and two runs scored in four at-bats… Bill Voss, making his third start in the outfield, went 1-for-4 with a run scored.


DATE: 06/28

            If the A’s are to win their second consecutive American League West title, they will need to contain the efforts of Dick Allen. The White Sox’ slugger, who has been arguably the league’s most dangerous hitter through the first 10 weeks of the regular season, blasted his 12th home run in helping defeat the A’s, 6-4. Allen gave the Sox an early 1-0 lead with a first-inning solo shot—one of three home runs against an ineffective Vida Blue.

            The A’s came back to tie the score against young left-hander Dave Lemonds, but Oakland’s bullpen pulled one of its few disappearing acts of the season. Bob Locker, in one of his rare ineffective stints, coughed up two go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh. Allen played a key role in the rally, drawing a walk before coming home to score on Carlos May’s two-run single.

A’s Acorns: The A’s announced another player acquisition today, as Charlie Finley purchased one of the members of the 1969 World Champion New York Mets. The A’s purchased the contract of veteran outfielder-first baseman Art Shamsky from the Chicago Cubs, where he had struggled in a reserve role, picking up only two hits in 16 at-bats. The lefty-swinging Shamsky, a former Cincinnati Red and New York Met, enjoyed his best season in 1969, when he batted an even .300 as a platoon right fielder for Gil Hodges’ “Miracle Mets.” Shamsky is expected to fill a role as a left-handed pinch-hitter, especially now that Bill Voss seems to have taken hold of the right-field job … Dick Allen’s home run was no surprise, given that he had already reached double figures this season. The other two White Sox home runs came from unexpected places; catcher Tom Egan and right fielder Walt “No-Neck” Williams each hit his first of the year… Tim Cullen, playing solidly in the absence of the injured Larry Brown, went 1-for-3 with an RBI… Reggie Jackson reached base three times in four plate appearances. He was twice hit by pitches, first by right-handed reliever Vicente Romo and then by left-hander Terry Forster.


DATE: 06/29

The Denny McLain Era in green and gold has come to an end. Faced with having an unwanted player at an exorbitant salary of $50,000, Charlie Finley made an unusual transaction today. The Oakland owner sold McLain, who had been demoted to Birmingham of the Class-AA Southern League in mid-May, to the pitching-poor Atlanta Braves. While McLain heads to Atlanta, Finley simultaneously purchased 1967 National League MVP Orlando Cepeda, who managed four home runs and a .298 batting average for the Braves, but had been limited to 84 at-bats by knee troubles.  Although the A’s and Braves officially announced the transactions as separate sales, the two teams have essentially traded former league MVPs for another, the first time in history that such a deal had taken place.

 “I’m as happy as hell,” McLain told New York Newsday when asked for his reaction to the deal. As someone who hated pitching in the minor leagues, McLain realizes he will have an opportunity to return to the major league level.

Like McLain, Cepeda was pleased to hear the trade news.  “I am always happy,” Cepeda told the Associated Press.  “Only when I do not play am I unhappy.” With the Braves, Cepeda lost his starting job when manager Luman Harris decided to move Hank Aaron from the outfield to first base. Harris questioned whether Cepeda could play every day because of his wavering physical condition. Cepeda balked at his demotion by walking out on the team and the Braves responded by suspending him—albeit for only two days.

If the McLain-for-Cepeda swap had been made five years earlier, it might have been hailed as the “deal of the century.”  At his peak in 1967, Cepeda batted .325 with 25 home runs and 111 RBIs for the World Champion Cardinals. In 1968, McLain forged an eye-popping record of 31-6 with an ERA of 1.96, which earned him American League MVP honors.

Yet, both players have fallen on hard times in 1972, with McLain victimized by his weight and gambling problems and the 34-year-old Cepeda undermined by his chronically bad knees. Since each player had to clear waivers before the trade could be officially consummated, any of the other 22 major league teams could have claimed McLain or Cepeda for $25,000. Five years earlier, any team would have jumped at the chance to pick up Cepeda or McLain at such a price, but both are now considered damaged goods. As New York Times columnist Arthur Daley aptly summarized the trade of former MVPs:  “It is a trade that is a lot more historic than it is momentous.”

