IN BAY AREA SPORTS HISTORY, THE SWINGIN’ A’S STAND ALONE

As the World Series reaches
its zenith this week–how about the 47% increase in TV ratings from last year’s
Fall Classic?–FOX broadcasters
Joe Buck and
Tim
McCarver
have made references about the
Phillies trying to become the first National League team to win back-to-back
World Series since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in 1975-76.  No question, if the Phillies were to rally
from a three games to one deficit and win the 2009 Series, it will be an impressive
achievement. 


Of course, here in the Bay
Area, we have been blessed with several sports champions over the years.  The San
Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Golden State
Warriors have all won one or more titles during their local histories. Yet none
of them can compare to the three-year run the Oakland A’s had in 1972-74.  Some 20 years before the NBA’s Chicago Bulls coined the phrase, “Three-Peat,” the
“Swingin’ A’s” reeled off three straight World Series championships–still the
only professional team in Bay Area history to accomplish such a rare
streak.  Future Hall of Famers
Catfish Hunter,
Reggie Jackson
and Rollie Fingers, along with American League MVP Vida Blue and perennial All-Stars Joe Rudi, Sal Bando and Campy Campaneris, comprised one of the most talented rosters in baseball history.  We should not forget their greatness, as those
pitching-rich clubs may very well provide the blueprint for future A’s
success. 


So, when you visit the Coliseum
next season and see those championship banners from 1972, 1973 and 1974, think
about this:  those A’s teams are part of
a very select group of professional sports teams to win three straight
titles.  They join the Boston Celtics,
New York Yankees, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Green
Bay Packers, Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs as one of eight franchises in American pro sports history to smell such rarefied air. 

 

LEFTOVER ACORNS
FROM OAKTOWN…

When Craig Breslow (below) was claimed off waivers from Minnesota
at midseason and joined us during a Tampa
Bay series in St. Petersburg, I realized he would be
stereotyped as “the bookworm.”  How could
you not be when you majored in
molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale?  I wasn’t sure how self conscious he might be
about his brainiac image–The Wall Street Journal called him the
“smartest player in the major leagues.”–but thought it best to use an obvious
strategy as an ice-breaker.  We discussed
the merits of great pizza!  Let me
explain. 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Craig Breslow.jpg


While Craig and I were in the
security line to board our team bus after the game, I simply asked him, “Hey
Craig, how about a Pepe’s garlic clam pizza right about how?”  His face broke into a wide grin.  “How do you
know about Pepe’s?,” he asked.  I
explained to him that I had lived in Greenwich, Conn. for two years and had heard about Wooster Street,
this Italian two-block section of New Haven, where the pizza was better than the famed pies of New York
City.  Pepe’s, no question, was the Godfather
institution of all pizza joints on Wooster. 


As we got to know each other during the
remaining months of the 2009 season, I found Craig to be a very thoughtful yet
unassuming person, someone who did not wear his Ivy League degree on his
sleeve.  However, he clearly is a “doer,”
both on and off the field. 


So it should
be no surprise that he is hosting the
2nd Annual First Pitch Celebrity Gala this Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, Conn.  It’s a fundraiser for his own “Strike 3
Foundation,” which Craig founded to heighten awareness and raise money for
childhood cancer research.  This
foundation is very personal for
Craig. 


At age 14, he and his family were
informed that his sister had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  While he was devastated by the news, he also
became extremely curious on what causes cancer and how do we cure it.  Fifteen years later, his sister is officially
a survivor and living a normal, healthy life.  
But it was that sobering diagnosis in 1994 that sparked Craig’s interest
and led to pursue a future career in medicine. 


Now, Craig is using his fame as a major leaguer to help any way he can. Some
of Breslow’s buddies are among the luminaries scheduled to appear at Saturday’s
event, including A’s teammates
Andrew Bailey,
Nomar
Garciaparra, Jack Cust, Rajai Davis
and Vin Mazzaro, plus Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey and University of Connecticut women’s basketball
coach
Shea
Ralph
. 
For more information, go to his website, www.strike3foundation.org….


Before I close, let me share this funny tidbit from my early baseball
days.  With apologies to Breslow, Brett
Anderson, Dallas Braden, Jerry Blevins, et al, it’s a quick story about a
lefthander.  It was during my college
days at Pepperdine and involved my buddy,
Harry Miller,
who wrote for the campus newspaper covering the Waves’ baseball team. 


