Gene Tenace, the 1972 World Series and the crazy guy.
By Gene Tenace
“Well, if you gotta go, Gene, at least it will be on national television.”–Reggie Jackson
In the 1972 World Series (against the Cincinnati Reds) we end up winning Game 2 and I’m still in this extremely relaxed state. The guys are lightly celebrating the victory. I get in the clubhouse and Dick Williams pulls me away from all these writers who are interviewing me. We go into his office and there’s these two guys in dark blue suits.
“What’s going on,” I ask.
“Geno, somebody wants to shoot you,” Dick said, matter-of-factly as he closed the door.
“Shoot me,” I said, with half a laugh, “What did you mean shoot me?”
The men turn out to be FBI agents. One of them goes into this story that a woman on a concession line early in Game 2 at Riverfront Stadium stood behind this man who was saying to no one in particular, “If that guy on Oakland hits another homer, I’m gonna put a bullet in his head as he rounds third base.” A couple of people around him laughed it off, but this one woman went to an usher who grabbed security and a police officer. They found the guy, got him out of the line and sure enough he had a .22 in one pocket (loaded, too) and bottle of bourbon in the other. They kept all this commotion away from me until the game was over. From that point on, I was battery mates with the FBI for the rest of the series. I had to travel with the FBI – I didn’t even get to go with the team anymore. Riding in unmarked, bullet-proof cars, I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of cool. They just followed me all over. Leaving ballparks from exits unknown to the general public. 24-hour surveillance. FBI agents guarding my hotel room door. Treating me like a rock star, but it was too much, I’m just trying to win a world series and some lunatic was out there wanting to pop a cap in me. Yeah sure, they caught the guy, but they still went through precautionary measures. Who knows if he was working with someone else. Sounds crazy, but you never know. Funny ending to this story. 10 years later, I’m with the Cardinals, going back to the series in ’82 against the Milwaukee Brewers, guess who I get a letter from? “Mr. Tenace, I’m so sorry what I put you through. It was a bad time in my life. In and out of jail, broke. Please forgive me.” How about that? He was apologizing. Fine, I guess, but I couldn’t believe, 10 years later, this guy’s still got me on his mind? Are you kidding me?
We ended winning (game 7) 3-2. I was named the MVP of the series. NBC broadcast the games and their owner, RCA sent me this enormous home unit entertainment center as part of my award. When the delivery men carrying this thing got to my house, man, this sucker was so big it took like four guys to carry the thing off the truck. Had to get the neighbors to come over and help me get it in the house. We open it in my den and sure enough it had a nice, big television screen and eight-track tape player in it, too. Got to hear my Elvis and Frank Sinatra music in stereo. Lots of Country & Western also played on that hifi for many years.
That night in the offseason, my wife went to sleep early and I tucked in the kids in bed. Everyone was excited about the new piece of cool furniture. I was excited about finally having some peace and quiet at last.
I cracked open a beer, sat back on my recliner and enjoyed my new hifi, just the three of us. Elvis, The King. Frank, The Chairman. Most importantly, the memory of my 1972 Oakland A’s teammates.