Chunking Vida Blue - Diamond Gains Gridiron's Loss
Juan Marichal, Ferguson Jenkins, Jack Morris, Tommy John, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller, Lefty Gomez, Don Newcombe, Early Wynn, Robin Roberts, Whitey Ford, Jim Palmer...some good, some great but none ever had a season as utterly dominating as Vida Blue had in 1971. And Blue almost chose football over baseball.
Vida Blue, 1971 American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, recalled the day he first pitched in an organized game: "Our pitcher couldn't get anybody out. They called me in from right field and I started chunking." Throughout Blue's years in Oakland there were many opposing batters who regretted that Blue ever "started chunking."
Had Vida Blue preferred, he could have pursued a career in professional football. Blue had shown promise as a quarterback while in high school. His high school football coach, Clarence Baldwin said of the talented athlete: "he could throw the football on the clothesline 55 yards. Some said he could throw the ball 70 to 80 yards. I've never coached anyone like him."
Blue completed 35 touchdown passes his senior year. This was enough to impress the no less than 25 major colleges and universities who offered him football scholarships. Schools including the likes of Notre Dame, Arizona State, Purdue, and Wake Forest.
As impressive as Vida Blue had been on the gridiron, he was unbelievable on the diamond. During his senior year Blue tossed three no-hitters and averaged 16 strikeouts a game: and the games were only seven innings long. .............................
20 Wins Please
Dave Stewart is the most recent Athletics' hurler to compile consecutive 20-win seasons. Stew won at least twenty from 1987 through 1990.
Stewart's run of four seasons tied the Oakland franchise record established by Jim "Catfish" Hunter who tallied at least 20 victories from 1971 through 1974.
Stewart's string produced seasons of 20, 21, 21 and 22 wins. Hunter's string included three 21-win seasons and one 25-win season. While these achievements are certainly noteworthy, they do not come close to Lefty Grove's all-time Athletics' team record of seven straight 20-win seasons.
From 1927 through 1933 the peerless Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove provided Connie Mack with season win totals of 20, 24, 20, 28, 31, 25 and 24.
Grove's 31 victories in 1931 is still the all-time Athletics' single-season wins record. .......................
Sweet Sweet Sweeps - Giants, Yankees Overmatched
The Oakland Athletics are the only team in major league history to complete a world season sweep one season and follow it up with a regular season sweep the following year.
The Athletics dusted off the San Francisco Giants four games to none in the 1989 World Series and then blew away the New York Yankees 12 games to none during the 1990 regular season. ......................
Shoeless Joe First Wore A's Spikes
How different things could have been for "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. The man after whom the legendary Babe Ruth patterned his home-run swing is best remembered today as a member of the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox.
Jackson, whose .347 lifetime batting average ranks him third all-time, almost spent his career in an Athletics' uniform.
On August 22, 1908, Connie Mack spent $325 to purchase the contract of Joe Jackson from the Greenville, South Carolina, club of the Carolina Association.
Horace Fogel, who covered Philadelphia for the Sporting News, wrote in early September of the promising rookie, "Joe Jackson, The Southern whirlwind, who is to be Ty Cobb's rival of the future, will likely get in this week." Mr. Fogel was right on both accounts; however, he failed to foresee that Jackson would also be gone before the week's end.
In his first American League game, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson had one hit in four at bats: then he disappeared.
Jackson was almost illiterate and had never been to a big city. It apparently didn't suit him well.
The next day, Jackson was back in Greenville.
When Connie Mack learned Jackson had returned home, he sent one of his players to bring back the sweet swinging rookie. "It was difficult for him to adjust himself to a big town like Philadelphia," Mack said, adding, "I sent Socks Seybold down to Greenville to bring him back. Socks got him on the train, bought Jackson's dinner for him, spent the early evening with him, saw Joe was in his berth, and then retired."
When Seybold went to check on Jackson in the morning, he was gone. During the night, Jackson had sneaked off of the train.
Connie Mack eventually got "Shoeless" Joe Jackson back to Philadelphia in 1908, and Jackson played a few more games for the Athletics that September.
Shoeless Joe, however, didn't change his mind about the big city of Philadelphia, and the next time Jackson played baseball in Philadelphia it was as a member of the Chicago White Sox. ............................
Waiting for the Babe
Four different players have held the all-time single-season American League home run record.
Two have been Yankees and two have been Athletics. The Yankees are Babe Ruth who first claimed the title in 1919 when he clouted 29 homers. And Roger Maris who in 1961 hit 61 home runs.
Before Ruth claimed the title, the record holder was the Athletics' Socks Seyblod who smacked 16 round trippers in 1902. Seybold eclipsed the old record of 14 home runs established by his Athletics teammate, Nap Lajoie in 1901. ........................
Joe Rudi played in 19 games for the Kansas City Athletics in 1967. The following season when the franchise moved to Oakland, Rudi started the season in the minor leagues. On May 8, 1968 Rudi made his Oakland debut--that night Oakland's Jim "Catfish" Hunter tossed a 4-0 perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. The Athletics never sent Rudi back down to the minor leagues. ...........................
Athletics solve McGraw Jinx
John McGraw, the superstitious manager of the 1911 National League champion New York Giants, thought he had a trick up his sleeve.
In the 1905 classic, when his squad had put away the Athletics in five games, McGraw had his men clad in all-black uniforms.
His players surprised everyone when they took to the field for game one of the 1911 World Series, once again, clad in their black broadcloth uniforms.
What McGraw failed to realize, and the Philadelphia nine was all too willing to point out, was that players win games, not uniforms.
Frank Baker, Connie Mack's stellar third sacker, earned his nickname of "Home Run" with circuit clouts that won the second game of the series and tied the third.
Christy Matthewson, who had recorded three shutouts for McGraw in the 1905 series, was clinging to a 1-0 lead in game three. Baker's ninth-inning blast brought the contest to a draw, and the Athletics pulled out the victory in the 11th inning.
The Giants won the fifth game in the 10th inning; however, the plate umpire later said the Giant runner who scored the winning run never touched the plate and could have been tagged out.
The mighty Athletics put down the New Yorkers 13-2 in the series finale.
McGraw's Giants had swiped 347 bases during the regular season, but tallied none against the Athletics.
Giant's clean-up hitter Murray was made to look helpless against the Athletics' hurlers, going 0 for 21. ..........................