Boy, how the mighty had fallen. Once the class of baseball, the A’s were now its class clowns. I’ll let Sports Illustrated explain in a nutshell (as if you needed the reminder):
This incredible dispersion of a superb team began soon after the A's won their third World Series in 1974. That winter Catfish Hunter became the Daniel Boone of baseball free agents by blazing a trail to New York. Before the start of last season Reggie Jackson and Pitcher Ken Holtzman were traded. Then the dam broke, and last winter the trickle became a torrent. Billy Williams retired and Reliever Rollie Fingers joined Rudi, Bando, Campaneris, Baylor and Tenace in a $9.2 million free-agent raffle. The exodus continued this spring when Finley sold Reliever Paul Lindblad to Texas, traded (Claudell) Washington to the Rangers and peddled (Phil) Garner to Pittsburgh. Altogether, some 60 players paraded through the A's training quarters, and the smart ones kept their clothes in their suitcases.
Since last season, Oakland has gotten a new manager, Jack McKeon, a new coaching staff, a new director of minor leagues, a new traveling secretary, a new clubhouse carpet, a new lineup and, very likely, a new place in the standings. Among the missing is Charlie O, the team's mascot mule, who died Dec. 15 of liver deterioration. According to the A's players, he drank himself to death.
The A’s weren’t expected to compete, and well, where have we heard that before? Oh, but if you are looking for a happy ending, go ahead and refer to last October’s recaps.
Hey, but for eight games, the A’s really did resemble that hair-lipped juggernaut that put on annual parades in the Fall.
After taking two of three from the Twins to start the season, the A’s faced the Angels and Nolan Ryan. Former “A” – and future MVP – Don Baylor staked Ryan to a quick 2-0 lead with a two-run double in the first.
The Angels would score no more. Meanwhile the A’s eked out single runs in the fourth and sixth innings to set the stage for a wild ninth.
Tony Armas walked to start things off. Matt Alexander pinch-ran, and immediately swiped second base. Rob Picciolo sacrificed Alexander to third, and the Angels decided to load the bases on intentional walks to Bill North and Larry Lintz, whose stat line in 350 career games was .227/.336/.252.
That brought up Mitchell Page, the 1977 AL Rookie of the Year. Page walked to force in the winning run, as the A’s scored without having to swing the bat. Well, not a full swing anyway. Josh Reddick was supposed to bring the pie, but he wasn’t born until ten years later. Slacker.
Oakland went on to sweep the Angels in four straight, which is always fun to write. So much that I’ll do it again. Oakland went on to sweep the Angels in four straight.
Taking to the road the A’s beat Minnesota to run their record to 7-1, the last time they would be as many as six games over .500. As of June 4, they were 25-25 before going 38-73 the rest of the way.
All of which had Sports Illustrated longing for better times gone by:
Oh, where are the A's of the good old days, Those pitchers and hitters elite? They won every crown that there was to win, This team that no one could beat.
Oh, where are the A's of the good old days And that bristling Oakland pride? Reggie and Rollie and Rudi are gone, And even the mule has died.
Oh, where are the A's of the good old days? Mr. Finley, they're blaming you. And now we are hearing the awful news That Vida is going, too.
Oh, where are the A's of the good old days? McKeon has our regrets. The second division's a certainty For all these rookies and vets.
Oh, where are the A's of the good old days? That's the cry of the fan. All that's left are the legal briefs, For they took the money and ran.