In 1989, when Walt Weiss went out with his knee injury in May, Gallego picked up for him and posted career highs in average (.252), at-bats (357), runs (45), hits (90), doubles (14), homers (3) and RBIs (30). Even before then, by late April he’d had six doubles in the A’s first 4 games, three steals, and the first steal of home plate by an A’s player in three years. At one point, the Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius reported: “Last Sunday, when the American League averages came out, there was Gallego at the top of the list at .457. He’s supposed to be cool about these things, but .457?”
“I didn’t cut that one out to keep,” Gallego said, “but I did clip the one the week before when Wade Boggs was right below me.”
With Canseco out till July and McGwire injured for half of April, Gallego helped fill out the A’s offense by hitting .442 for April. He’d come back from a diagnosis of testicular cancer in 1983: the New York Times reported:
“It was a frightening ordeal,” Gallego said. “You’re in your 20’s and you think you can’t be beat by anybody. You think you’re invincible. Someone is telling you that you have cancer and they’re not kidding. You realize you have a chance of dying.”
But baseball helped temper Gallego’s anxiety. After he had surgery and six weeks of daily radiation at a hospital in Whittier, Calif., he and his wife immediately drove to Tacoma to join the Oakland A’s Class AAA affiliate. Gallego was in a hurry to become a second baseman again.
“I was useless, but I was out there,” Gallego said, about his swift return. “I wanted to get away from hospitals and doctors and cancer and get back with the guys. I used baseball as a crutch to get away from everything. When you’re told you have cancer, that’s all you think about. You wonder, ‘Did they get it all?'”
The Tacoma officials were stunned to see Gallego, who had lost 15 pounds. He said that when they heard of his illness, they chose another starter. Gallego clashed with Manager Bob Didier because he was not playing. He received two at-bats in a month before asking for a demotion to Class AA Albany-Colonie. So it was back in the car for the long drive to upstate New York, still trying to regain his status as a second baseman.
“I hit about a buck fifty,” said Gallego, who actually batted .223, “but it was one of the best seasons I ever had because I was out there.”
Gags was the unofficial MVP of the A’s in 1989, as La Russa, I think, said at some point in ’89: someone who helped keep the team together through an injury-filled season. After a rough 1990 with a .206 average, 34 RBIs, and 36 runs scored, Gallego came back in 1991 to post 12 homers, a quadrupling of his previous high, and stroll to 67 walks, putting up averages he’d improve on in 1993 with the Yankees. He’s now the A’s third-base coach, and the father of twins born at the end of 1988, and a daughter born in late 1990.