Another trip to Orange County…Oakland A’s vs. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles by way of Fullerton and Santa Monica
Long time readers of this blog know that my girlfriend and I make the hellish, bumper to bumper trip down the I-5 to Anaheim once or twice a year when the Athletics come to town. Since I live in Los Angeles, it’s difficult for me to make it to the Coliseum; and the “Big A” or whatever the hell they call it these days is my only opportunity of the year to see the good guys up close and personal. A’s fans, in past years, seemingly turn out en masse and this game was proven to be no different. The day started out on a high note as I met 3 time world series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom in the parking lot. He and his wife were charming and cordial. He got a kick out of it when I told him that announcers Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse always show him in the crowd and give him a little air time whenever the A’s play the Angels on television. (He lives in Southern California, so like me, he only gets to see the A’s when they come to town twice a season.) I got an autograph and a photo, and after thanking him and shaking his hand, I noticed he was wearing a World Series ring. There is no doubt in my mind that those Oakland A’s teams from 1972, 73 and 74 were some of the greatest teams of all time!
Right away I had a bit of a problem with the Oakland lineup. The A’s were facing a left-hander in Hector Santiago, and their 8/9 hitters were both lefties, each of which were batting .100 and .080, respectively. With Nick Punto batting in front of Reddick and Barton in the 7 spot, we were essentially GIVING AWAY 3 outs. Jesse Chavez gave up an RBI single and a homer to Albert Pujols, (his 496th) which were all the scoring the Angels did as they were shut down in the last 6 innings. Hector “who the fuck is this guy” Santiago had a shutout going until Oakland cut the lead in half with a Yoenis Cespedes solo shot in the 4th. The game resumed and Angels fans were being their typical, boring selves. There was absolutely ZERO passion. They remained in a zombie like state until they started to do “the wave” in the 6th inning; completely ignoring the fact that the A’s were threatening to tie the game with runners on. Oakland fans were out numbered 3,000-1 and were undoubtedly louder and more into the outcome of the game.
The game was essentially dominated by the bullpens until the 9th. Whipping boy/super scrub Jim Johnson shut down the Halos in the 8th; and then this happened with a runner on and 1 out in the 9th:
The entire stadium deflated. The smug, “we all but have this in the bag” quietness turned into disbelief, verbal disappointment and booing. It was one of the MOST WONDERFUL moments I have EVER experienced at a ballpark. I was beaming as Oakland fans high- fived each other on the way out of the stadium. We had proven who the KINGS OF THE WEST were once again.
This is part 3 of my Brian Kingman interview…
3) You were best known for being a 20 game loser before Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth “achieved ” this honor in 2003. Have you spoken to Mr. Maroth about this dubious achievement?
No, I never have spoken to Mike. I didn’t want to distract him during the 2003 season. I think I can safely assume he wasn’t very interested in talking to me
about losing 20 games after the fact. The Tigers were having a horrible year and didn’t appreciate the added media attention regarding the possibility that Maroth
might lose 20 games.
When I lost 20 games in 1980 it wasn’t as uncommon of an occurrence as it was in 2003. There has been a 20 game loser almost every year in baseball history, and some years there were multiple 20 game losers. A list of 20 game losers was established by baseball reference.com because of the media created interest started and fueled mainly by Jayson Stark. In 1991 Stark wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that mentioned a couple of
pitchers that might lose 20. He noted that no one had lost 20 in over a decade and that “somewhere Brian Kingman was praying for someone to lose 20 games
so he could be relieved of the dubious distinction of being the last 20 game loser”. A friend of mind who lived in Philadelphia mailed me the article. I called the Inquirer and
they gave me Stark’s home phone number. I called him and told him that I wanted to remain the last 20 game loser, basically forever. He of course didn’t believe it was me calling at first. He thought he was being pranked by one of his friends. This was the start of what I call my “Reign as the Last 20 Game Loser” which lasted until 2003. This however is a story in itself and deviates from your question.
Secondly, Brian Kingman was actually a decent pitcher in 1980. He pitched 211 1/3 innings and had a 3.83 ERA. .
So, he pitched for a good team and was right around league-average in preventing runs, yet he went 8-20.
Meanwhile in 1980…
Dan Spillner pitched 194 1/3 innings for a Cleveland ballclub that went 79-83. He had a 5.28 ERA - 29.4% worse than league-average – and he went 16-11.
