In support of my latest book, Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s — available March 7 at fine bookstores everywhere — I’ve been re-poring over old Oakland Tribunes and tweeting this-date-in updates for each of the team’s three championship seasons. Sign up at @DynasticBook to relive those magical seasons, one day at a time.
If you do, May 22 will bring you the bones of the following tale of retaliation, told in significantly more complete form here. From that day’s issue of the Oakland Tribune, 1972:
Ken Holtzman was sailing along with a 2-0 lead in the second inning when he grounded to Royals first baseman John Mayberry, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.
Mayberry took the ball, ambled over to the bag to make the third out, but stopped instead of crossing over toward the dugout. The 165-pound Holtzman, running full speed, crashed into Mayberry and went down as if knocked out by Joe Frazier.
When Lou Piniella led off the next inning, the still-shaken Holtzman threw the first ball over his hat.
“I don’t know where I was,” Holtzman said. “I was so dizzy and so mad, I thought Piniella was Mayberry so I threw the ball over his head. When I got back to the dugout they told me what I’d done.”
Piniella is shorter and doesn’t weigh as much as Mayberry. And not only is Piniella white and Mayberry black, but Piniella bats right and Mayberry left.
By the time Mayberry came up again, Holtzman’s head had cleared. He threw a ball over HIS head and then struck him out.
There’s nothing funny about concussions, of course, but Holtzman threw five more innings of one-run ball, then pitched complete games in five of his next seven starts without missing a turn. Seems like he was okay. And dedicated to sending a message.
Boy, was that a different time.