There’s a lot to like about the 1972 Oakland Athletics. I always start with relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, third baseman/captain Sal Bando and back up first baseman Mike Hegan because the trio went on to play for the Milwaukee Brewers later in their careers. Hegan also served as the Brewer’s TV color commentary for 12 seasons. The sound of his voice still echoes in my mind.
But there’s more to life than the Milwaukee Brewers. There’s the Oakland A’s. Since relocating to the Bay area in the late 1960’s, the A’s have always been the “other” team, dwarfed by the mighty Giants of San Francisco, yet the A’s have been the bigger winners.
Charlie Finley had been trying to buy the Athletics as early as 1954 when the team played in Philadelphia. The team was eventually moved to Kansas City where Finley tried again in 1960. His bid was accepted. The Athletics would never be the same.
Finley changed the uniform colors to green and gold, replaced the team’s elephant mascot with a live mule and named it after himself-Charlie O. He also insisted on the name A’s rather than Athletics.
The team relocated to Oakland in 1968 and Finley threw the marketing gear into over drive. He encouraged players to sport facial hair at a time when most teams banned the fashion. He assigned catchy nicknames to players. He experimented with orange baseballs. But these fun loving gimmicks were only half the story.
Finley made great use of baseball’s amateur player draft. The annual event began a few years earlier in 1965 as a means to level the playing field. It seems ironic that Finley and the A’s quickly became a dynasty, winning three World Series trophies in a row. So much for an even playing field. The A’s drafted and developed an incredible core of talented young players including Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Jim Catfish Hunter and Bert Campaneris.
There’s enough anecdotes in those names to keep the camp fire rolling all night long.. “Campy” Campaneris is one of a half dozen players to field every position during the same game. Rollie Fingers patented the handlebar mustache and became baseball’s greatest relief pitcher. Reggie Jackson….well, the name alone speaks volumes.
Reggie is one the most misunderstood players of all time. He could be arrogant and rude and enemy number one. I just call him confident. My lasting memory of him is that 1972 season and the black arm band he wore on his shoulder. I learned about it long after it happened. It was to honor the Israeli Olympians who had been gunned down in the 1972 Munich games. Reggie joined teammates Ken Holtzman and Mike Epstein and wore the band for the remainder of the season.
Gary Trujillo-author of the blog coco crisp’s afro; a celebration of the Athletics past and present, sent me the link to game 4 of the 1972 Series. Unfortunately, Jackson suffered an injury and didn’t play in the Series. The game comes as yet another upload from my new hero who goes by the You Tube handle ClassicMLB11.
I don’t want to tell you who won game 4, but I will tell you there is a slide into second base that looked more like William “Refrigerator” Perry plowing through a defensive line. You’ll get to see that crazy Joe Rudi batting stance and the smooth pitching deliveries of both Ken Holtzman and the Red’s Don Gullet. Both of them were southpaws and both were on their games this day.
As an added bonus, the original commercials were preserved. The game was sponsored by Gillette and Plymouth. The two cars showcased were the Satellite and the Duster. I haven’t figured out if I love the ads out of nostalgia or because they’re timeless.