Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-Hitter, Oakland A's, The First Hit of a Game Must be Clean

1972: A’s Unhappy Over Bunt that Broke up Vida’s No-No

Vida TimeResearch for my next book, about the Oakland A’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest is from Oakland Tribune beat writer Ron Bergman, on Aug. 1, 1972. Of note is that A’s players did not appear to be upset over a bunt as the game’s first hit so much as the official scorer’s unwillingness to call it an error:

Vida Blue retired the first 17 men he faced before opposing pitcher Rich Hand [of the Texas Rangers] laid down a bunt with two out in the sixth inning. The score was 1-0 at the time. Third baseman Sal Bando swooped in to pick up the ball, stumbled off balance when it landed in his glove and then couldn’t extract it. By the time he plucked it out for an errant throw to first base, it was too late.

Official scorer Joe Sargis of UPI called it a hit, which took some courage. A line drive single by pinch-hitter Toby Harrah on the first pitch of the ninth didn’t mitigate the anger in the A’s clubhouse.

Blue seem to be the least disturbed.

“A hit is a hit, “Vida said. “No hits or 55 hits, you’ve still got to get 27 outs.”

“It should have been an error,” Bando declared. “I couldn’t get the ball out of my glove. I threw it over there to give them a chance to call it an error. I’ve seen games in which something like that is called an error, and if there’s another hit they go back and change the first call. The first hit is supposed to be a clean hit. I think that if that was called an error, Vida would have pitched a no-hitter.”

“We all were sure it would be called an error,” A’s manager Dick Williams told Sargis.

Hand said he saw Bando back up after the first pitch, “so I decided to give the bunt a whirl. It was a hit all the way, as clear as it’s going to be. I don’t see what they’re yelling about over there. They won, didn’t they?”

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Oakland A's, Retaliation

1972: On Making Moon Mad

Blue Moon OdomResearch for my next book, about the Oakland A’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest, from Oakland Tribune beat writer Ron Bergman,  July 10, 1972: 

Jim Longborg threw a pitch in the first inning that bounced in back of Reggie Jackson. Blue Moon Odom retaliated by throwing behind Dave May, the first batter in the Milwaukee second. The ball nicked him in the back.

On the way to first, May exchanged words with Odom. Later in the inning, with May on third, Odom picked up Rick Auerbach’s attempted squeeze bunt and ran down May. A few more words were heard.

“Odom was saying that he didn’t think he hit May,” said plate umpire Don Denkinger. “At that point, I said if anything more happened, I’d have to warn both managers.”

Jackson said he thought Longborg was throwing behind him deliberately, and added, “It’s no fun, a pitch like that. It pleased me what Odom did. We like to play behind a guy like that.”

Longborg said he wasn’t throwing behind Jackson deliberately. Odom wouldn’t say that.

“That pitch didn’t get away from him that much,” Moon said. “He’s got pretty good control. It was intentional. They asked me why I threw behind May. I told them to ask their pitcher. It didn’t matter who’d been up first the next inning — my mother, or the manager — I still would’ve thrown at him. I meant to throw behind him. I didn’t try to hit him. I didn’t think I hit him until [A’s catcher Dave] Duncan told me later that I ticked his shirt. I told [Brewers first baseman] George Scott that I would’ve thrown at him if he’d been the first up. And he’s one of my big buddies.”

Over in the Milwaukee clubhouse, Scott shook his head from side to side.

“Man throw behind you, you got to throw at somebody else,” Scott said. “I’m glad I wasn’t the first one up.”

May walked in from the shower and said that “I definitely will remember this. It will stick in my mind. Lonborg wasn’t throwing at Jackson. I told Odom after he threw at me that I was coming out to get him. I went out to see what he was going to say. He didn’t have anything to say. When a guy throws behind you, he’s got something in mind.”

Oakland A's, Sign stealing

Hey Brother, Can You Spare Some Binocs?

Research for my next book, about the Oakland A’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest installment, from Ron Bergman of the Oakland Tribune, June 30, 1972:

binocsThe A’s have accused the White Sox of stealing catcher’s signals from the scoreboard on another vantage point in the park. “We switched signals every inning tonight,” [manager Dick] Williams said. “I had a message delivered to [Chicago manager] Chuck Tanner saying I’d sure hate to see a batter get messed up on a sign and end up flat on his back with a baseball in his ear. He sent back a message asking if we had any high-powered binoculars because his guy had dropped his and broken them.”

This was hardly the first time an opponent had accused the White Sox of nipping signs from their scoreboard. (We’ve touched on some of them previously in this space.) For more current examples of sign thievery, go here.)

Tanner, of course, ended up helming the A’s himself in 1976. No word yet about sign-stealing schemes he may or may not have enacted at the Oakland Coliseum.

Don't Steal with a Big Lead, Oakland A's

Bad Blood Easier to Stomach With Beef to Back it Up

Reggie and Epstein II
Mike Epstein (right, with Reggie Jackson): Sizable human.

Research for my next book, about the Oakland A’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest installment, from Ron Bergman of the Oakland Tribune, Sept. 8, 1972, touches on stolen-base propriety and a catcher’s right to block the basepath if he’s not holding the ball:

The bad feeling between the Athletics and White Sox won’t die. It bubbled to the surface again last night when Campy Campaneris stole two bases in the eighth inning with the A’s down by the eventual final score of 6-0.

Campy tried to score on a fly ball to right by Matty Alou. But Chicago catcher Ed Herrmann blocked the plate long before the ball got there, and Campaneris spiked him on the right thigh.

When the A’s took the field, White Sox manager Chuck Tanner yelled to Campy from the dugout that Herrmann was going to get him on any play at second base. A’s manager Dick Williams yelled back that the next time Herrmann tried to block the plate, his runner would come in higher.

“I told campy he should have come in higher and put those spikes right in Herrmann’s chest,” Williams said. “Any time a catcher blocks the plate like that without the ball he’s fair game, lunchmeat. I don’t think Herrmann would have done that with [six-foot-three, 230-pound] Mike Epstein as the runner.

“Herrmann told Reggie Jackson when he was at-bat that it was bush of Campy to steal those bases with us down the six runs. I say anytime you can move up 90 feet, take it. They weren’t holding Campy on at all. They were filling the holes to try to stop base hits.”

Campaneris, now second in the league and stolen bases to Dave Nelson of the Texas Rangers, said he’s trying to regain the King of Thieves crown he lost last year.

“I want to win the title every year,” Campy said. “If they don’t hold me, I still the base.”

In the clubhouse, both Tanner and Herrmann said they didn’t see anything wrong with Campaneris’ thefts. That’s what they said in the clubhouse. Winning pitcher Wilbur wood was more honest in his comments.

“It shows his stupidity,” Wood remarked about Campy’s 37th and 38th steals. “Suppose he gets thrown out at second base? Or third? Then he runs them right out of an inning. As things turned out, he did run them out of the inning because he got thrown out at the plate on a questionable fly.”

Both the A’s and White Sox remember an incident last year at the Coliseum when Chicago reliever Bart Johnson, now a minor-league outfielder, threw at two A’s and paid for it when Epstein hammered him down in a fight that brought all the players onto the field.

The White Sox have murmured about revenge since then, but then they don’t have any players as large as Epstein.

Oakland A's, Retaliation

Reggie: ‘You Got to Throw at Someone on the Other Team and Hurt Them’

Reggie Jackson, 1969As 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.