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The Day the A's Almost Asked me to Pitch

Yesterday the White Sox and Mariners combined to do what Texas once did all by its lonesome: score 12 runs in extra innings.

Bob Levey

What’s worse than waiting fifteen innings to watch your team lose? Waiting until the fifteenth inning and watching the visiting team drop a dozen runs on the board.

Yep, that really happened. It happened to me and 20,697 other fans on a Sunday afternoon, the third of July 1983. Not everyone stayed until the end of course, but I was 16 without a care in the world. Or anything resembling a social life outside of my frequent visits to the Coliseum that season – 66 games in all.

A lot of weird stuff occurred during that ’83 season. Rookie Mike Warren no-hit the division-champ-to-be Chicago White Sox. A’s pitchers threw 37 consecutive scoreless innings, which is still a club record. There were no Catfish Hunter’s or Vida Blue’s on the ’83 team, no Dave Stewart’s or Tim Hudson’s. Ah, but we did have Steve McCatty, Gorman Heimueller, and Chris Codiroli, damn it. The right-left-right combination was good for three consecutive shutouts in the middle of August, smack-dab in the middle of that record string of zeroes.

Oh, and Rickey Henderson stole 108 bases that year, the third and last time he would reach the century mark. If you hadn’t heard, Rickey was pretty good.

Pretty good would not describe the A’s on July 3. I remember the Bleacher Bums had a saying in those days: “How do you celebrate the fourth? With a fifth on the third.”

The Rangers celebrated with three times that amount. At least they had the decency not to ruin a fireworks show. Instead they put on one of their own.

Long games were something A’s fans had grown accustomed to. They won games in 14, 16, and 17 innings prior to July 3 (and dropped 10 and 12 inning affairs as well).

Both starting pitchers – Jeff Jones for Oakland, Charlie Hough for Texas – put their teams in position to win; after seven innings the Rangers led 2-1. They added an insurance run in the eighth, but Carney Lansford’s home run in the bottom half got the A’s back within a run. As they did in the previous inning, Texas scored an unearned run, and once again was ahead by two runs, needing only three outs to wrap up a fairly tidy and uneventful victory.

But Rickey led off the ninth with single, and stole second base. After Rick Peters and Davey Lopes struck out, Wayne Gross drove in Henderson with a base hit. Two more hits brought in pinch runner Tony Phillips with the tying run, and the fans settled in for extra baseball. With the next day a holiday, we didn’t care if they played all night.

They almost played all night.

The score stayed knotted at four until the top of the fifteenth. Take it away, Retrosheet:

RANGERS 15TH: Dent walked; Bell singled to left [Dent to second]; Parrish grounded out (pitcher to first) [Dent to third, Bell to second]; G. Wright was walked intentionally; B. Jones doubled to right [Dent scored, Bell scored, G. Wright to third]; Beard threw a wild pitch [G. Wright scored, B. Jones to third]; Johnson walked; CALLAHAN REPLACED BEARD (PITCHING); Biittner singled to left [B. Jones scored, Johnson to second]; Anderson walked [Johnson to third, Biittner to second]; Rivers reached on an error by Lopes [Johnson scored (RBI), Biittner scored, Anderson to third]; Dent singled to right [Anderson scored, Rivers to third]; Bell singled to right [Rivers scored (unearned), Dent to second]; Parrish doubled to right [Dent scored, Bell scored]; G. Wright flied out to left; B. Jones doubled to right [Parrish scored (unearned)]; Johnson singled to right [B. Jones scored (unearned)]; Biittner flied out to left; 12 R (9 ER), 8 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Rangers 16, Athletics 4.

LOL, Rangers. Left a man on base!

Also, leadoff walks will kill you every time, man.

The eight fans remaining in attendance tried to strike up a sarcastic “Let’s go A’s” chant. The A’s did go. Quietly. 1-2-3.

And, well, we were bloody ok with that.