IT’S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: ANOTHER IMPROBABLE A’S CLOSER
When he snuck into camp last
spring, Andrew Bailey (below) wasn’t even Andrew
Bailey. Say what? We inadvertently listed him as “Drew” Bailey
Non-Roster Invitees section of our 2009 media guide. Weeks went by in the desert. Bailey kept hanging goose eggs in exhibition
games. But he was too shy to approach
the PR department and correct his first name.
Finally, the old sage veteran Russ Springer
came up to me and said, “Hey, Bailey’s first name is Andrew, not Drew! I remember when I started out with the
Yankees. They listed me as Russell
Springer, and damn, it took years to reclaim my name!” Well, we quickly corrected it, and as you all
know, there’s no mistaking our rookie All-Star closer now (although there’s a
grassroots movement to, yet again, change his first name, this time to one of
affection: Boom Boom Bailey).
Bailey, perhaps the most humble professional
athlete I’ve ever met, is one of those success stories you’ve got to love. A non-descript starting pitcher with a 12-22
career record in the minors, he’s converted to a reliever in the middle of the
2008 season with Double-A Midland. Then
he just dominates in Spring Training with the A’s and lands a spot on the
25-man roster. By late May, he’s our
closer and finishes the season by reeling off 21 straight saves.
Whether his 6-3 record, 26 saves and 1.84 ERA
were enough to convince voters he’s worthy of the American League Rookie of the
Year Award will be announced this Monday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m. PST by the Baseball
Writers Association of American (BBWAA). The one person who’s probably most amused by Bailey’s improbable ascent–besides
Bailey himself–is fellow reliever Brad Ziegler.
It was Ziggy’s turn the previous year to rise
from obscurity into big league prominence.
A’s fans are well aware of his sordid past when he bounced around with
six different minor league teams over six seasons, only to emerge with a new
submarine delivery that led him to a major league record 39.0 scoreless innings
streak in becoming the A’s closer last year.
It was fun to watch both of these unassuming guys just take it all in
and enjoy the ride.
While both figure
prominently in Oakland’s
2010 plans, you almost have to wonder what’s in store at the closer position
next season. Does Joey Devine return miraculously early from his Tommy John
surgery and become the next big story out of the bullpen? Or does another anonymous pitcher come out of
nowhere to join Ziggy and Bailey as the newest member in the Good Luck
Club? Your guess is as good as
mine. As they say, “That’s why they play
BEEP BEEP: THE ROAD RUNNER IS
RECOGNIZED BY BASHOF
It was good to read a recent
Urban MLB.com story about last year’s
Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Henderson, who is working
with the A’s 2008 first-round draft pick Jemile Weeks (below) on
the finer points of
hitting and base stealing at the Papago Park Complex this
fall. It must have been mind boggling
for Weeks to receive such personal treatment from the greatest leadoff man and
stolen base artist of all-time. That Henderson story also made
me think of another great A’s leadoff hitter of the past.
I’d like to give a loud shout-out to Bert “Campy”
Campaneris, (below) who recently was voted into
the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. Arguably the A’s first star player to wear anOakland uniform, “The Road Runner” played 13 seasons with the Athletics and
still ranks first in career games played, at-bats and hits among all Oakland
A’s players. The Cuban native was a
six-time All-Star who led the American League in steals four straight years and
six times in an eight-season stretch (’65, 66, 67, 68, 70 and 72). Of course, he was the leadoff hitter on three
straight World Championship teams (1972-73-74), too.
But what some people may not know is that
Campy–despite his small stature–had a penchant for hitting big home runs in big
games In fact, he launched three of the
most memorable home runs in Oakland history during the 1973 postseason. In Game 2 of the ALCS against Baltimore, he led off the
game with a home run. Then in Game 3 of
that series, Campy opened the 11th inning with a game-winning home
run against the Orioles. And in the 1973
World Series against the Mets, he laced a two-run home run in Game 7 that was
one of the key blows of that title-clinching game.
I asked my friend Ron Bergman, the former long-time A’s beatwriter, if Campy belongs
in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and he said unequivocally yes. I also spoke with Lyle Spencer, the Angels’ respected beatwriter for MLB.com and a
veteran baseball writer who also worked in New York.
He agreed with Bergie’s assessment.
Unfortunately, Campaneris received very little support from the national
writers when he became eligible for Cooperstown. This,
despite the fact that of the 22 shortstops enshrined in the Hall, Campy would right
now rank second in stolen bases, seventh in games played, eighth in fielding
percentage, ninth in assists, and 13th in both hits and
For those Bay Area fans who may
want to pay homage to the Road Runner, you will have an opportunity to do so on
Monday, March 22, when Campaneris is enshrined in the Bay Area Sports Hall of
Fame. Tickets are on sale at www.bashof.org for the event, which will be
held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco. Joining Campy in the BASHOF Class of 2010 are
Olympic Gold Medal skater Brian Boitano,
Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis,
former University of San Francisco soccer coach Steve Negoesco and ex-San Francisco 49ers great R.C. Owens.