Now that Cepeda had arrived in Oakland, how will the A’s use him? Perhaps Dick Williams envisions a platoon of Cepeda and Mike Epstein at first base, with Orlando playing against left-handed pitchers.  Although Epstein has managed a respectable .250 average against portsiders, he has hit only one home run against lefties.

Whatever the resolution of the new first base quandary, the trade of the unhappy McLain has ended one of the shortest chapters in his baseball life.  In the spring, Finley and Williams quietly hoped that McLain could recapture his former pitching dominance, or at least some percentage of it.  By mid-season, those hopes had been transformed into the realities of a lost fastball and an expanding waistline.          

Although it was overshadowed by the news of the McLain departure and the pickup of Cepeda, the A’s made another roster move today when they sold veteran outfielder “Downtown” Ollie Brown on waivers to the Milwaukee Brewers. The sale of Brown opens up a roster spot for outfielder-first baseman Art Shamsky, just acquired from the Chicago Cubs. At one time, the A’s considered Brown the answer in their search for a third outfielder to team with Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson. Brown had played well in right field for the A’s, showcasing one of the great power arms in recent memory, but his lack of hitting, coupled with an inability to adapt to a part-time role, turned the A’s sour on him.


A’s Acorns: Oh by the way, the A’s played a pair of games today. When a team scores only three runs in a doubleheader, it might consider itself fortunate to win one of the two games. The A’s probably share that particular feeling after being throttled by Chicago ace Wilbur Wood in the first game, before coming back to salvage a split of their twinbill against the surprising Sox.

            Wood, who had lost three consecutive games, regained his early-season form with a complete-game shut out, beating the A’s 4-0. Wood scattered seven hits over nine innings and showed complete mastery of his trademark knuckleball, issuing no walks to the A’s. For the second straight day, White Sox slugger Dick Allen homered—his 13th of the season—with his two-run blast giving Chicago a four-run lead in the fifth. Allen finished the game 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. The only Oakland offensive highlights came from Campy Campaneris and Gene Tenace, who each picked up two hits.

            In the nightcap, the A’s rebounded nicely, with Mike Epstein providing an early lead courtesy of his 13th home run, which came in the first inning against Sox starter Tom Bradley. Epstein’s home run highlighted a three-hit, two-RBI day, and was supplemented by another surprising performance from new right fielder Bill Voss. The Milwaukee Brewers’ ex-patriot collected two hits in three at-bats and drove in the other run for the A’s in the 3-1 victory. On the mound, Blue Moon Odom provided another promising start. The comebacking right-hander improved to 5-and-2 by limiting the White Sox to five hits and one run over eight and a third innings. Rollie Fingers posted the final two outs to cement his eighth save.


A’s Acorns: Dick Williams made an intriguing lineup alteration in game one. Trying to use as many good right-handed bats as he could against Wilbur Wood, Williams gave Gene Tenace his first start of the season in right field. Tenace played the position without incident… Wood is now 12-and-7 on the season… The little-used Marty Martinez made his first start as a second baseman, giving Tim Cullen a rest in the second game. The A’s have now used six second basemen in 1972: Martinez, Cullen, Larry Brown, Ron Clark, Dwain Anderson, and Dick Green. Two of the second basemen—Brown and Green—are currently on the disabled list. Two others—Anderson and Clark—have already been traded to other organizations.


DATE: 06/30

            The A’s made a gallant comeback, fighting off an early five-run deficit, but their middle and late inning rallies went for naught when Darold Knowles walked in the winning run with a count of three-and-two and two outs in the bottom of the 11th. With the 6-5 setback to the White Sox, the A’s ended up losing three of four games to the surprising Southsiders of Chicago.

