Growing up, one of the favorite family stories involved my maternal grandmother. Seems she and a friend went to a nondescript Sunday afternoon Yankees game (or so we were always told), and they happened to see the major-league debut of Mickey Mantle. The story was always a source of great pride for her, completely understandable given what The Mick went on to do in his career.
I want my own mother to tell my kids a similar story when they get older. We were at the Oakland Coliseum on June 24, 1979, when Rickey Henderson made his debut against the Texas Rangers. Nothing about the day stands out particularly, besides the fact it seemed like we were joined by about only 50 other A’s fans that day (OK, so it was more. I said it seemed that way). Henderson had two hits and a double, which frankly I don’t remember. He also stole a base, which I do remember, because I had never seen someone so explosive on a baseball diamond. There was also a big group of folks sitting behind us at the time, and I think they were related to Rickey given the way they were cheering.
Anyway, my mom and I have probably attended more than 300 games together in my lifetime, and to this day, it remains a very special tradition. When I was a teen, and getting along with my parents the way teens do, enjoying a ballgame was always the one thing my mom and I could do together.
So on Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank her for, along with my father, for helping to instill the love of this game in me. It’s given us a lot of great memories.
We’re having lunch today, and I don’t doubt that we’ll talk about why Rickey’s number remains unretired. To re-iterate what I wrote in my Sunday column, the A’s ought to be embarrassed, because he’s the greatest player in Oakland history. Arguably franchise history, too.
I called A’s general manager Billy Beane earlier this season after attending Opening Day at AT&T Park and observing the Giants parade a bunch of former All-Stars in front of their fans. Blogged at the time that the Giants do a great job of honoring their history and the A’s don’t, and wanted to get Beane’s two cents regarding the subject.
“First of all,” he said, in that classic condescending tone, “I’m not in marketing …”
He then proceeded to talk about how the A’s have honored some of their 1970’s teams, and that is true. But the ceremonies was so colorless it’s difficult to remember them, and I’d guess that few A’s fans could recall them. And aside from Dennis Eckersley, they haven’t honored any of the players from their Bash Brothers days, either.
So if ineed Beane isn’t in marketing, he ought to make a call to the marketing department and exert some pressure.
I know Rickey was a colossal pain in the rump at times, but you can’t ignore his impact on the game or the A’s franchise. He was the brightest light during the Billy Ball years, he helped them win a World Series in 1989, and led them to the World Series in 1990. You just don’t ignore players like that.
Don’t forget to call Mom.