A’s `Amazing Aces’ make it back to Anaheim for a day

amazing aces    Part of the A’s marketing plan for the second half of the season is a turn-back-the-clock game Saturday Aug. 6 with the Chicago Cubs in town.

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.



Another day, another … (?)

Well, what do you think will happen tonight? Losing streak is seven, and why, prey tell, is there any reason to think it won’t be eight?

Anyway, I was amazed at one of the stats that I read today, namely that the A’s have been held to a run or less in 29 games. That’s slightly less than one in every four. That puts a huge mental strain on a pitcher, and mental strain contributes to physical strain. Therefore, I’ll be curious to see how the A’s handle Greg Smith and  Sean Gallagher the rest of the way, not to mention whether they’ll shut down Dana Eveland now that he’s in Sacramento. The A’s track record has shown that they can identify and develop young pitching talent, and everything we’ve seen from Smith, Eveland, and Gallagher suggests these guys are on the lower end of the tank.

On the other side of things, what else can you say? In July, the A’s scored their fewest amount of runs in a full month since 1979.  That’s the team that lost 108 games. So I figured I’d put out their regular lineup against the one the A’s have been trotting out for most of the past two months. Who would you choose:

Position     2008         1979

C               Kurt Suzuki      Jeff Newman

1B             Daric Barton     Dave Revering

2B             Mark Ellis       Mike Edwards

SS             Bobby Crosby     Rob Picciolo

3B             Jack Hannahan   Wayne Gross

LF             Emil Brown        Rickey Henderson

CF            Carlos Gonzalez     Dwayne Murphy

RF            Ryan Sweeney       Tony Armas

DH          Jack Cust             Mitchell Page

Funny thing is, most of those names on the 1979 club were there when Billy Martin guided the A’s to 83 wins in 1980. Which inspires the question. Hypothetically, how would that Billy and the current Billy (Beane) co-exist?

Enjoy the game.