“Man, have I got a story for you. It's about a ballclub. My ballclub. It was better than any other ballclub ever put together. I'm serious, they were that great. But the thing was, they were also kinda crazy.” - MC Hammer
It’s been a long winter for Oakland A’s fans, preceded by a couple of absolutely miserable seasons, right on the heels of one of the biggest collapses in sport history. But it’s a new year, and there are hints that we’re entering a new era of A’s baseball. With pitchers and catchers reporting in eight days, it’s time to start getting excited about the upcoming season and better times ahead.
Right on cue, MLB Network has the perfect way for us to get in the right frame of mind — The Swingin’ A’s, a documentary about the great Oakland dynasty of the 1970s. It airs tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 6:00 p.m. PT.
The network sent me a screener of the documentary, and I will vouch that it’s worth an hour of your time. If you were around to witness those teams then you’ll find it to be a fun walk down memory lane, and if you’re a younger fan then you’ll learn a lot about that time your team won three straight championships.
The film is narrated by former A’s Executive Vice President MC Hammer, whose opening line is quoted above. A variety of characters chip in with their own anecdotes, from former players like Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue, to longtime Bay Area media personalities like Monte Moore and Ray Ratto, to Charlie Finley’s niece Nancy Finley. Together they weave the club’s almost unbelievable story, from Finley’s infamous stinginess to the rise of the mustaches to a team that brawled with each other in the clubhouse and then, according to Vida, “kicked [the other team’s] ass” on the field.
My favorite part of watching this doc was thinking about all the parallels between those ‘70s teams and today’s organization. They were counterculture, just as their 21st-century incarnation is best known for bucking conventional wisdom (more recently in terms of stats rather than facial hair and attitude). They were underappreciated due to their geography, which we still complain about today. And they were torn apart by a cheap owner unwilling to pay what they were worth, which has become a recurring theme that now virtually defines the A’s. Oakland literally invented getting ravaged by free agency.
Although that last part sounds like a bit of a downer, don’t be mistaken: This is a happy film for A’s fans. We need to get some Oakland pride flowing again, and there’s no better way to do that then by remembering that time when you were the absolute best in the world. I recommend you give this a watch, and if you’re not available tonight then DVR it and watch it later. Still two months until Opening Day.
How to watch The Swingin’ A’s
Date: Tue., Feb. 7
Time: 6:00 p.m. PT (replay at 9:00 p.m. PT)
Channel: MLB Network