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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.

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The ’89 A’s were the least powerful team of the A’s dynasty, and the injury to Canseco’s wrist that kept him out for the first half of the season was much of the reason why. On March 8, David Bush of the Chronicle described Jim Abbott’s spring debut and the last at-bat Canseco had before the wrist troubles emerged:

“The atmosphere at Phoenix Municipal Stadium yesterday more closely resembled that of a World Series game than the A’s fifth exhibition game of the spring.

The game’s 90-degree weather and the intimacy of the ballpark were springlike enough, but a throng of national media on the field before the California Angels whipped the A’s, 9-4, was worthy of the postseason.

The reason for all the attention was Jim Abbott, the Angels’ remarkable rookie pitcher who was born without a right hand.

Abbott, the Angels’ first-round draft choice last June out of the University of Michigan and a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, came on in the fourth inning and left in the sixth, giving up one run that wasn’t his fault and earning the victory.

Abbott had walked two hitters and had two outs when Canseco came to the plate. On the 1-2 pitch, Abbott dipped an inside slider onto Canseco’s fists and the A.L. MVP waved at it.

“I knew I had a base open but I didn’t want to give into him,” said Abbott. “It was a thrill to face Jose Canseco. That’s what this game is all about. I know it is early in spring training, but for me that was a pressure situation.”

“He’s legit. He’s got a good fastball and above average slider,” said Canseco. “I am just trying to concentrate on the ball. It (Abbott’s handicap) had nothing to do with my at-bat.”

On March 23, Bush reported: “It took two weeks to get Jose Canseco into the lineup and just two swings to remove him.

The A’s right fielder, making his first start since March 7, felt more pain in his tender left wrist and left yesterday’s game against the Giants in the first inning.

San Francisco eventually won the game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, 6-4, in 11 innings.

Canseco has felt pain in the wrist since the beginning of spring training. After striking out against the Angels’ Jim Abbott on March 7, Canseco’s duty has been limited. The A’s said the idleness was merely a precaution, and once the pain disappeared completely, Canseco would have sufficient time to prepare for the regular season.

With 11 days remaining until the opener, time is running out and Canseco has batted just nine times in spring-training games.

“Even though I haven’t played very much I saw the ball well today,” said Canseco. “But I do need to be in games and face some live pitching to get my timing back.”

Canseco took part in a simulated game on Tuesday, and said afterward that his wrist was a little stiff but that he would be able to play yesterday.

But when fouling off pitcher Dennis Cook’s second pitch on a check-swing, Canseco said he felt sharp pain in his wrist. “It hurt, but I thought I could play through it.”

After taking the next pitch for a ball, Canseco swung and missed at a high fastball. At that point he walked away from the plate and into the clubhouse. “On the second one the pain was even worse, and I told the bench that I should come out,” said Canseco.

His wrist wrapped in ice, Canseco said the pain was worse than it had been all spring. “It doesn’t hurt when I move it up and down, but it does when I move it sideways, which is the motion you use to hit.”

Canseco said he has had no previous problems with his wrist. His twin brother, Ozzie, broke the hamate bone in his left wrist early this spring.

“It’s just coincidence,” said Canseco, who paused, rolled his eyes skyward and said, “but then again, you never know.” Canseco seemed hardly distraught with his ill fortune. “I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “If I get frustrated and angry, that might only make it worse.”

In mid-July, Canseco finally came back, in an 11-7 win over the Blue Jays in SkyDome, in the teams’ first game following the All-Star break. He hit a home run and a single, driving in three runs and stealing a base.

Canseco had missed the A’s first 88 games of the season, and his return overshadow the equally anticipated return of reliever Dennis Eckersley, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his first appearance since May 27. Canseco’s third RBI of the game, coming on a ninth-inning single, increased the A’s lead to four runs and deprived Eckersley of a chance for a save.

Jose, after the game: “I was a little nervous, and I just tried to keep it simple,” agreed Canseco, whose rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Huntsville (Ala.) produced an undistinguished record of four hits in 23 at-bats. “”I didn’t do that well in the minor leagues, so I just brainwashed myself into thinking I had been hitting. Then it seemed like yesterday that I was hitting line drives.”

Meanwhile, Eckersley said of his return: “I felt all right. I’m glad it wasn’t a one-run game, because you don’t know how you are going to do.

“It is hard to be confident if you haven’t done it in a long time. I thought I was so-so. One pitch would be good, and the next not so good. But as long as it doesn’t hurt, I will be all right.”