            Ken Holtzman, who has been spectacular in seizing the leadership of the starting rotation this season, failed to retire a single batter against the White sox. He allowed six hits and five runs before being mercifully removed from the game by manager dick Williams. The Oakland bullpen, spearheaded by Joel Horlen and Bob Locker, kept the White Sox scoreless over the next nine innings, making Oakland’s rallies in the second, fifth, and seventh innings relevant occurrences. In the second inning, Bill Voss hit his first home run as a member of the A’s; in the fifth, Tim Cullen and Campy Campaneris rapped doubles in front of a Joe Rudi home run; and in the eighth, Mike Epstein’s rare triple set up a sacrifice fly by Dave Duncan.

            With the game now tied, the A’s and Sox eventually moved to extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Rollie Fingers seemed determined to continue the bullpen’s success when he retired the leadoff batter, but then issued a single to Luis Alvarado and a walk to Dick Allen. Left-hander Darold Knowles came on to retire a pinch-hitting Jay Johnstone, but when both runners moved up on the groundout, Williams ordered Knowles to intentionally walk Carlos May. Knowles then ran a full count on the right-handed hitting Mike Andrews, before missing with the payoff pitch—and giving the Sox a 6-5 victory.

A’s Acorns: Art Shamsky, acquired two days ago from the Chicago Cubs, made his Oakland debut. Shamsky pinch-hit unsuccessfully for Tim Cullen in his first-ever American League appearance… Epstein’s triple capped off a three-hit night for the hot-hitting first baseman, who may feel extra motivation after the A’s announcement yesterday that they had acquired fellow first baseman Orlando Cepeda. Not surprisingly, the arrival of Cepeda has angered Epstein, who was enjoying his status as an everyday first baseman. In an interview with the Associated Press, Epstein wondered aloud why manager Dick Williams didn’t approach him to explain how his role might be affected. “What hurt me is that Dick Williams hasn’t called me into the office and told me what they’re going to do with Cepeda,” a frustrated Epstein complained to the AP.  “I busted my tail for this team and then I read in the paper where we got another player to platoon with me.” When told of Epstein’s reaction, Williams countered by saying it wasn’t the responsibility of the manager to explain every one of his lineup decisions.  “All a player has to do is check the lineup card every day and see if his name is on it,” Williams angrily told Bay Area writer Ron Bergman. “If it is, he goes out and busts his rear.” Stay tuned.        

DATE: 07/01

Simply put, the A’s had no chance against the fastballs and curveballs of Nolan Ryan tonight. The overmatching right-hander, who is making the off-season deal that brought him to the American League from the New York Mets look like an absolute winner for the California Angels, struck out 16 batters in clamping down the A’s, 5-3. Considering Ryan’s powerful repertoire throughout the complete-game effort, the A’s might have considered their three-run offensive output a moral victory.

            The A’s actually took an early lead on Ryan by scoring a run in the top of the second, but the Angels immediately tied the game in the bottom half of the inning when Ryan drove home a run with a single. California then piled on four more runs in the following frame against starter Dave Hamilton, giving Ryan an insurmountable margin. Ken Berry and Leo “Chico” Cardenas (who finished the game with three RBIs) each homered during the third-inning uprising against Hamilton, who struggled through his worst start as a major leaguer.

A’s Acorns: The A’s totaled only five hits against an effectively wild Ryan, who walked three batters and hit two others… Newcomer Art Shamsky pinch-hit for the second consecutive day, popping up weakly against Ryan in the top of the seventh… Campy Campaneris and Joe Rudi each stole bases against the combination of Ryan and catcher Art Kusyner.

DATE: 07/02

            Baseball people often talk about clutch hitting, but don’t seem to mention clutch “pitching” nearly as often. In tonight’s game against the Angels, Vida Blue put that concept on full display, twice working his way out of bases-loaded situations. Blue’s text case of pitching under pressure helped the A’s post a 3-1 victory at Anaheim Stadium.

            The A’s gave Blue an early lead when they jumped on Halos starter Clyde Wright in the first inning. The ever-improving Joe Rudi started a one-out rally with a triple and then came home to score on Reggie Jackson’s double. Angel Mangual, making the start in right field, followed with an RBI single to give Oakland a 2-0 edge. The A’s tacked on another run in the third, with Rudi once again jump-starting the rally. After a double by Rudi, Mike Epstein delivered an RBI single to give the A’s a 3-0 lead.