Oakland’s runs per game when Kingman pitched:
R/G Wins 4.12 Losses 2.50 No-Dec. 2.75
Of the 20 games Kingman lost, 5 of them were games in which the A’s got shutout.
The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in Kingman’s 20 losses are even a little inflated because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game. If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, Kingman got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in his other 19 losses.
Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.
2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?
I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…
SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!
The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.
Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642
2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582
3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614
So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.
That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.
So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.
Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?
This is the first part of what will eventually be a 4 or 5 part series interview with former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman. I know this is the part where I usually talk incessantly about nothing, but I’ll let the man speak for himself. I will, however, add that Brian was gracious enough to give me some in -depth answers that read like a book. This is good stuff readers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
“Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now
LET’S GO OAKLAND!!!!!!
I’m not going to do a spring training report this year because…well, let’s face it, spring training doesn’t mean much to anyone but minor league players who want to sniff a few jock straps and have some stories to tell on the bus while they’re travelling to another crappy hayseed town. Most players think that the whole ordeal lasts waaaay too long, and I tend to agree. At this point in time I have no interest in watching Joe Blow from AA Round Rock pinch hit and strike out on 3 pitches because he’s never seen a curveball.
Instead, I have decided to take you on yet another virtual time travel. Rickey Henderson posed for Playgirl in July 1984, and I thought “gee, that was an interesting year in pop culture.” I was 9 years old and loved Michael Jackson. The biggest topic on the playground was,”would you fuck Madonna?” Of course, we were all virgins and wouldn’t know what to do with our peckers even if Madonna was a pedophile who was attracted to small town knuckleheads.
Have a look and listen. Maybe a few of these videos might shake loose a memory from your rotted cerebrum and you can experience a serious case of the deja vu’s. I love when that happens. It leaves me speechless and almost comatose for a few moments.
Prince’s version was actually the number 1 single, but since he is such a hard-on about his music, here is the Patti Smith version. I love her.
number 1 album.
top grossing movie.
Padres and Tigers in the World Series. Yuck.
Who could forget the George Orwell classic!
” Bonds is completely, undeniably 100 percent full of shit. He truly is. I no longer buy his love of baseball history any more than I buy the sanctity of his marriages or the purity of his blood stream. I was at Shea when the Giants came to New York a few weeks ago, and I had to laugh when hundreds of my media peers swarmed around him for comments. I understand why they were there, but it’s a waste of time. Nothing he says holds any meaning. He’ll say the sky is blue one second and red the next. He loves Dusty Baker, then he hates him. So on and so on. Bonds cares no more about baseball history than does my goldfish. He knows what Hank Aaron went through to hit 755 home runs, and he was more than happy to cheat, load up on steroids and HGH and surpass him. I’ve maintained some contacts, and I know of no one who’s actually happy that he’s breaking the record. It’s like I wrote in the book—Bonds has never treated people especially well, so there’s very little loyalty for the man. Do you root for someone who refused to sign a ball for your kid? Who ignored you when you asked for advice? Who told you you couldn’t carry his jock? I still often think of Dan Peltier, the former Giant backup who brought his young son to the team’s Family Day. When Bonds asked the kid to name his favorite ballplayer, he said, “My dad!” To which Bonds replied, “Why? He never plays.”
(Jeff Pearlman, Bonds’ biographer)
The Frolic Room is squished into the armpit of Hollywood Boulevard that is the area between the Pantages Theater and the corner of the world-famous streets, Hollywood and Vine. It was reportedly one of the famous scribe Charles Bukowski‘s favorite places to drink. I like to go there because it’s a few blocks away from where the tourists hang out, and it exudes the seedier and more retro-glam side of Hollywood that only a denizen of the City of Angels can appreciate.
Gaylord is my favorite bar-tender of the joint, and the separate syllables of his name correctly describe his sexual orientation and demeanor. G. is a bit on the larger side and is known in the gay community as a “bear.” I’m enjoying a whiskey soda and the Dodgers are playing a mid afternoon get-away game on the tube. There are only a couple of patrons; two sauced frat boys listening to Van Halen on the juke box. I can tell G. is bored.
“Yeah….gay baseball player… died of AIDS, what about him?”
“You know the Dodgers traded him because he was fucking Tommy Lasorda’s son?”
After some research, this turned out to be somewhat true. He was a close friend of Tom Jr. who died of AIDS in 1991. Dodgers GM Al Campanis had offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if the talented outfielder and out of the closet gay man would get married. He was eventually traded to the Oakland A’s because of his refusal.
