While there have been a number of fine books capturing in great detail specific facets of the Oakland Athletics, such as Ken Korach's Holy Toledo or Ron Bergman's Mustache Gang, what there has not been, until now, is one place that brings the fantastic stories stemming from the 115-year history of the Athletics into a nifty 320-page book. That book is 100 Things A's Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, written by San Francisco Chronicle A's beat writer and former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America Susan Slusser.
Buy this book
I spent a number of Coliseum pre-game hours sitting in a chair in the Bar & Grille dying with laughter at multiple places in this book. The people around me must have thought I was crazy with how much I laughed at loud reading about early 20th century pitcher Rube Waddell, simply because the stories that were told seemed absolutely unbelievable. For instance, just two sentences out of the six pages devoted to Waddell only begins to tell the story of Waddell's time with the A's:
Waddell wrestled alligators in a circus during the off-season; he also played rugby and, after being suspended by [Connie] Mack in 1903, he toured with a theater group, acting in a play called The Stain of Guilt. That same year, according to Cooperstown historian Lee Allen, Waddell "saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion."
Slusser brings the storytelling skills she brings daily as Oakland's beat writer, now in her 16th season, to this carefully crafted compendium of every bit of history, trivia, and lore you need to know as an A's fan.
Slusser engages in exclusive interviews taken just for this book, and dives into the fascinating and often amusing stories of the Athletics in incredible detail. Just looking at the table of contents should give you a sense of the great breadth she covers. To name a few: "Charlie Finley" (#2), "Connie Mack" (#3), "Stewart vs. Clemens" (#31), "Go to Ricky's Sports Theater and Grill" (#51), "Gus Zernial and Marilyn Monroe" (#76).
It is almost absurd the level of detail Slusser squeezes in to these stories. For example, you may know about Charlie Finley's antics (#37) that included trying orange baseballs during 1973's spring training. But Slusser lets us know about Ray Fosse's experience handling the balls ("so slippery the pitchers couldn't grip the balls"); broadcaster Monte Moore recalls Finley naming the color "Alert Orange" in honor of the Air Force; and opposing player George Hendrick, who claimed he hated the orange baseballs after the game, said he actually liked them when asked about them in 2014. Hendrick just wanted to spite Finley.
Of course, this book review would not be complete without disclosing that #73 is "Join Athletics Nation," and that our founder, Tyler Bleszinski, was interviewed for that chapter. I won't spoil which current A's player had very complimentary things to say about this fine website.
You should buy this book, read it, and then put it in the place of honor on your bookshelf, next to Ken Korach's Holy Toledo: Lessons From Bill King, Renaissance Man of the Mic and, if you are so fortunate to own an out-of-print copy, the late Ron Bergman's Mustache Gang: The Swaggering Saga of Oakland A's.
Upcoming book signings and where to buy
Susan Slusser has two upcoming book talks and signings in the next couple weeks:
- Thursday, June 11 (6:00 pm PT): Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
- Thursday, June 18 (6:00 pm PT): Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111