            The Angels immediately cut the lead in the bottom of the third, scoring their first run and then loading the bases with two outs. Facing a dangerous right-handed hitter in Leroy Stanton, Blue fanned the ex-Met farmhand to stymie the rally. The Angels again loaded the bases in the fifth, only to watch Blue retire Stanton again—this time on a critical inning-ending double play. Having pushed away the Angels a second time, Blue finished off the remaining four innings without incident, picking up only his second win since his return from a holdout.

 A’s Acorns: Blue allowed seven hits and five walks, but stranded 10 Angels baserunners… Epstein’s RBI single highlighted a three-hit night. Although the slugging first baseman had expressed his displeasure with the A’s’ recent acquisition of Orlando Cepeda, he has been red hot since the “Baby Bull” arrived in town at the end of June. Epstein is 5-for-10 in the three games the A’s have played since making the Cepeda trade on June 29.


DATE: 07/03

            Ken Holtzman has emerged as the newfound anchor of the A’s in his first three months with the ballclub, but holdover Jim “Catfish” Hunter may be making his own bid at becoming the team’s accredited ace. “The Cat” put forth his finest game of the season tonight, limiting the Angels to two hits and one walk in Oakland’s impressive 5-0 win at Anaheim Stadium.

            Hunter, who authored a perfect game in May of 1968, held the Angels hitless over the first five innings. Angels catcher John Stephenson broke up the no-hit bid to start the sixth, but was left stranded. The only other hit that Hunter permitted—a two-out triple by veteran outfielder Andy Kosco in the seventh—also proved harmless.

            For awhile, it seemed like the A’s’ dormant offense might lay waste to Hunter’s masterful pitching. The A’s finally broke the scoreless tie in the seventh, when Mike Epstein drove home a run with a clean single. Epstein also contributed a key two-run single in the eighth, when the A’s added four runs to Hunter’s lead. Dave Duncan accounted for the other two runs with a clutch single.

A’s Acorns: Epstein finished the game with three hits in four at-bats. He is now 8-for-14 since the acquisition of Orlando Cepeda in the Denny McLain deal. Speaking of Cepeda, he finally made his Oakland debut as a pinch-hitter for Tim Cullen, but failed to reach base against Angels starter Rudy May… The A’s played little ball to the extreme in tonight’s win. Bert Campaneris, George Hendrick, Joe Rudi, and even Reggie Jackson all layed down successful sacrifice bunts.

DATE: 07/04

            The 1972 A’s continue to play some of their best ball on promotional days and nights. Working in front of a crowd of 37,761 fans who entered the Oakland Coliseum on “Fireworks Night,” the A’s posted a 4-2 victory over the visiting New York Yankees. Entering the game with a perfect record of 3-and-0 on “Mustache Day” and “Hot Pants Day,” the A’s pleased the large Fourth of July crowd by scoring all four of their runs in the fourth inning, which proved more than sufficient for Oakland starter Blue Moon Odom. The comebacking right-hander allowed only two runs over seven and two-third innings before giving way to Darold Knowles, who collected his seventh save. With the win, the resurgent Odom improves to 6-and-2.

            Odom’s counterpart, Mel Stottlemyre, retired the first 10 batters he faced before running headfirst into a roadblock in the fourth. Stottlemyre coughed up a double to Joe Rudi, walked Mike Epstein intentionally, and then unleashed another walk to Bill Voss. The bases-loaded situation set the stage for Sal Bando’s first grand slam of the season. Bando’s home run, only his seventh of the year, broke open a scoreless tie. Bando also doubled, with his two hits accounting for 40 per cent of Oakland’s hit total on the night.


DATE: 07/05

            Ken Holtzman improved greatly on his last start, when he failed to retire a single batter, but still looked less far different from his early-season form in dropping a 4-1 decision to the visiting Yankees. The suddenly penetrable Holtzman surrendered 11 hits and three walks in falling to the New Yorkers, 4-1.

