Sure, you’re thinking the A’s? Of course I have heard of them. The Athletics have complied some very significant statistics since 1901. As a the franchise they’ve won nine World Series titles (3rd all-time), four in Oakland alone, including three straight from 1972-1974. They have been consistent contenders in the modern-era of the game, their only large dry spell being between the mid-1930’s until circa 1970 . Sure that may seems like a long dry spell however in the game of baseball whose history stretches from the 1880’s to present, forty years really isn’t that large a chunk of time. From the early 1900’s famous “$100,000 infield,” to the 1970’s “Swingin’ A’s” to the “Moneyball A’s” who went on a historic 20-game win streak in 2002, the A’s have always been franchise who have dominated baseball and procured some interesting records.The Athletics franchise also has a history of always being associated with colorful characters and players associated with the team. There are the leaders/owners who make headlines like erratic 1980’s manager Billy Martin, the iconic Connie Mack who was the Athletics owner/manager for exactly half a century, owner Charlie O. Finley (who you can thank, or curse, for being instrumental in the adoption of the designated hitter by the American League) and his mule. Finley also gave the A’s their signature colors – Kelly Green, gold and white. They are the only team in the league whose main color is green as well as the only team that wears white cleats. Many of the things that make them probably the most unique team in baseball are thanks to Finley. Then of course there is Billy Beane who is currently not only a game changing genius, but he was portrayed in an Oscar nominated film primarily based on himself, by beloved and legendary actor Brad Pitt.
You’ve heard the names of many of their players like pitcher Jimmie Foxx aka “Double XX,” Rollie Fingers who to this day still rocks his mustache of baseball lore, Mr. October aka Reggie Jackson made history as a member of the Athletics, the Bash Brothers of the 80’s, Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley, the “Big Three” combination of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in the early 2000’s and so many more. Quite a few of them you may even remember as members of different teams but you know their names nonetheless.
You may have even heard of their extreme and creative fans, especially those guys out in Oakland’s bleachers. While it is widely reported that the Oakland team doesn’t draw large attendance numbers, their fans have been noted by many as the loudest, craziest and most interesting fans in all of baseball. These reports come mostly from opposing teams (hi there Detroit!) and players (yes, I’m talking to you Torii Hunter, Jeff Francoeur and Josh Hamilton, just to name a few). They make you remember them with their costumes, practically choreographed cheers, traditions (Bacon Day being the best one) and general geniality towards the guys who play in right field.
Each year I am shocked by the same thing. How’s that? If it is the same thing then how can one possibly be shocked, right? What shocks me is not that, with the exception of a few years here and there since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s are usually contenders. It is the fact that all the analysts, fans, even other teams, everyone just seems to think that they appeared out of nowhere. They fact that these experts are always shocked. Every year, “Where did these A’s come from?” Their surprise is the cause of my frustration. Having been an A’s fan for almost 30 years, I am just tired of hearing it.
In this century the A’s have been to the playoffs eight of the past 13 seasons. Yes, they have only gotten past the first first round once, in 2006, and they were defeated by the Tigers in the ALCS. Sure, you can even say that they haven’t won a World Series in the last 25 years which is a fact. What you cannot say that is that they have not been consistently relevant.
The A’s have always been relevant and this year the team is for the first time in a long time finally getting noticed before the end of the six month long season. In part two of this piece, since this one is already quite long, we’ll take a look at the 2014 and why they are the best team of players you’d never heard of. You’ve probably heard of them now but think about this time last year. Would you have known who Eric Sogard was? Josh Donaldson? Yoenis Cespedes? You wouldn’t have before the mid summer classic last season or MLB Network’s winter Face of MLB competition.
So really, who are the 2014 Oakland Athletics? Check out Part Two to find out!
Author: Jen Rainwater – Find me on Twitter @OakAsSocksGrl