There was a big lefthanded pitcher on the
team.  As a junior, his impressive
talents were on display at USC’s Dedeaux Field when he threw a shutout to
eliminate the Trojans from the NCAA playoffs. 
Scouts took notice and were out in force the following season.  He was a large kid with nasty stuff, but he
had a reputation of being a little on the emotional side.  Psycho may be a little strong, so we’ll leave
it at emotional.  Anyway, he was
projected as a high draft pick heading into his senior year. Unfortunately, he
went into the tank early in the season, started pressing and he had something
like an 8.23 ERA late in the season.  You
could just see that big, fat bonus shrinking to pennies on the dollar.  Then my buddy, Harry, notepad in hand, comes
up to Tony and asks the $64,000 question: 
“Tony, you must be disappointed with the way things have gone this
year.  Do you think it’s mental or
physical?”  Tony shook his head, paused for
a moment, and then replied:  “You know, I
just don’t know.  I think that’s what confuses me.”

9 Comments

Bob,

I just discovered this blog today and already I am hooked!
Thanks for taking the time to write a behind the scenes look at the team. I have loved the Oakland A’s since the day I stepped foot in the Coliseum as a 7 year old boy some 27 years ago.

As a diehard A’s fan now living in Orange County, 2 miles from Anaheim Stadium (you can imagine the grief I take from spoiled Angels fans for rooting for the green and gold. But it is worth it when I read about guys like Breslow. Thanks for including his story. Keep the posts coming!

Great blog. Thanks for the “inside” look.

Matthew,

Thanks for your kind comments. I can tell you bleed Green & Gold! I also know that we’ve put A’s fans through some trying times the past three years. While I know the division will be even tougher next season–including your neighborhood team in Anaheim–I do feel that our second-half performance bodes well for our chances of contending in 2010. I say this because I compare our promising young pitching staff with any in the league, and as we know, that’s the most critical component for success. This blog is still a new adventure for me, so I welcome feedback from you and all A’s fans. Tell me what you’re interested in!

Thanks,

Bob

Great article, and hilarious story to end it. I love the new inside looks we’re getting, Mr. Rose, so thank you for taking the time to write these blogs. I have been an oaklandathletics.com addict for many years now and love any new way of getting information about the team I live for. Since my birth in old 1982, my father raised me correct, to be an A’s fan, and to never turn your back on them. I never did, although the late 90’s were pretty rough, lol, and still won’t now. I see soooo much potential with this team, it’s crazy; the young pitching, the new found speed, and power bats in the minors just get me spewing off random stats to my friends who find me crazy to follow minor league baseball so closely, hehe. Before I rant and rave anymore, I’ll stop, but thanks again for the instight.

Oaktown Fan,

We LOVE your passion and unbridled optimism! Hopefully, we can make you proud next season. I agree, this group of young A’s players could be special. While there is no exact timetable for such a group to become championship caliber, the fact that our top three minor league teams had dominant winning seasons in 2009 bodes well. Thanks for taking the time to write and also for the nice compliments.

Best,

Bob

Bob,

In regards to future blog posts, here are a few topics I would be interested in hearing your insights on:

1) What stats do players particulary care about? Obviously there are the big 3 for offense (avr., hr, rbi) but are there other stats players really want to be updated on (hitting at home vs. road or day vs. night game etc.).

2) What type of media coaching do you give players? What are some basic “rookie” tips you give out (look at the camera, don’t cuss etc.)

3) Any USFL stories would be great!

4) How quickly are you expected to get out a press release in the offseason. In other words in a world of Buster Olney and twitter, how fast do you have to move when the A’s make a offseason move?

5) Any interesting travel experiences from last year (planes, buses hotels) would be interesting. Who sits next to who on the plane, what are the games of choice, who bis the biggest techie on the A’s?

Thanks Bob!

Matthew

Matthew,

Thanks for some great ideas. I promise to address some if not all of these topics in future blogs, so stay tuned.

Bob

This is very attention-grabbing, You’re a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and sit up for in the hunt for extra of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

Nice article.It is very informative post.

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