Archive for the ‘Players’ Category

In Cleveland, Rickey gets four steals after reaching on walks: two in the
sixth and two in the seventh. Both times he scores on sac flies by Canseco.
I realize it’s easy to go on and on about Henderson’s ability to create runs by himself, but still, four steals within two innings does make an
impression. The A’s beat Cleveland 8-6. Here’s the relevant lines from the

Oakland’s largest run production since September 5 owed a lot to Rickey
Henderson and Tony Phillips. For the fifth time this year and 40th overall
in his ongoing big-league record, Henderson led off a game with a home run.
He also stole four bases. The first kicked off a five-run sixth inning. The
second, in the seventh inning, provided what seemed a superfluous run. The
A’s would eventually be grateful for it.
“Every time you see what he does, it’s amazing,” said La Russa. “There is
nobody like that in the game today.”

Phillips pushed a 4-3 A’s lead to 7-3 with a bases-loaded triple that
climaxed the sixth. He hit a 3-2 fastball from ex-A’s farmhand Jeff Kaiser
into the right-field corner. Phillips is having quite a September, hitting
.447 in 16 games.

Dave Henderson has begun calling innings like the seventh, when the other Henderson walked, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly,
“a Rickey rally.” By whatever name, it came in handy.
An error by shortstop Mike Gallego opened things up for a three-run
Cleveland rally in the bottom of the seventh, and the Indians pulled within
8-6. That inning ended rather dramatically, as Matt Young came in to retire
Pete O’Brien with runners on first and second. Gene Nelson pitched a perfect
eighth and Eckersley did the same in the ninth.
“I wanted to get back out there before we left town,” said Eckersley, who blew a save here Monday night. “I didn’t want that to linger.”


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At the end of the ’89 season David Bush, an S.F. Chronicle writer, wrote up a summary of Mark McGwire’s season. What’s at least somewhat interesting about this story, aside from the picture of one slice of McGwire’s ballplaying days, is how it reflects the current attitude toward sabermetrics-type analysis by McGwire, La Russa, and the Chronicle. Some excerpts:

Mark McGwire finished the year with some very noteworthy statistics. The numbers certainly attract attention, especially all those little numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Among the American League leaders in home runs and RBIs, McGwire spent most of the season apologizing for a batting average that was snoozing in the .220s in September before finishing at .231.

“This is the most difficult year I’ve ever had,” said the 26-year-old slugger. Most players would give a lot to have a year as difficult as McGwire’s. In his third full season he hit more than 30 homers for the third time, he drove in more than 90 runs for the third time and he played in his third All-Star Game.

“Everybody is looking at my batting average, and saying I had a bad year,” said McGwire. “I’m sure I’ve gotten some heat. There is no question that my home runs and RBIs don’t belong with my batting average. But that should tell people that the hits I get are doing something.”

“My stroke has been pretty much the same all year,” he said. “That isn’t the problem. I have just been pulling my head off the ball. When I stay down, I’m all right, but I haven’t been able to do that consistently.”

“If you look at his season overall you would have to say it’s good,” said manager Tony La Russa. “His No. 1 offensive responsibility is to produce runs, and when you get over 30 in homers and in the 90s in RBIs, you are doing that. But he prides himself on being a total hitter, so he’s not satisfied.”

At season’s beginning, McGwire seemed primed for a blockbuster year. He hit .360 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in spring training, and kept it up when the regular season began.

He went 8-for-22 with three homers and eight RBIs in the first six games. This was made even more impressive by the fact that Jose Canseco was out of the lineup with his broken wrist, putting even more burden on McGwire.

“That was probably the hottest I have ever been in my life,” said McGwire. “I was on everything.”

Then, in Anaheim, he felt a twinge in his back and had to leave the game. He went on the disabled list for two weeks with an injured disk.

“When I came back I had a few good games, but all of a sudden I was trying to find something and it just wasn’t there,” said McGwire. That began the battle that he still is fighting.

A declining batting average is usually a symptom of impatience. But if McGwire has changed as a hitter this year, he has become more particular about the pitches he attacks.

“I think I have learned to be more patient in certain situations,” said McGwire. “I don’t chase as many bad balls, and my walks are up. If they are going to walk me, I’ll let them.”

McGwire walked 76 times in 155 games last year. This year he has 83 in 143, which is the reason his on-base percentage is .340. That’s nice, but no substitute for bigger digits in the batting average.

“It would be interesting to see what my season would have been if I hadn’t been on the disabled list for those 15 days,” he said. “But you can’t live on “what ifs.’ If I average 30 homers and 90 RBIs a year for the rest of my career, that’s pretty good. I’d take that.”

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Before the ALCS with Toronto started, Rickey Henderson said: “I can say I was the final piece of the puzzle. They were missing a leadoff hitter, they were missing a left fielder. When I used to look at the Oakland team, I’d think about what was holding them back from being a great team. Maybe they were waiting for me to come back and fill that.

“I can create things and be a very productive player. I watched this team from the stands during the last playoffs (in 1988) and noticed that they lacked something exciting at the top of the order. I can give this team excitement at the top of the order. If we win the championship, I think I’ll be a difference because I can get on base and make things happen.

