Rollie Fingers. Dennis Eckersley. Mark McGwire. Jose Canseco. Rickey Henderson. All Oakland Athletics legends whose names strike a special chord in the heart of every single A’s fan. These men were all very accomplished, and some are now even enshrined in the Hall of Fame. However, they all have something else in common - I’ve never been able to see any of them play. Not on TV, not in person. As a younger fan, these Oakland greats were all well before my time.
I’ve only been able to watch the 21st century A’s. The Moneyball squads were the first I could consciously watch, and the constant roster turnover is all I have ever known. Eric Chavez was my first shirsey and therefore my first favorite player, and as a child I was always dismayed to learn that no, he would not be playing that afternoon, he was injured...again.
Tony Phillips’ untimely passing simply couldn’t affect me all that much - I barely knew what position he played. Mike Gallego was nothing more than a short third base coach to me. Ray Fosse? Just a lovable bumbling broadcaster. But tell me Adam Rosales just hit a clutch home
run sprint and I’ll grin from ear to ear.
I love the Oakland Athletics. But, to be honest, they haven’t given fans like myself a whole lot to idolize. The roster turnover is necessary and understandable, but it really makes it tough to connect to any single player in the way many long-time fans feel about Henderson or even Canseco. There was, however, one exception.
Covelli “Coco” Crisp.
Words cannot describe what Coco has meant for a younger fan like myself. Every aspect of his game on and off the field has been worthy of respect and admiration, and his large fanbase is more than deserved. From his heroics at the plate and in the outfield to his great attitude and his glorious smile, Coco was every bit the idol for kids and teens across the East Bay.
Coco was more than just a fan favorite; he was the team leader. For a solid five years (and arguably longer) the saying was “When Coco goes, so do the A’s.” The sparkplug leadoff hitter could carry the team for weeks at a time, and even through cold spells he still made his presence known with his smart baserunning and awe-inspiring catches in center field.
Coco’s biggest moments have become incredibly memorable. From his 49-steal campaign in 2011, to his huge walk-off in Game Four of the 2012 ALDS, to his remarkable 22 home run, 21 stolen base campaign in 2013, to even a pair of marvelous catches in an down year in 2016, the A’s highlight reels of the last decade are riddled with Coco’s greatest moments.
Many fans, myself included, are very disappointed that Coco’s tenure with the A’s had to end the way it did. Unfortunately, Coco simply hasn’t produced since 2014, and no sane front office would allow his 2017 option to vest, which would have paid him $13 million. Ultimately, the dispute over his playing time lead to his August 31 trade to the Cleveland Indians, whom Coco originally debuted for in 2002.
While I already miss his smile, his charisma, and his hair, I understand that a move to a contender to likely close out his career is what’s best for the outfielder. He has a chance to close out his career with a much-deserved ring, and I really hope the Indians can pull it off for him.
Coco was never a superstar for the A’s. He was never even an All-Star, nowhere near the levels that some of Oakland’s most revered players and Hall-of-Famers reached on a consistent basis.
But, to me, he was just as special as any of those guys. I’ll never forget the walk-offs, the Bernie Lean, the ‘fro, the dives, the leaps, the steals, the home runs, and most of all, the insane amount of fun he seemed to have every single time he stepped onto the diamond.
Coco Crisp wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be anywhere near as great as Rickey Henderson. But I think I speak for a large amount of fans when I say, that doesn’t matter. We will still love him more than any other former Athletic anyways.