For that reason A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich brought along a copy of the Sports Illustrated cover of April 27, 1981 entitled “The Amazing A’s And Their Five Aces.’’
Pitchers Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Brian Kingman, Matt Keough and Mike Norris are pictured wearing the yellow uniform that the team frequented that season, and Vucinich wanted to show the players and coaches and manager Bob Melvin the uniform the A’s will be sporting that day.
The A’s started the 1981 season 11-0 from April 9 through the first game of a doubleheader April 19 and 17-1 through April 26, the day before the cover date. Norris and Keough would both start the season 6-0, Langford 4-1, McCatty 3-0 and the A’s even won Kingman’s first three starts with Kingman, who’d lost 20 games in 1980, going 2-0 in them.
The rotation was the heart of the BillyBall phenomenon, so dubbed in 1980 by Oakland Tribune Columnist Ralph Wiley in 1980 in describing the way manager Billy Martin had his troops playing. The A’s would go on to win the first half of a strike-shortened season in 1981, then beat the Royals in the first round of the playoffs before coming up short against the Yankees.
There’s more to the Sports Illustrated cover than that, however. Vucinich brought a copy of the cover with him on this trip to Anaheim because it was in the visiting clubhouse in Anaheim that the photo was taken. The A’s started the season with an eight-game road trip, and when they kept winning SI couldn’t wait for the team to return to Oakland to shoot the cover.
More than that, if you look closely enough, you can see that the photo was taken the visiting clubhouse before its remodel in the late 1990s in front of the locker of Frank Ciensczyk, who’d been the clubhouse manager from the time the team moved to Oakland in 1968 before retiring in 1993 and handing the reins over to Vucinich.