“I went to three Royals games this year, but when I go there I come home and I dream about it for two weeks. And my dream is crazy. It’s that I am going to pitch, but I can’t find my hat or my glove and that I lost one of my shoes. I never throw a ball in a dream. I went to see a shrink about it, and that dream was defined to mean that I left the game before I was mentally prepared. I left because of an injury, rather than for a lack of ability. It’s a dream of frustration.” –Lew Krausse
I was saddened to hear of Lew Krausse dying last week, and it gave me the initiative to look into the ol’ cigar box to retrieve a creased and beat-up autographed 1969 baseball card of the legendary twirler. Lew had played and retired long before I was born, but I had read about and enjoyed his exploits in the various books published about Charlie Finley’s Kansas City/Oakland A’s. In another random and very odd twist, I was invited by an unnamed source in the Athletics organization (send me more free stuff!) to watch his Livestream funeral service (Feb. 24) on Vimeo. I’m not sure if I’ll partake in that quite yet, but it would be nice to honor the man in his final send-off.
Here are some facts about the pitcher:
–Lew was one of the first “bonus babies” in pro sports, signing at that time for a record $125,000 bonus by A’s owner, Charley Finley.
— pitched a 3 hit shutout against the LA Angels in his ML debut at the age of 18. (!!!)
— A legendary drinker who would give Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle a run for their money, Lew shot off a handgun from the window of his hotel room in KC and kicked down a hotel room door in Anaheim.
— Starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s in their inaugural game in 1969, and also did the same for the first Milwaukee Brewers game in history.
For anyone interested, you can watch Lew pitch 3 innings of relief against the Red Sox in 1969 on Youtube. (relieving Jim Nash and earning the save. Reggie Jackson also hits a homer in this game.)
And In an added bonus, Lew also singles off the Green Monster with Yaz taking the carom and holding the runner. Link: A’s/Red Sox 6/15/1969.
“There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson.” —Darold Knowles, Oakland A’s, 1973
Once a year on the 4th of July weekend, the world focuses its curious attention on the freak show known as Coney Island for the formerly Japanese-Dominated, highly anticipated athletic event known as Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Half-drunken crowds watch with glee and mouth-foaming fervor as contestants literally cram voluminous amounts of the mystery food down their throats like a starving 2-year-old child to the tune of a 10,000 dollar prize and accolades that only a B-movie actor or 3rd rate hip hop artist could receive.
On a whimsy, I attended this event with my then bikini-clad girlfriend in the summer of 2006. She had short blond hair akin to cliche-80’s-movie–ruskieBrigitte Nielsen of Rocky 3 fame, and turned her nose up at the event. And I, like much of the crowd, was pleasantly buzzed and was absolutely tranquilized by the spectacle. This prototypical American shit-show was a much more desirable choice than loitering on a dusty and windy East Coast beach while old, perverted chess players eyeballed the thin, blonde California Girl. Ever the narcissist, she had been turning heads and inheriting carnal thoughts since she was a pre-teen princess growing up in a leafy-green small town tucked away in the north side of the Golden State. Soon thereafter, our relationship inevitably passed from this world as painlessly and quietly as a good death.
And in my hazy state on that sunny New York day, I started wondering how eating hot dogs was a gluttonous spectacle, and “being” one in the baseball world was to be the same: an all-encompassing, excessive consuming force who craves attention, and Reggie Jackson certainly was emblematic of this. The parallels were astounding–similar to the hot dog eating affair, New Yorkers voraciously consumed gossip newspapers, amassing some sort of love/hate affair with controversial NY Yankee Jackson in a similar manner–the “grotesque” that lovingly had a sprinkle of S&M around the edges. Pure, unadulterated spectacle display for a boorish native culture that prides itself on vulgar personality and shoving mass quantities of filthy odds and ends down its own throat for the sake of a story and cheap titillation. A sort of Coney Island of the viscera.
Epstein, in the locker room after winning the 1972 World Series, wearing his prized “Marshamallow Disco” t-shirt. (disco light effects added by the editor for comedic effect.)
