Friday, November 5, 2010

PTWSW #69: The 1972 Oakland A's

Manager: Dick Williams
Record: 93-62
Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Owner: Charles O. Finley
Coaches: Jerry Adair, Vern Hoscheit, Irv Noren, Bill Posedel

Future Hall of Famers: Orlando Cepeda, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson,

All-Stars: Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Joe Rudi, .305
OBP: Mike Epstein, .376
SLG: Mike Epstein, .490
OPS: Mike Epstein, .866
2B: Joe Rudi, 32
3B: Joe Rudi, 9 (AL leader)
HR: Mike Epstein, 26
RBI: Sal Bando, 77
BB: Sal Bando, 78
SB: Bert Campaneris, 52 (AL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Catfish Hunter, 21
SO: Catfish Hunter, 191
ERA: Catfish Hunter, 2.04
IP: Catfish Hunter, 295.1
CG: Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, 16
SHO: Catfish Hunter, 5
K/BB: Catfish Hunter, 2.73
SV: Rollie Fingers, 21


Oldest Player: Joe Horlen (b. August 14, 1937). Horlen was just three days older than teammate Diego Segui.

Youngest Player: George Hendrick (b. October 18, 1949)

First to Leave Us: Gonzalo Marquez (d. December 20, 1984). Marquez, then a player-coach for the Caracas Leones of the Venezuelan Winter League, was killed by a drunk driver while on his way home from a game.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Orlando Cepeda (debut April 15, 1958)

Last in Majors: George Hendrick (final game October 2, 1988)

First to Play For the Franchise: Diego Segui (April 12, 1962). Segui was traded to the Cardinals in June, so he unfortunately didn't get to be a part of the victory celebration.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Reggie Jackson (October 4, 1987)

Pre-union Team: The 1969 Seattle Pilots had six: Ron Clark, Larry Haney, Mike Hegan, Bob Locker, Don Mincher and Diego Segui.

Reunion Team: The 1973 St. Louis Cardinals had four: Matty Alou, Dwain Anderson, Larry Haney and Diego Segui.

Season Summary

The A's were one of the most colorful teams to come along in years. They wore flashy green and gold uniforms, sported moustaches and long hair, and were constantly making headlines thanks to controversial and outspoken owner Charlie O. Finley. Their owner and look weren't the only thing that set them apart; they were also the best team in the American League. The "Swingin' A's" led the AL in OPS+ and home runs, and were second in slugging, though their batting and on-base averages were only middle-of-the-road. They finished third in steals thanks mostly to shortstop Bert Campaneris' league-leading 52 swipes. They were also strong on the other side of the ball, with a third-ranked TotalZone and ERA+. Their staff exhibited good control, with a low walk rate and the second-fewest hit batsmen and wild pitches.

After the brief strike that delayed Opening Day by a week, the biggest early-season story was the holdout of 1971 Cy Young winner and MVP Vida Blue. Blue eventually agreed to terms in early May and made his debut at the end of the month, but he never shook off the rust, as he didn't live up to the standard he'd set the year before. It was OK though, as Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom and offseason addition Ken Holtzman picked up the slack in the starting rotation. Oakland spent most of the year leading the AL West, though the White Sox briefly pulled ahead with a hot August. The A's responded by tinkering with their starting lineup, putting Gene Tenace at catcher and new acquisition Matty Alou in right field. The A's quickly jumped back into first, and they went on to win the division by 5.5 games.

The ALCS against the Tigers was a dramatic affair, going the full five games, two being decided on extra-inning comebacks. The A's won the first two in Oakland, and in Game 2 Campaneris got himself suspended for the rest of the series for throwing his bat at Detroit reliever Lerrin LaGrow. The Tigers took the next two at home to even things up, their Game 4 victory coming on a three-run rally in the tenth inning. Missing their leadoff man and coming off a crushing defeat, the A's had to win Game 5 in Detroit the very next day. They ended up being successful, as Odom and Blue allowed only one run between them. The only bad news to come out of the final game was that center fielder Reggie Jackson was injured stealing home and had to miss the World Series.

The World Series matchup provided a distinct contrast between the shaggy, stylish A's and the conservative, clean-cut Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati was favored to win it, especially so with Jackson sidelined. The A's quickly erased any doubts that they could compete with Cincy by winning the first two games on the road. Tenace's two homers provided the margin of victory in Game 1, and left fielder Joe Rudi saved Game 2 by robbing the Reds' Denis Menke of an extra-base hit in the ninth. The Reds bounced back with a 1-0 victory in Game 3, but the A's took a 3-1 series lead by scoring two runs on four straight singles in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Reds weren't done yet, winning the next two to force Game 7 in Cincinnati. Like they had in the ALCS, the A's won the sudden death game on the road. Tenace was again the hero, driving in two runs in Oakland's 3-2 victory. It was the franchise's first World Series title since 1930, when it was based in Philadelphia and Connie Mack was the owner. Tenace was named Series MVP for his .348 average, four homers and nine RBI.


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  1. Ian: Great piece. Just a few comments:

    I'm not sure Joe Rudi saved a HR by Denis Menke. I think the highlight of him srawling up against the wall is that catch on Menke that you refer to, but since Rudi's against the wall, he probably robbed a 2B, and not an HR.

    Also, what's interesting about the A's at that point was that Charlie Finey had gutted his scouting department in order to save money, and was now personally scouting players himself. George Hendrick and Claudell Washington were, if I'm not mistaken, the last two players scouted and signed by Finley personally.

    And finally, in that World Series, Gene Tenace's HR explosion was so unexpected, so out-of-character and so damaging to the Reds' chances that before either Game Four or Five (I'm not sure) in Cincinnati, the police arrested some yahoo from Northern Kentucky who was trying to buy a ticket. The guy apparently went up to a ticket window, asked for a seat, and as he reached into his pocket for his money he put down on the counter an almost-gone fifth of bourbon and a.45 caliber pistol. When they arrested him he told the cops he was sick of Tenace, and that if the guy hit one more HR against the Reds, he was going to shoot him.

  2. M.C.: You may be right about the Menke drive being a potential double rather than a homer. In fact, I think I'll edit that. While I was putting this piece together I could've sworn I read somewhere that it would've been a homer, but the photos (such as this one) suggest otherwise.

    I wasn't aware of Finley gutting his scouting department or the gun-toting Kentuckian. Those are some interesting details! It reminds me of a story I read a while back about a minor league ballplayer who got shot by a spectator in the '50s (check it out here, if you're interested). It's incredible in this day and age to imagine anyone sneaking a gun into the ballpark. I don't think that incident would've occurred before Games 4 or 5 though, since those were in Oakland, not Cincinnati. It could've been Game 6, because by that point Tenace already had four homers in the Series (nearly doubling his season total).