“Sad story…he was a true visionary…or maybe he didn’t give a shit and just wanted to be himself.”
“I just thought about it a little more because of all the gay this and gay that in sports these days.”
I throw another five spot on the counter, and after a short silence, another drink is placed in front of me. G. gives me a double because I’m such a great tipper. I pound half of it and turn again to laugh at the frat boys as I’m crunching the ice.
“Yep. It’s a damn shame, but what’re you gonna do,” I say.
At that moment a man by the name of “Tip” Rosenberg walks in. I have doubts about the name Tip, but he can bullshit with the best of them, and always seemed to be good conversation. Tip was an agent who flashed the old-time world of show business; he had a gold cigarette lighter, fancy sunglasses and expensive suits. Mind you, these artifacts were impressive in the late 70′s, yet my knack for the retro look made me an obvious sucker for this weirdo.
“What’s the word, Tip?”
“Scripts. It seems to be the place where they spend the least money! If you have a good story and provide good dialogue the audience is happy….am I wrong?”
“Well how in the hell can you explain Transformers and Avatar then?”
Rosenberg had no idea what I was talking about. Him and the Bear start to reminisce about the gay scene of the 70′s.
“We were ALL beautiful….we were in our 20′s….” etc.
I smile at these lavish conversations. I love and adore the freedom and juevos these gentlemen had to have just to be themselves. I am brightened and enlightened as I take the staircase two stories down into the subway.
Just another face amongst the faces.
GLENN BURKE R.I.P. ALWAYS AN OAKLAND ATHLETIC, AND ALWAYS A PIONEER.
Hello everyone! I thought I’d take you on a virtual time travel…to 1953! The Athletics were residing in their original home, Philadelphia at the time and finished in 7th place in the American League with an embarrassing 59 wins and 95 losses. This was to be their second to last season in that city before moving to Kansas City in 1955. Outfielder Gus Zernial had an amazing 42 home runs with 108 R.B.I.s that season, but unfortunately the Athletics drew only 362,000 paying customers, all but assuring their move two years later.
Some of the popular novels at the time were Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451″ and J.D. Salinger’s “4 Stories,” other notables were C.S. Lewis, William Burroughs, James Baldwin, Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie.
Peter Pan was the top grossing movie.
“The song from Moulin Rouge” by Percy Faith was the number one single.
Jackie Gleason had the top album.
The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series for the 2nd year in a row…this was their 6th straight World Series title.
Bob Hope and the first televised Academy Awards.
At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner.
The 1981 Topps baseball card isn’t a particularly exciting visual affair. The most prominent feature of the card front is the ball cap that’s at the bottom of the card. Player photos have a color outline that gives way to a thin white border with the Topps logo placed in a small baseball in the right corner. Of course, it’s just a baseball card. Most people see them as worthless pieces of cardboard for children. I always get a kick out of people who say, “well, where’s the art in that?” Despite the term “art” being static and self-appointed to each individual, I believe if you have an iota of intelligence and an active imagination, you can find art and emotion in ANYTHING.
Jeff Jones had a rather unremarkable career with the Oakland Athletics, playing 5 seasons and ending with a 9-9 record. There is nothing remarkable about this card from a baseball standpoint, (beside the fact that it’s an Athletic) but what really struck me was the marvelous blue background; reminding me of Yves Klines’ painting “IKB 191.” (right) This color makes me feel a myriad of emotions: the lapis lazuli reminding me of my Catholic school upbringing (Mary’s robes were almost always painted this color because of the brilliance of it; the stone also was semi-precious making it a “must have” for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque period.) and the time in fourth grade David K. told me not to swallow the “Body of Christ,” but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect it. (In retrospect, I have no idea why this would be interesting.) I eventually brought the specimen back to the pew only to drop the now mushy wafer on the ground because of haste and overall blood rushing to the brain nervousness. Some busy-body ratted me out, and the congregation was stopped as I was dragged to the front of the altar and berated by the priest in a back room. (At least that’s ALL he did. wakka wakka!) There was a closet full of priest robes and between thoughts of the robes looking like Batman’s closet and me getting my ass kicked by my parents, I was just simply embarrassed. Nothing was said to my parents in the end, and I came out of the situation relatively unscathed….. ah, the life of a day dreamer…and the thoughts keep crashing into the shore as one wave leads to another.
P.S. thank you Jeff Jones 1981 Topps.