“When I played against them [in 1988], I didn’t think they were that good at all. I never thought they had that great a group of guys. Now, I think we have a tremendous team.”

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Rickey said this about being traded from the Yankees to the A’s on June 22: “It was in my best interest to approve the deal. Oakland was the only place I would accept a trade. My wife wanted to be in Oakland, but I wanted to stay in New York.

”I felt it was time. There were rumors that I’d be traded, and then they came to me and asked if I would take a trade. Oakland was the only place I knew I’d like to go.

“I knew that if we didn’t come to an agreement by the All-Star break I’d be a free agent anyway, and we had the opportunity to do it now, so I decided to go back home.”

A’s General Manager Sandy Alderson: “We expect great things from him, both for the rest of the season and in the future. He’s extremely excited. We did not make the trade with the short term in mind. We have somebody who is enthusiastic about coming back to Oakland.

He agreed to come to the A’s without agreeing to anything, without talking to me, without talking to Tony (La Russa), without talking to anyone.”

La Russa: “The reaction I’m getting from the clubhouse is that he is a force that is going to help us win ballgames.”

Rickey had been in a slump with the Yankees. He said: “It’s just a matter of time before I started to hit better. I’ve been hitting the ball hard, but right at people. I got off to a slow start but I knew it would get better.”

Yankee Manager Dallas Green: “I hated to give up Rickey. He played very hard and busted his tail. But this trade was for the betterment of the Yankees. We desperately needed pitching. It’s been our Achilles heel.”

Dave Righetti, the San Jose native and Yankees pitcher: “Before he got here, we were a good team. When he got here in ’85, we became a damn good team right away. He had that try-to-get-me-out arrogance. Our whole lineup was like that last year. I hope he doesn’t come back and beat us. But you know he will someday.”

The Yankees were actually trying to trade Rickey to the Giants, but Syd Thrift, their senior vice president, said Henderson didn’t approve the deal. Thrift: “I met with Rickey last week, and it was obvious then that he was interested in going to only one other team. I had put it out of my mind that he would go anywhere. Then Monday morning, they called.”

Here’s the front page of the S.F. Chronicle on June 23, ‘89, with a picture of Rickey saying goodbye to ex-Yankees teammate Mike Pagliarulo.


You can also read Mike’s thoughts on Rickey, the trade, the A’s, and the Giants. And here’s the S.F. Chronicle Sporting Green front page announcing the trade for Rickey.

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I don’t know how many people remember 1-900-234-JOSE, but it’s obvious now that Jose Canseco was probably the first pioneer in the effort by pro sports players to forget the media and talk directly to fans with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. The difference is that Canseco actually made money from his communications: it cost $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter to hear Jose talk, and you got daily updates from Canseco. It’s as though somewhere deep inside he knew he’d need the extra income someday.The hotline started about a month before the Loma Prieta quake. On September 21, 1989, the S.F. Chronicle reported:

Jeff Borris, Canseco’s Beverly Hills agent, said public response has been “overwhelming” since Monday, when the Oakland A’s star started filing daily reports on a 900 number. Callers pay $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter.
Yesterday, fans learned what kind of pitch Canseco hit in the first inning of Monday night’s game (a curve ball down and away that he lined past the third baseman) and what he had for lunch (Italian food at the mall). They also learned that their hero feared for his safety when a bat – the live version – circled above him in the outfield in Cleveland and that he faced the prospect of going hungry because there was no room service in his hotel after 10 p.m.
It was “basically kind of a boring game,” he mentions twice in the recorded message, even though the A’s won in extra innings. The pennant race notwithstanding, it also was a “boring” day on the road with a first-place team, Canseco says in a recorded five-minute message.
Borris said Canseco is the first sports figure to make a personalized phone message work to his financial gain, although he did not want to talk about how much the slugger stands to make.
“The telephone company says they’ve never seen a 900 number with the “hang time’ Jose is getting,” Borris said. “Most of the callers are on for five minutes or longer.”
Frustrated by baseball writers who refuse to see and write the truth as he sees it, Canseco decided that the 900 number was the best way to speak directly to the fans.
“How it originally came out was, the media stuff was happening with the speeding and the guns, and people weren’t getting the story from the horse’s mouth,” Canseco said. “I just wanted to tell my side of the story.”

He put out ads on ESPN, MTV and USA, leaning against his white Porsche 930 Cabriolet turbo on the track of the Malibu Grand Prix next to the Oakland Coliseum and saying: “Hi, I’m Jose Canseco. I want to speak to you, so call 1-900-234-JOSE . . . I’ll give you the latest scoop on baseball and what’s happening in my personal life. If you want to know if I take steroids, how fast I drive, or why I was carrying that gun, call me at 1-900-234-JOSE.”