It is a cold December night in 1972, and I am with Mike Epstein and his wife. We are exiting his cherry-red Ford Thunderbird and about to enter the Marshmallow Disco. The “Marshmallow” as it is called is in a dingy, industrial block of Manhattan. There are a group of homeless folks staring at us as we exit the car–a unwordly group with distorted faces that would make one either question their drug intake or the group’s relativity to the planet Earth. I feel safe as I am with a man who has a hulking presence and once kicked the shit out of Reggie Jackson in the locker room. Some would say that this dust-up has even overshadowed Mike’s baseball oeuvre. A drunk Puerto Rican woman approaches Mike and his wife shouts,
“Look, bimbo, he’s with me.”
The “bimbo” skulks off in a fit of hysterics and Mike growls,”Look, man, I don’t have time to hassle with that shit. I got my old lady with me.”
Mike steers his wife in the general direction of the VIP door. There are smokers gathered, sitting on high school cafeteria scratched iron chairs–their legs crossed, casting appraising glances every which way with primal, reptilian eyes. You can hear the O’ Jays and Sly and the Family Stone bumping inside. There is American dissolution in the parking lot as American decadence flails away in a cocaine-induced dopamine explosion inside. The alcohol turning once happy groups into an imminent decent of after-hours grotesque buffoonery. A woman grabs a man on the way inside.
“Every damn time we fuck I gotta listen to your bullshit after we’ve finished. Why don’t you let me enjoy my afterglow for a change?”
Say what you want about Mr. Jackson and his brash attitude and high strikeout rates, yet without my grandfathers’ fondness for the man I would have never found my love for the game of baseball and the Oakland Athletics.
This page before you would have never existed.
To me Reggie was ALWAYS a legend, and a mystifying one at that since he was retiring just as I was learning to love and appreciate the game. He was a Ruthian figure; and honored by someone who I loved– which made me open my eyes to try to figure out just what made this guy so special.
When my grandfather died I watched from a distance, sadly, as his children argued and bickered over his possessions. I decided then, because of their behavior, that I didn’t need an earthly remembrance of this man who was the biggest father-figure in my life. A couple of months later my grandmother came to me and handed me an autographed Reggie Jackson ball. I knew it well as it had once had the most prominent spot in the case where he kept his baseball memorabilia. It was the gem of the collection.
“I saved this for you,” she said. “grandpa would have wanted you to have it.”
I love when the baseball existentialists come together to sing their anthems of praise about the serene rhythms and mystic qualities of the game. It gives me a warm feeling. And as much as I love and adore the game, sometimes I feel as if these are all illusions because of a time and an innocence that I miss and cherish — and that I’ll never see again.
I’m assuming the penis and cigarette has lowered the value quite dramatically. Perhaps done by a jilted Reds or Dodgers fan?
At 12 years old my interests were the same as your average kid from the 80’s era as I enjoyed playing with Star Wars toys with friends, re-creating scenes from Return of the Jedi and eating the latest sugary cereal concoction that hit the market. Seeing that we were boys and enjoyed rough-housing, there was also the random broken window from a baseball being batted which is decidedly why my friends and I began making balls with newspaper and duct tape– in retrospect this was a genius move as we couldn’t care less if we lost the ball and there were no more broken windows and the inevitable grounding and ass-tanning that came with it.
This was the year I went to my first Major League Baseball game which was on September 26, 1987. I know this because my Grandfather took me because it was “Reggie Jackson Day,” and Reggie being his all-time favorite player made this game matter-of-course. The Oakland Coliseum wasn’t the out-dated monstrosity that it has become today and back then you actually had a view of the Oakland hills behind the bleachers, a view akin to Dodger Stadium today. The details of the actual game have been blurred through time, yet I remember being disappointed that Reggie batted only once (on his day!) in a pinch hit role, popping out. After a bit of research what had once been in my mind’s-eye, indeed, the above date held true. Ol’ Reg had stepped in the box once–popping out with runners on second and third in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox and their new pig-tail “C” caps.