            A former Athletic did some of the most pertinent damage against Holtzman. Veteran first baseman Felipe Alou, who played with the A’s all of 1970 and part of ’71, drove in a run with a double in the fourth and then added a solo home run in the eighth—all part of a 3-for-3 night. Alou’s teammate, Yankee catcher Thurman Munson, also drove home a pair of runs, spotlighted by his fourth home run of the season. In the meantime, the A’s’ offense mustered virtually no energy against Yankee starter Steve Kline, who safely spread around six hits while walking none of the A’s batters.  Kline allowed only one run, with Sal Bando supplying the RBI single.

 A’s Acorns: Bill Voss, continuing to receive regular playing time in right field, had two of Oakland’s six hits… After a sensational stretch of games, Mike Epstein struggled through an 0-for-4 at the plate and committed an error in the field.


DATE: 07/06

            It’s been well over a year since the A’s traded Felipe Alou to the Yankees, but Charlie Finley might want to make an attempt to reacquire the veteran first baseman-outfielder and respected team leader. The former Athletic picked up two more hits and two more RBIs in the Yankees’ impressive 6-2 win over the sleepwalking A’s. Alou has gone 5-for-7 with four RBIs in the last two games against his former mates.

            With the A’s trailing by a run in the top of the fifth, the Yankees bundled together four singles with a timely double by Alou to open up a 5-0 margin. After Mike Kekich allowed the A’s to draw closer with a two-run rally, the Bombers called upon their new relief ace, Sparky Lyle. The major league leader in saves allowed only one hit in three and a third innings of sparkling relief to earn his 17th save.

 A’s Acorns: Orlando Cepeda made his second appearance in an A’s uniform, pinch-hitting for reliever Joel Horlen. Cepeda is now 0-for-2—both pinch-hit at-bats—since joining Oakland from Atlanta… The A’s played poor defense behind Horlen, who was saddled with an unearned run, and starter Dave Hamilton. Tim Cullen and Sal Bando each committed errors, at second and third base, respectively… Reggie Jackson was given the night off against Kekich. George Hendrick played center field, while Gene Tenace made his second start of the season in right field, playing the position without incident.  

DATE: 07/07

            Vida Blue looked nothing like the vintage 1971 model, and even worse than the rookie 1969 model, when he was still trying to make the transition from the minors to the major leagues. In his worst career defeat ever, Blue gave up eight runs (including six earned) in six-plus innings, as the A’s fell to the Milwaukee Brewers, 9-4. Prior to last night, Blue had never allowed more than five overall runs or more than four earned runs in an outing since making his big league debut in August of 1969.

            Blue surrendered two runs in the first, a single run in the third, two more in the sixth, and three in the seventh, when he failed to retire a single batter before giving way to Bob Locker. Much of the damage against Blue came via the long ball, with Dave May, George Scott, and former Athletic Ollie Brown all hitting home runs. Some of Blue’s ineffectiveness may have been attributable to injury. After Blue departed the game, the A’s announced that he had suffered a strained muscle just above his left knee while trying to field a hard-hit ball in the fourth inning. The A’s do not yet know whether the injury will cause him to miss his next scheduled start.


A’s Acorns: Blue’s poor performance overshadowed several outstanding offensive performances by the A’s, who totaled 11 hits against Milwaukee pitching. Campy Campaneris went 3-for-5 with two doubles and stolen base, while Reggie Jackson, Mike Epstein, and Dave Duncan each collected two hits. Duncan also ended a personal home run drought by hitting his 11th of the season… The two newest A’s—Art Shamsky and Orlando Cepeda—each made pinch-hitting appearances, but once again failed to reach base. Cepeda and Shamsky remain hitless while wearing the green and gold… With left-hander Ken Brett on the mound for the “Brew Crew,” Gene Tenace made his second consecutive start in right field. Tenace went 0-for-3 before being lifted for a pinch-hitting Bill Voss in the eighth inning.

Memories of the Mustache Gang: Introduction and Purpose

Memories of the Mustache Gang: Today's Installment

Memories of the Mustache Gang: Second Half of Season

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