Here’s what he had to say about a day in Cleveland: “It was boring, I guess, because there were only about 400 fans (actually 5,931) in the stands, sort of like one of those Triple A (minor league) games where no one shows up. I like it when there are 40,000 or more. The most exciting thing for me was, I looked up once and saw a bat that must have been three or four feet long flying over my head. I kept looking up because I thought it might come down and bite me on the neck.
“My personal life was kind of boring. I woke up late again – like I say, I like to sleep late – and went to a mall with my friend and ate Italian food. Then I came back and watched TV for a while. It was one of those boring days.
“But I guess the worst thing is happening now. This hotel where I’m staying doesn’t have room service after 10 p.m., and I could starve to death. I guess I’ll call out for a pizza.”

A lot of people made fun of Canseco for his 1-900 number, so it’s interesting to take a look at what ballplayers are putting out on Twitter now for comparison’s sake. Here are a few recent tweets from Barry Zito:
“Sitting on the plane about to fly to Seattle. We’ll be turning it around up North..”
“The bay area’s weather is more perfect than SoCal right now, call your friends and gloat.”
“I mean, we’ve heard all the theories but what’s really the cure to a hangover? Some say grease, I say B vitamins.”

And here’s Tony La Russa’s response to 1-900-234-JOSE: “I saw the commercial when we were in Boston, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I once heard him say he was going to be very careful about the types of commercials and endorsements he does. In my opinion, I wouldn’t have done this.”

Canseco also tried to sell his dirty socks at about this time.

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It was a sign of the escalation of the baseball card and memorabilia bubble in early September 1989 when the San Francisco Chronicle sent Steve Rubinstein to the All-American Sports Memorabilia Show at the Moscone Center and he came back with this report:
A pair of dirty socks was selling for $150 in San Francisco last weekend.

Not just anyone’s dirty socks, but baseball star Jose Canseco’s dirty socks.

“They come with a certificate of authenticity,” said salesman Curt Wenzleff. “They haven’t been washed. They are just the way they were after Jose took them off in the locker room.”

Dirty socks are the latest item to be offered up as memorabilia. Most of the items at the show were more mundane fare – baseball cards, balls and bats – although an autographed bottle of Ted Williams brand root beer was fetching $75 and a dirty batting glove worn by Reggie Jackson was on the block for $150.

Wenzleff said he had considered washing the green-and-yellow socks before placing them on the market but decided it was too risky and might decrease their value.

At the far end of the giant hall, baseball players were greeting their fans and signing autographs, cash up front.

Nineteen players sat at tables, felt-tip pens in hand. You buy a ticket for the player of your choice and stand in line.

Baseball is as American as the free market system. Reggie Jackson and Jose Canseco each charge $15 to sign their names. Will Clark, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson and Steve Carlton are $10 apiece. Orlando Cepeda is only $5.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the man at the microphone, “may I remind you that Rickey Henderson must leave soon. In a few years he is going to be in the Hall of Fame, and the value of his autograph is sure to rise! And Roger Clemens, a future Hall of Famer for sure – there’s an autograph that can only increase in value!”

Kids wandered around, pockets full of tens and twenties. On everyone’s mind was the Pete Rose scandal, and its effect on the game.

“It’s real bad,” said Grant Hower, a 12-year-old fan from Larkspur. “I’ve got two Rose autographs. Now that he’s kicked out of baseball, they might be worth a lot less. I sure hope not.”

I wandered back to the booth with Canseco’s socks, to see if anyone had snapped them up. They were still available. Perhaps, I told Wenzleff, no one believed they were authentic. Wenzleff suggested I give them a sniff.

I sniffed. They were the real thing, all right.

It was a rare opportunity for a shrewd buyer, Wenzleff said. Only four pairs of Canseco’s dirty socks were on the market. Canseco is making no more of them available. When they’re gone, that’s it.

No, Wenzleff said, there is nothing odd about selling dirty socks, considering that he once sold Canseco’s dirty jockstrap. He wouldn’t say how much it fetched but he did reveal that it went to a misty-eyed woman who was very pleased to have it.

“Look,” the sock man said, “we couldn’t sell this stuff if people didn’t buy it. Someday, some player is going to come up with a limited edition autographed snot rag, and you know what? A fan will pay $100 for it, easy.”

Canseco also started his own 1-900 number late in the ’89 season.

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Hassey caught a perfect game for Len Barker with Cleveland in 1981 and left Oakland just in time to join the Expos and catch a perfect game for Dennis Martinez in 1991 before retiring: Hassey’s the only guy to catch two perfect games.  Which brings up the question: how much credit does a catcher deserve for catching a perfect game?  Hassey also caught the A’s near-perfect game on May 26 against the Yankees.

Hassey’s best season came in 1985 with the Yankees: .296 with a .509 slugging percentage on 13 homers and 16 doubles in about a half season. His reward was to get traded to the White Sox on December 12, essentially for Britt Burns, a promising starter age 26 whose hip problems kept him from ever pitching in the majors again, then get traded back to the Yankees next February 13, then get traded back to the White Sox on July 30, 1986. He still managed to put up a .406 OBP in 1986. With the A’s, he was a backup to Terry Steinbach: in 1989 he was a frequent late-inning replacement for Steinbach, especially late in the year, when Steinbach’s legs were presumably getting weary.

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