After the game Reggie was in a bad mood.
“I’m not into talking about how wonderful things are for me when we’ve lost four in a row,” he said. “I’m embarrassed.”
“If we had won, it would be different. But right now, my esteem is low. My self-importance is microscopic.”
The box-score is interesting to me as I remember my 12-year-old self wondering, “Who in the hell is Walt Weiss?” (Regular short-stop Alfredo Griffin must have been hurt or taking the day off) Weiss was in his third month in the league, and went on to win Rookie of the Year the next season. Long time Oakland A’s pitching coach Curt Young started the game, pitching 7 strong innings and giving up 1 run. (This wasn’t part of my memory, as the only one I remember is Reggie batting once and popping out which probably destroyed my belief in predestiny and prepared me for the heartbreak and disappointment of being an A’s fan for years to come) Overall, I don’t remember much as far as feelings or any other waxing “ball park details”, except the expansiveness of the field, my grandfathers chain-smoking of Marlboro “Reds”, and pissing in a trough for the first time. Yet, I must liken this experience to a crack head’s first hit as it led me a life-long obsession that still exists to this day.
PALM SPRINGS, March 23rd 1985 — Reggie Jackson and Brian Downing were involved in an altercation with an unidentified man following the Angels’ 8-1 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Indians at Tucson Friday. The incident took place in the parking lot at Hi Corbett Field as Jackson and Downing were preparing to return to the Angel training base at Mesa, Ariz. Jackson, reached by phone Friday night, said he was merely responding to the man’s belligerence by trying to restrain him. He said no punches were thrown and that the man ultimately apologized as he and Downing left in Downing’s car. Witnesses told the Arizona Daily Star that the man had heckled Jackson throughout the game and continued to do so in the parking lot. They said that while there were no punches, the heckler suffered a cut lip, apparently in the jostling near Downing’s car.
by Brody D-Bag (name changed to protect the “innocent.”)
My buddies and I took a trip to Palm Springs in 1985 to get away from our wives, kids, jobs and the everyday hustle and bustle. I was working in real estate at the time and had the persona of a world class douche-bag. (hey, it was the 80’s!) We had been partying voraciously all week and had all downed a few “hair of the dog” bloody marys that morning before Dave looked in the newspaper and found that the Angels were in town for Spring Training.
“I want to see that .220 hitting son of a bitch play!” Dave screamed as he buttoned his Hawaiian shirt.
I knew who he was talking about– Mr. Hot Dog himself, Reggie Jackson.
We all climbed in the car, eyes bloodshot and ready for some beers, sun and some good times. Of course, we parked ourselves in the right field bleachers and proceeded to heckle Jackson mercilessly, as only 10 year olds can. FINALLY in the 8th inning, he turned around and gave us the finger. It was a triumphant moment of immaturity.
After the game I approached Reggie in a drunken stupor in the parking lot and tried to shake his hand.
“You and your friends were the assholes in the bleachers!” he said as he grabbed my wrists and shoved me to the ground.
Jackson then jumped in fellow player Brian Downing’s car and they sped off. It was later reported that I was shoving kids and offered him cocaine…in Spanish. I am not proud of my actions and have always regretted every moment, but that statement simply wasn’t true.
I don’t even speak Spanish.
Reggie Jackson had always gotten along with Bill North, and publicly praised the young center fielder several times for his fielding prowess. Sometime in mid-April, however, Bill failed to run hard to first on a routine ground-out. When he returned to the bench, Reggie harshly berated him in front of his teammates for not hustling. The seeds of The Fight were sown.
“He had crossed me, in some way, a couple of times,” Bill recalls without going into detail. “I tried to set him up for a month.” He gave Reggie the silent treatment despite Jackson’s torrid start, and refused to talk to him on or off the field. He would not congratulate Reggie after home runs. During this period, North lifted his average above .200, swiped seventeen bases in the month of May alone, and played exceptional defense. By the day of The Fight, he was batting .228 and leading the league in stolen bases. Jackson remained hot, batting .390 with a league-leading 15 home runs, and the A’s were first in the A.L. West.
