La Russa, Wash Bring Oakland Flavor to World Series

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 12: American League All-Star manager Ron Washington #38 of the Texas Rangers congratulates American League All-Star Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Oakland Athletics after pitching in the eighth inning of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As we prepare for a 20th consecutive World Series without the Green and Gold (sigh), you can take comfort that both managers of this year’s finalists bring an Oakland flavor to the party.  For many of you, that’s probably no consolation at all.

 

Ron Washington, the A’s former third-base coach- and one of the guys passed up in favor of Bob Geren- leads his Texas Rangers to the Big Dance for a second straight season.  The last manager to do so with an American League team was Joe Torre (1998-2001).

 

Then there’s Tony La Russa.  No stranger to this stage, this is his sixth time to the Series, and third with St. Louis.  The other three times, of course, happened right here in Oakland, although many fans have not forgiven La Russa for losing twice to heavy underdogs which deprived the A’s of a repeat three-peat to match the trio of titles the club captured in the early 70’s. Still, Oakland was a model organization during the early years of La Russa’s reign, winning four AL West crowns in five seasons, three American League pennants, and a sweep of San Francisco in the 1989 World Series.  Following that season, La Russa was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the game’s "mastermind", although it is easy to pick out the outdated pieces of how things were done back then:

 

As a voracious gatherer of information, he begins looking for an edge even when away from the ballpark. He thumbs through other teams' media guides to find out, say, if team A had more success getting out a particular batter on team B than Oakland had. If so, he may call a friend with team A—if he has one—to solicit information. He is more likely to do this if team A is in the American League East. At the ballpark his watchfulness begins long before the game. La Russa watches the other teams' batting practice as often as possible to see what particular hitters are working on.

 

I know this might be a tough call for A’s fans, but who do you dislike less as we wrap up another season of baseball?

 

Also, today’s date marks the milestones of many moments in Athletics’ history, as mentioned in this morning's edition of The Hardball Times:

 

On Oct. 17, 1911, the A’s and Giants squared off in Game Three of the World Series, tied at one game apiece. For most of the day, it looked like the Giants would win handily. They scored an early run for a 1-0 lead, and with Christy Mathewson pitching that appeared to be all they needed. Mathewson shut down Philadelphia’s formidable offense, holding them to just three hits through seventh inning.

 

With one away in the top of the ninth, Mathewson faced Philadelphia’s star third baseman Frank Baker, one of the most dangerous hitters of the era. Baker showed just how dangerous he could be, depositing a Mathewson offering deep into the stands for a home run.

The game went into extra innings, and in the 11th, the A’s combined three singles (including one by Baker) and a Giants error for a pair of runs and a 3-1 lead. Yes, they all came against Mathewson, who threw a complete game.

 

Not only was it a great game, but the home run by Baker gave him a lasting nickname: Home Run Baker. The nickname is also because he belted a home run in the previous game, making Baker the first man to homer in consecutive postseason games.

 

Seventy-eight years later the A’s and Giants were again to face each other in a third game of the World Series when Mother Nature decided to crash the party.  Al Michaels, with the call:

 

"At this very moment ten days ago, we began our telecast with an aerial view of San Francisco; always a spectacular sight, and particularly so on that day because the cloudless sky of October 17 was ice blue, and the late-day sun sparkled like a thousand jewels.

 

That picture was very much a mirror of the feel and the mood that had enveloped the Bay Area...and most of Northern California. Their baseball teams, the Giants and A's, had won pennants, and the people of this region were still basking in the afterglow of each team's success. And this great American sporting classic, the World Series, was, for the time being, exclusively theirs.

 

Then of course the feeling of pure radiance was transformed into horror and grief and despair- in just fifteen seconds..."

 

But even Mother Nature bowed down to Charlie Finley when it came to ruining a good time.  Mike Andrews committed two critical errors in the twelfth inning of a Game Two loss in the 1973 World Series, and was subsequently "fired" by Finley, who forced the shaken second basemaen to sign a note stating he was unfit to play for the remainder of the Series. 

 

Andrews’ teammates rallied behind him, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered Finley to reinstate him, and A’s manager Dick Williams- against the boss’ direct orders- played him the first chance he got, 38 years ago today.

 

After the Series- won by Oakland in seven games- Williams quit.

 

Alvin Dark took Williams’ place, and led the A’s to another championship, on this date in 1974.  They remain the only franchise not named the New York Yankees to win three consecutive Series’.

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