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Looking back at Oakland A’s best All-Star performances

Which A’s have shined in the last 50 All-Star Games?

Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game has arrived, with first pitch coming at 5:00 p.m. PT. The Oakland A’s have two representatives in the exhibition contest: second baseman Jed Lowrie and closer Blake Treinen. Realistically, we can hope to see one or two at-bats from Lowrie (backing up reigning league MVP Jose Altuve) and maybe an inning from Treinen.

While we wait to see how our boys do in the Midsummer Classic, let’s take a look back at past All-Star editions. I looked through each of the 50 All-Star Games since the A’s moved to Oakland, and here are my picks for the best performances.

1. Terry Steinbach, 1988

1-for-1, HR, sac fly, 2 RBI in 2-1 win

There’s no question about the top spot. Steinbach is the only A’s player ever to win the All-Star MVP award, and boy did he earn it. He homered off Dwight Gooden in the 3rd inning for the game’s first run, and then he came up again in the 4th with the bases loaded and delivered a sac fly against Bob Knepper. The AL won 2-1 and Steiny drove in both runs.

The great irony, of course, is that Steinbach was a questionable choice to be in the game at all. A’s fans famously stuffed the ballot box to get him into the lineup, but it ended up working out for everybody in the AL.

2. Reggie Jackson, 1971

1-for-1, HR, 2 RBI

Reggie started five All-Star Games for the A’s, but it was his time off the bench that makes this list. With the AL trailing 3-0 in the 3rd, he entered as a pinch-hitter for teammate Vida Blue, who had started the game on the mound. Facing NL starter Dock Ellis, Jackson crushed one of the longest homers in the history of Tiger Stadium, sparking a four-run rally that put his team ahead for good (AL won, 6-4).

This blast and Steiny’s are the only dingers delivered by Oakland players in the All-Star Game. MLB considers Reggie’s to be one of the biggest moments in the history of the exhibition, between its distance and importance.

3. Rickey Henderson, 1982

3-for-4, BB, SB, run

He played in six All-Star Games for the A’s out of his 10 overall, but this was his best by far. It was vintage Rickey, reaching base four times and causing problems once there (including a stolen base off future Gold Glove catcher Tony Pena). He only scored once, in the 1st on a sac fly by then-Angel Reggie, but he kept putting pressure on throughout the evening. The NL won, but Rickey did everything he could. (He did make an error in LF, but it wasn’t costly.)

4. Bob Welch, 1990

2 ip, 1 K, 1 hit

Oakland has sent the AL’s starting pitcher seven times: Vida twice, plus Catfish Hunter, Dave Stewart, Welch, Mark Mulder, and Dan Haren. But Welch stands out from that group, because he’s the only one who threw multiple innings without allowing a run. Catfish went scoreless in 1973 but only recorded four outs, and everyone else allowed runs.

Two scoreless innings might not sound like much, but remember the starter is facing the cream of the crop in the opposing starting lineup before the lesser reserves come in. It doesn’t get much tougher than a turn through the top names on an All-Star team — for Welch, that meant Lenny Dykstra, Ryne Sandberg, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Andre Dawson, Chris Sabo, and Mike Scioscia (only Clark managed a hit).

5. Dennis Eckersley, 1988/90/91

Total: 3 ip, 3 Ks, 1 hit, 10 batters, 3 saves

This one is cheating a bit, because I’m counting multiple seasons. That’s because Eck managed to save the All-Star Game three times in four years, an especially impressive stretch of success. He got a chance to pitch in ‘92 as well, but the AL was already winning a blowout by the time he entered in the 9th and he allowed a couple runs on a hit by Bip Roberts (now an A’s post-game personality).

The record for most All-Star Game saves is four, held by Mariano Rivera, but it took him more than a decade to collect those (‘97, ‘05, ‘06, ‘09). Eck doesn’t have the pure quantity, but for a few years he owned the end of the Midsummer Classic like no one else has.