Finally, prior to a night game on June 5, in the locker room at Tiger Stadium, Bill made a remark that infuriated Reggie and ignited the brawl. The superstar, who was not yet dressed for the game, charged North and the two wrestled on the floor, in full view of teammates and sportswriters. Catcher Ray Fosse, pitcher Vida Blue and others were able to separate the two, only to have the combatants tangle again a few minutes later. “It wasn’t a regular clubhouse fight,” said an A’s teammate anonymously. “There was no backing off. They went at it hot and heavy — twice.”When the dust settled, the consensus was that North had won the fight. Jackson ended up with a bruised shoulder and battered ego. Fosse suffered a separated cervical disk in the melee and was out of action until late in the season. Both North and Jackson played against the Tigers that night. Bill went 2 for 3 with a double, run scored and RBI while Reggie went 0 for 4. For the rest of June, the powerful right fielder batted .197 with just three doubles, no home runs and four RBI.
Bill looks back upon the incident with much more humility than braggadocio. “I had extracted my ounce of retribution,” Bill admits, but believes the path chosen to settle their score was from youthful ignorance. The Fight and its aftermath enabled Bill and Reggie to move forward as teammates with renewed respect for each other. Today, North says, they maintain a genuine friendship. Reggie Jackson wrote this about Bill in his autobiography: “North was a feisty little guy with a hair-trigger temper, and one of the reasons he was such a winner on the field was because he had a lot of piss and vinegar in him.”
When Charles Finley brought the A’s to Oakland, he hired Joe DiMaggio as Executive Vice President, coach, and public relations man. Apparently, Joe set down some firm ground rules before coming on board with Finley. Specifically, he refused to work the baselines; reserved the right to decline invitations to banquets, supermarket openings, and other functions he did not wish to attend; and wanted most of his goodwill time to be spent at the park so his free time would be left open. DiMaggio parted on good terms, explaining he wanted more time to golf and fish.
Many people downplay DiMaggios’ role as more of typical Finley antics, a claim which no doubt is partly true. However, as one would imagine, a presence such as DiMaggios’ does not go unnoticed. It was DiMaggio who taught Joe Rudi to turn his back on a fly ball, resulting in one of the most famous defensive plays in World Series history.
DiMaggio worked an hour every day with the young Reggie Jackson, teaching him how to make contact. To quote DiMaggio; “Reggie is still green as grass, we’ve just got to bring his talents to the surface. They’re all there, no question.”
In 1967 a young Sal Bando changed his batting crouch which resulted in a .192 batting average in 47 games, an injury, and a demotion to single-A Vancouver. Joe D. provided the tip which pulled the future star out of his struggles. “I was getting jammed on everything, then Joe D. told me to close up my stance,” said Captain Sal who anchored the championship A’s at third base from 1968 to 1976.
DiMaggio witnessed one of the proudest moments in Oakland Athletics history. After Catfish Hunter threw his famous perfect game, on May 8, 1968, DiMaggio was asked about the performance. “Just two words,” he said, “A masterpiece.” Joe also experienced the early days of the color uniforms which were uncommon in baseball at the time. Add to this the colors, Kelly Green and California Gold, and one can understand why DiMaggio took some ribbing from fans.
Few people, however, remember the most famous move which DiMaggio made while with the A’s.
Before the start of the 1968 season, while things were tumultuous in preparation for the A’s first season in Oakland, DiMaggio was wandering around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum checking out the new facility and the views it had to offer when he noticed that the view of home plate was obscured from view in portions of the upper deck. Oakland officials fixed the problem by moving the infield further out from the backstop; a move which resulted in the largest foul territory in the Major Leagues, and which pleases pitchers and frustrates hitters to this day.
Rollie Fingers has the most famous mustache in baseball history…although he wasn’t the trend setter.
The following is an excerpt from Bruce Markusen’s amazing and vital book, “A baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s.
