Who remembers where they were 20 years ago tonight?
I’m guessing Scott Hatteberg probably does. The first baseman, who these days languishes for a lousy outfit in Cincinnati, was chilling on the A’s dugout during the evening of Sept. 4, 2002, an easy night apparently ahead of him after the A’s surged to an 11-run lead against the Kansas City Royals.
Then, 11 Royals runs later, he was tapped on the shoulder by the A’s then-manager Art Howe and told to go hit in the 10th inning. One historic swing later, Hatteberg was floating around the bases, the A’s had a 12-11 win, and the only 20-game winning streak in the 107-year history of the American League was in the book.
Do yourself a favor and listen to Robert Buan’s “Extra Innings” program tonight. Buan has been reliving the A’s historic streak by using the radio play-by-play calls. If the late Bill King’s call of Hatteberg’s dinger doesn’t give you chills, you’re simply not human.
Anyway, on the anniversary of Hatteberg’s defining A’s moment, I thought it might be fun to list the top 10 home runs in Oakland A’s history.
1) Scott Hatteberg, vs. Royals (9/4/2002): You couldn’t have scripted a more dramatic way for the A’s to finish off their winning streak. And considering the streak could last another 100 years, it’ll be awfully tough for the A’s ever to produce a more memorable dinger.
2) Reggie Jackson, vs. NL All-Stars (7/13/1971): The All-Star Game may be just an exhibition (thought it was highly competitive in those days), but Reggie’s blast into the light tower off Pittsburgh’s Doc Ellis at Tiger Stadium was as authentic as they come.
3) Jose Canseco vs. Toronto Blue Jays (10/7/1989): Sure, Canseco may have been juiced when he took Mike Flanagan into the fifth deck at Toronto’s Skydome during Game 4 of the 1989 American League Championship Series. But that still doesn’t make the ball’s final destination any less awe-inspiring.
4) Mark McGwire, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (10/18/1988): Back when being a Bash Brother was cool, McGwire smoked a line drive pff Dodgers reliever (and former A’s whipping boy) Jay Howell into the left-center field seats at the Oakland Coliseum to provide Oakland its only win in the 1988 World Series.
5) Miguel Tejada vs. Minnesota Twins (9/1/2002): Without Tejada’s ninth-inning blast off the Twins’ Eddie Guardado, there are no Hatteberg dramatics. Tejada’s home run erased a 5-4 lead Minnesota had gained by hitting three solo homers in the top of the ninth, pushed The Streak to 18, and provided one of the most dizzying moments in Coliseum history.
6) Reggie Jackson, vs. New York Mets (10/21/1973): Mr. October first starts to earn his nickname with a two-run homer off Jon Matlack, the key blow in a 5-2, Game 7 win that produces a second straight World Series title.
7) Joe Rudi vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (10/17/1974): After a brief delay caused by delirious fans throwing debris on the Coliseum field, Rudi smoked the first pitch from tireless Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall for a home run that put a bow on the A’s third straight World Series crown.
8) Jason Giambi vs. New York Yankees (8/12/2001): A three-run blast to rescue a win in the bottom of the ninth is always big. When it comes against the New York Yankees and caps an 11-game winning streak, it goes into the category of “unforgettable.”
9) Mark McGwire, at Seattle Mariners (6/24/1997): What happens when baseball’s most imposing power hitter (McGwire) connects against baseball’s hardest thrower (Randy Johnson) at the old eyesore called the Kingdome? A home run that could’ve buzzed the Space Needle.
10) Mark Kotsay, at Minnesota Twins (10/5/2006): In his first postseason series after nine fruitless seasons, Kotsay’s inside-the-park home run in Game 2 helped the A’s to a second straight win at the Metrodome, and, eventually, their first postseason series win in 16 years.