Scrapbook Memories celebrates the 20th anniversary of Oakland's last World Series triumph. We near the halfway point of the season with the still-hurting A's clinging ever so precariously to the top spot in the dangerous American League West.
The A's are off today before starting a three-game set in Cleveland. So we'll look backwards today, and give a proper salute to the '89 champions. Hey, someone has to.
But first, a quick e-mail from my niece Steph, because I know you all care. Well, you should. The A's would be doing a whole lot better if she were here:
I will be leaving this country very soon, I can't tell you the day but it rhymes with the 9th of July. I will be off on the 4th and will be calling all the numbers I have to say goodbye. I miss you all so very much, and am so thankful for all of your support. I will get you my address as soon as I am in Iraq. I love all of you so much, and I can't wait until I am home again sitting around Grandma's table with all of you.
OK, quick, what do the 1989 and 2009 A's have in common?
Too late. They both had a losing record in June. (Come on, and you call yourself fans?)
Tony La Russa's Bashers were more like M*A*S*Hers, what with Jose Canseco, Dennis Eckersley, and Walt Weiss recovering from injuries. Speaking of Canseco, he turns 45 years old today (really, we're that close in age?), and my scrapbook produced this funny tidbit:
"A plane flew over the Coliseum in the top of the second inning with the message, ‘Jose, I (heart) you, love Ester.' Canseco's wife spells her first name Esther."
After dropping the month opener to Cleveland, the A's won six of eight, with the starting pitchers playing a little game of "Anything you can do, I can do Better". Of the half-dozen victories, the staff allowed two or less runs in all of them, including three shutouts. Bob Welch combined with Eric Plunk to blank the Indians on eight hits, and Dave Stewart teamed with Todd Burns and Rick Honeycutt on a four-hit shutout. Stew might have gone without relief had he not been ejected for his involvement in a bench-clearing brawl.
I was at that game with my two younger cousins, and remember it well. My cousin Scott, who was 12 at the time, was on a pay phone (!) with a girl, while his brother Nick and I stood at the back of the bleachers watching the action. With a man on second and two outs, Stewart struck catcher Andy Allanson with a pitch, and Allanson charged our ace. We shouted "fight" to Scott, who left the phone- and the girl- hanging.
The next night, hard-luck starter (and current pitching coach) Curt Young took a 2-1 loss despite pitching a complete-game eight-hitter without walking a batter. Mike Moore followed that up with the gem of the week (which is saying something considering the bar was set high to begin with); he went the full nine in shutting down the Twins on four hits, 1-0.
Oakland closed out the homestand with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota, before embarking on a ten-game road trip that would take them through Texas, Kansas City, and Baltimore. It wasn't exactly a joyous excursion. In going 4-6 away from home, the A's scored three or less runs in six games, and lost five of them.
After taking two of three from Texas, the defending AL champs went into Kansas City, where the Royals were hot on their heels, just 3.5 games back. KC chopped into the A's lead with wins in the first two contests, including an 11-inning thriller. But Stewart salvaged the series with seven-plus innings of work in a 2-1 victory.
Tony Phillips slides into third with a triple in the A's series-salvaging win over the Royals.
The bats awoke but briefly in Baltimore, as McGwire and Ron Hassey homered to lead the A's to a 7-5 triumph. That was followed by three consecutive losses to the O's, in which the offense sputtered; just five runs scored. Upon returning home, the losing skid reached four, with Stewart proving to be human after all. The two-time 20-game winner lasted only 3-2/3 innings, allowing six runs on nine hits, and four walks against the Detroit Tigers.
On June 20, the Oakland A's played a baseball game. They won 6-4. Lead-off batter Luis Polonia went 3-for-4 with a run scored. And the A's went over the million mark in attendance.
On June 21, this happened:
Polonia, Greg Cadaret, and Eric Plunk were shipped off to the Yankees, while the A's turned the baseball world on its ear with one of those either-way trades. Were the A's getting that Rickey? Or that Rickey?
While contemplating that very thing, the guys already in uniform still had to take the field to face the Tigers. Behind a Dave Parker first-inning missile, Oakland took the series with a 6-3 win. La Russa liked where his players' heads were, even on the eve of Rickey's Return:
"One way to figure you're focused is if you can lose the first game of a series and come back to win it. I was worried about the concentration tonight because of all that's happened, but it sure looked like Dave Parker was concentrating and it looked like Mike Moore was concentrating."
A rather modest crowd of 21,418 concentrated itself into the Coliseum on a Thursday evening to welcome Rickey home. He went 2-for-6 and was caught stealing in a 4-2 extra-inning loss to Toronto. Oakland fell the next night too, but thanks to a pair of hometown stars, the new-look A's broke into the win column the following day with a 7-1 victory. Rickey went deep- on the 10th anniversary of his first game- and Stew went the distance, with a dazzling four-hitter (no walks, six K's).
Rickey (wearing Number 22) gave the Blue Jays a glimpse of what the playoffs would be like, going 3-for-3, with two walks, two stolen bases, and two runs scored in a 6-3 win that earned the A's a split of the four-game series.
Taking to the road once more, Oakland was thumped by the Twins in three straight, but finished June on a good note (hey, just like the 2009 A's!) with its fourth shutout of the month (and third against Cleveland), as Bob Welch, Gene Nelson, and Rick Honeycutt played keep-away.
And when all was said and done, the A's bid adieu to a 13-14 June, still looking down at the rest of the American League West.