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This cover of a book Jose Canseco and Dave McKay put together after the ’89 season had ended, talking about Strength Training for Baseball:

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I recently interviewed Mike Pagliarulo, starting third baseman for the Yankees from 1985 to mid-1989. The interview was primarily prompted by this picture on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle of him and Rickey Henderson embracing after hearing of Rickey’s trade to the A’s:

I talked with Mike about his response to learning that news, what he thought of the A’s teams of 1988 and 1989, and also his memories of playing against the Giants later in 1989, after he’d been traded to the Padres in July.

Q: To start off, I figured I’d ask if you remember the near-perfect game the A’s threw against the Yankees on May 26 in New York?
A: No, I don’t. What was that?

Q: The one guy to get on was Rickey Henderson, on an infield single, and then the very next hitter, Steve Sax maybe, hit into a double play. That was the only runner of the game.
A: Huh. That’s funny, I don’t know that game at all. We had an injury, someone-Winfield-was out with a bad back in 1989. That year my elbow was a mess. I tried to play, but it wasn’t fully recovered.

Q: What was your response when you learned of Rickey Henderson’s trade to the A’s?
A: In New York, we had all come up with each other in the Yankees’ tremendous minor league system. Played on the same teams, winning teams. And some guys from the organization, they had played with Rickey for 5 years. He was one of the guys, a great teammate, a phenomenal athlete, so it was hard to see people like him go.

Q: I was reading through some articles from the time, where the Yankees management was saying that Rickey’s legs were going, he wasn’t that great a player anymore. He’d been struggling a bit with the Yankees, but did you guys have any sense of him running down?
A: No, I wouldn’t say he was running down. When you play with a good teammate, you never want to see them go, whether they’re going well or not. You rely on each other day and day out, so you never expect someone to be traded. You never think in those terms. Rickey was a real impact player, he helped the whole lineup.

Baseball is the ultimate team game, your teammates affect how you play offense and defense, what kind of pitches you get to hit-look at the Red Sox this year, J.D. Drew batting ahead of Manny Ramirez, and how well he did. There are so many variables, it’s hard to say which one it is that impacts whether you do well.

Q: What was your impression of Greg Cadaret and Eric Plunk? Because when I went through those articles about the trade I saw Cadaret saying that at least in New York he’d still be able to talk about hunting and fishing with Plunk in the bullpen. Were they out of place in the Bronx?
A: [laughs] Well, some players don’t feel very comfortable in New York. It can be a rude awakening for some players, they’re out of place. Some, they adapt, but I was always real comfortable there, didn’t have to get used to New York.

Q: What, for you, were the biggest reasons why the A’s were so good in ’88 and ’89?
A: The A’s, they had those two big guys (McGwire and Canseco) coming up. I was talking to La Russa one day not long after he got hired by the A’s. When was that, 1986 or so? (It was.) And he had a pretty good plan for what to do with the team. They had Ron Hassey, a good friend and teammate with the Yankees.

On the A’s, everyone knew their role, what their job was, and that’s a compliment to La Russa. He ran a pretty tight ship, everyone had a place they fit into, and there was a really good mix of young and old players. Every good team I’ve been on has had that characteristic. It’s a prerequisite for winning. And they had really good coaches.

Lansford, he was a steady, steady, steady player, a real tough out. Stewart, I don’t remember how I did against. But like he was like Clemens: the ultimate challenge for a hitter. You want that so much-that challenge, and the great ones, they’re great challenges. The A’s were very prepared, they always gave their best game.

In ’89, we had a coach, Dallas Green, we went outside the organization to get him, and people said, “this guy’s not a Yankee”-he wasn’t Billy (Martin) or Pinella or Yogi Berra. So it was different: he had some trouble adjusting, it wasn’t easy there.

Q: And then you got traded to the Padres not long after Rickey went to Oakland. What did you remember from playing against the Giants late that year? You guys in San Diego were running right alongside the Giants for the division title.
A: I remember Matt Williams having a great year, and that guy in left field, Mitchell, just everything they had (offensively). You’d look up and boom! there’s the ball flying out of the yard. The Padres had a tremendous team, one of the most talented sets of players I’ve seen. We had Jack Clark, Bip Roberts, Alomar, Santiago, Gwynn, but we were missing one pitcher.

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Will Clark in action at Wrigley Field during a 1989 day game, not during the NLCS (he must be bunting here, hard as that is to believe), as shown on a special 1990 Fleer card. I think Clark, and not Mitchell, got recognized by Fleer for their Players of the Decade set in 1990.

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This is Scott Garrelts posing for his Mother’s Cookies card at an empty Candlestick in the special set they put out for the 1989 Giants. He won the N.L. ERA title in ’89, and must be one of the more obscure pitchers of the last few decades to win an ERA title.

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Here’s Rickey’s signature in blue pen, on an official American League baseball from right around 1989.

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