Honorable mention

Pitcher: Bill Caudill, 1984

1 ip, 3 Ks

There have been lots of other A’s pitchers who have come in for a scoreless inning or even just an out or two, and Keith Foulke earned the save in 2003. But my next pick for pitchers is Caudill, who struck out the side in ‘84. He entered in the 8th with the AL trailing close at 2-1, and fanned Tim Raines, Ryne Sandberg, and Keith Hernandez. The NL hung on to win, but Caudill kept his side in the game until the end. No Oakland pitcher has ever struck out more than three batters in the game.

Hitters: Multi-hit games

Beyond the two homers and Rickey’s big game above, three other A’s have enjoyed multi-hit performances in the All-Star Game.

  • Reggie Jackson, 1972: 2-for-4, double, K
  • Bert Campaneris, 1975: 2-for-2
  • Yonder Alonso, 2017: 2-for-2, SB

Jackson and Campy did theirs in the starting lineup, making Alonso the only one to collect multiple hits off the bench. And yes, you read that right, Alonso stole a base — of Yadier Molina, no less. None of these performances played into the results of the games (AL won in ‘17 though), but they were still notable nonetheless. There was also one other multi-RBI game, by Mark McGwire in ‘92 — his two-run single in the 1st off Tom Glavine opened the scoring in the AL’s blowout win.

If we look back to the Philadelphia days, Jimmie Foxx put up two-hit games in ‘34 and ‘35, including a homer and three RBI in the latter year.

Worst performances

The A’s have also put up some stinkers over the years. Let’s not dwell on these too long ...

  • Jose Canseco twice went 0-for-4 (in ‘88 and ‘90), but the latter time he did at least draw a walk and steal a base off Scioscia.
  • Bert Campaneris went 0-for-4 with two Ks in ‘74. The full A’s contingent (Reggie, Joe Rudi, and an idle Sal Bando) went 0-for-9 with 5 Ks and a walk, and their two pitchers (Catfish and Rollie Fingers) combined to allow three runs in three innings in a 7-2 loss. (It’s cool, they went on to win the World Series instead.)
  • Blue Moon Odom gave up five runs in ‘69, an Oakland record. Only four were earned, but that’s an Oakland record too. He didn’t take the loss because his team had already been trailing, but he turned an early 3-1 deficit into 8-1 in the span of seven batters (recorded only one out). Two of the runs came on a homer by Willie McCovey. The NL won, 9-3.
  • Catfish Hunter had nearly as much trouble the next year in ‘70. He entered in the 9th leading 4-1, allowed a homer to Dick Dietz, and then two more singles before being removed (having recorded just one out). Both his runners wound up scoring to tie the game, and the NL won in extras. He didn’t technically earn the blown save, but he laid the foundation for it.
  • Vida Blue started twice for Oakland (‘71 and ‘75), and combined to allow five runs in five innings — including homers by Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Steve Garvey, and Jim Wynn. Vida was still awarded the win in ‘71, though.
  • Two more Oakland pitchers took the loss in the game: Jay Howell in ‘87 (2 ip, 2 runs, in extra innings) and Steve Ontiveros in ‘95 (tiebreaking HR by Jeff Conine). Catfish also took a loss in ‘67, the final year in Kansas City, but only because he threw the final five innings in a marathon affair that ended in the 15th.

Mixed bag

  • The vaunted 2014 squad (Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris) combined to go 1-for-7 with three Ks, with only Norris delivering a hit. On the bright side, Norris scored the eventual winning run after that hit, and the pitchers (Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle) both recorded two outs to help hold the lead despite each giving up a hit.

No dice

  • Three times this century, Oakland got one lone representative and he didn’t even get to play, meaning there were no A’s in the game at all: Justin Duchscherer (‘05), Andrew Bailey (‘09), and Stephen Vogt (‘16). It also happened in ‘77 (Wayne Gross), ‘79 (Jeff Newman), ‘85 (Howell), and ‘86 (Canseco).