Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

A's welcome home '73 champs

04/28/2013 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 10:42 AM

OAKLAND – Reggie Jackson pulled up to the third-base dugout at O.co Coliseum just after noon Saturday in the passenger's seat of a golf cart, wearing an A's hat and carrying an Oakland jacket that he said he brought from home.

That's nothing, Jackson added. Hanging on the wall of his shop, he said, are the jerseys of Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando – teammates on the 1973 World Series championship team that the A's honored before their 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday afternoon.

"I work for the Yankees and love the Yankees," said Jackson, a special adviser for New York. "But the A's are certainly a part of me that goes back forever."

Before he stirred the drink as a player in the Bronx, Jackson was a key member of the A's teams that won three World Series in a row from 1972 to '74.

The A's marked 40 years since the 1973 team beat the New York Mets in seven games by gathering members of that team and introducing them on the field before Saturday's game.

Players took the field escorted by current A's. Jackson threw out the first pitch to former catcher and now broadcaster Ray Fosse. Talking to reporters before the event, Jackson said he had with him the jersey of Hunter, the Hall of Fame pitcher who died in 1999.

"Catfish was in that class with Tom Seaver and (Steve) Carlton and the greats of his day," Jackson said. "He was our guy. When Catfish pitched, we were going to win."

Jackson also credited Hunter with helping create unity on A's teams amid racial tensions of the late 1960s and early '70s. Jackson spent part of his 15-minute media session talking about the number of African American players currently in Major League Baseball.

"It's not very good, and I don't know why," Jackson said of the declining percentage. USA Today in April reported African American players made up 7.7 percent of Opening Day rosters this season, the lowest percentage since 1959.

Jackson hypothesized that the rise of travel teams and private coaching that cost money are a factor in the dwindling numbers. He said he's interested in working with MLB on expanding youth interest in and access to the sport.

"It costs money to play Little League, it costs too much money for some kids to get private lessons," he said. "It's gone crazy, it's gone goofy."

Jackson earned both American League and World Series MVP honors in 1973, hitting .293 with 32 homers and 117 RBIs during the regular season before going 9 for 29 with six RBIs in the seven games against the Mets. He hit his lone home run of the Series in the third inning of Game 7, which the A's won 5-2 behind Ken Holtzman.

Holtzman was one of three 20-game winners on the 1973 team, along with Hunter and Blue. After seeing Baltimore with four 20-game winners in 1971, Blue said he "thought that was cool – to have three guys you could almost just pencil in for 60-plus wins."

Blue said he believes the 1973 team was the best of the three title teams largely because of the strength of its pitching, which posted a 3.29 ERA and included Rollie Fingers, the Hall of Fame reliever, and Darold Knowles, who recorded the final out against the Mets, coming out of the bullpen.

"We weren't nothing spectacular," Blue said. "Just a bunch of blue-collar guys that got the job done every day.

"There were so many different characters on that team. We fought and scratched and clawed amongst ourselves, but come game time we played hard together."

Blue Moon Odom, another member of the pitching staff, argued the 1972 team had a tougher road, being the first. For emphasis, Odom wore the 1972 World Series ring to a brief team reunion Friday afternoon.

"After that, everything just came naturally," Odom said. "It just felt like whatever you did, you were supposed to – long as it was on the winning side."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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