As means of explaining the relative lack of frequency of posts to this site recently , I figure it’s time to announce my latest project: a book about the championship Oakland A’s teams of the early 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in spring, 2015. Suffice it to say that I’ve been fairly well inundated.
I bring it up here because during the course of my research I’ve encountered any number of unwritten rules-related issues from back in the day, covering all manner of topics. Referencing them regularly through the off-season seems like a decent way to pass the time until pitchers and catchers report in February. They might not mean much now, but boy are they fun.
For now, it seems like the best way to approach it is offer up entire excerpts—from game stories, mostly, primarily from the Oakland Tribune’s beat writer par excellence, Ron Bergman. This one is from July 18, 1969.
Even before the game, Reggie Jackson was ticked off.
“I’m telling you,” he said, spitting on his hands, “if they try that stuff on me when Chuck’s pitching, somebody’s going to get hurt.”
It just so happens that Jackson’s roommate, Chuck Dobson, is pitching tonight for the Oakland Athletics in the opener of a three-game series against the California Angels.
For the second game in a row and the seventh time this season, Jackson was hit by a pitch last night during the A’s 8-2 victory in Seattle. This one, thrown by loser Marty Pattin (7-9), struck him on the right forearm. …
“What they’re trying to do,” said Reggie, “is make a good pitch inside for a strike or miss.”
What the inflamed major league home run leader meant was miss by hitting him.
“That’s one base,” Reggie continued. “That’s better than four. I don’t mind. It’s all part of the game. But all I ask is protect me. A man’s got 35 homers for you, you got to throw at someone on the other team and hurt them.”
Someone reminded Reggie that [A's pitcher] Lew Krausse threw at Don Mincher Wednesday night after Jackson was hit by Gene Brabender.
“Yeah,” snapped Jackson. “Throw the ball and holler ‘watch out.’ ” When they throw at me they don’t holler watch out. Look, someday I’m going to be hit on the hand and it’s going to break. [Jackson was referring to the hand he threw up when protecting his head.] Then what? I’m going to have to go out there with shin guards on my arms. “
Catfish Hunter, who won his third in a row with a six-hitter, said he would have retaliated had he thought the Pilot pitchers were throwing close to Jackson deliberately.
“If they start throwing at his head, then I’ve got to brush them back,” said Hunter, referring to Seattle’s Don Mincher, who homered off the A’s for the third straight game.
Of the seven times Jackson had been hit over the team’s first 92 games to that point, most had been on his aforementioned hand. The aforementioned Mincher, who led Seattle with 25 homers in 1969, would be acquired by the A’s for the 1970 season, and again led his team in homers, with 27.
Also worth noting: Reggie’s prescience in envisioning Barry Bonds’ body armor, three decades before it actually came about.