Reggie Jackson reported to spring training in 1972 replete with a fully grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during the 1971 American League Championship Series. To the surprise of his teammates, Jackson had used part of his off-season to allow the mustache reach a fuller bloom. In addition, Jackson bragged to teammates that he would not only wear the mustache, possibly a full beard, come Opening Day.
Wally Schang in 1914
Such pronouncements would have hardly created a ripple in later years, when players would freely make bold fashion statements with mustaches and goatees, and routinely wear previously disdained accessories like earrings. But this was 1972, still a conservative time within the sport, in stark contrast to the rebellious attitudes of younger generations throughout the country. Given that no major league player had been documented wearing a mustache in the regular season since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s in 1914, Jackson’s pronouncements made major news in 1972.
In the post Schang era, several players had donned mustaches during spring training, yet, in each case the player had shaved off the mustache by Opening Day, either by his own volition or because of a mandate from the team. After all, there existed an unwritten rule within the conservative sport, one that strongly frowned upon facial hair. In addition, several teams had more recently instituted their own formal policies (most notably the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960’s), policies that forbade their players from sporting facial hair.
Baseball’s conservative grooming standards , which had been in place for over 50 years, were now being threatened by one of the game’s most visible players. Not surprisingly, Jackson’s mustachioed look quickly garnered the attention of owner Charlie O. Finley and manager Dick Williams. “The story as I remember it,” says outfielder Mike Hegan, “was that Reggie came into spring training…with a mustache, and Charlie didn’t like it. So he told Dick to tell Reggie to shave it off. And Dick told Reggie to shave it off, and Reggie told Dick what to do. This got to be a real sticking point, and so I guess Charlie and Dick had a meeting and they said ‘well, Reggie’s an individual so maybe we can try some reverse psychology here.’ Charlie told a few other guys to start growing a mustache. Then (Finley figured that if) a couple of other guys did it, Reggie would shave his off, and you know, everything would be OK.
Reggie and Charlie O.
According to Sal Bando, Finley wanted to avoid having a direct confrontation with Jackson over the mustache. For one of the few times in his tenure as the A’s owner, Finley showed a preference for a subtle, more indirect approach. “Finley, to my knowledge,”says Bando, “did not want to go tell Reggie to shave it. So he thought it would be better to have us all grow mustaches. That way Reggie wouldn’t be an ‘individual’ anymore.”
Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles and Bob Locker followed Reggie’s lead, each sprouting their own mustache. Instead of making Jackson feel less individualistic, thus prompting him to adopt his previously clean-shaven look, the strategy had a reverse and unexpected affect on Charles Finley.
“Well, as it turned out, guys started growin’ ’em, and Charlie began to like it,” says Mike Hegan in recalling the origins of baseball’s “Mustache Gang.” Finley offered a cash incentive to any player who had successfully grown a mustache by Father’s Day. “So then we all had to grow mustaches,” says Hegan, “and that’s how all that started.” By the time we got to the (regular) season, almost everybody had mustaches.” Even the manager, Dick Williams, known for his military brush-cut and clan shaven look during his days in Boston, would join the facial brigade by growing a patchy, scraggly mustache of his own. Baseball’s long standing hairless trend had officially come to an end.
“Of course, it’s possible to love a human being–if you don’t know them too well.” ― Charles Bukowski
by Mitch Ferrer
It was the spring of 1980 and my beloved A’s had brought in Billy Martin to manage this hapless team. Why he took the job I don’t really know, I guess he just had nothing better to do. A dearth of other offers was probably a big factor. I guess Billy lived to manage. But honestly, to go from the New York Yankees with Willie Randolph, Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, et al to a team with guys with the names… Klutts, Gross, and Cox, well lets just say; Could there be a farther fall from grace? But hey, Martin was a hometown boy, having graduated from Berkeley High, so I guess he figured we had to love him. And we did.
It was that spring that a reporter asked Martin if he thought the A’s could win the division. I don’t remember who that reporter was, but he must have been one sarcastic smart-ass. To Billy’s credit, he replied “I don’t know if we can win the division, but I know we will finish above the Angels.” Now, for those of you who don’t remember, this was the “Gene Autry, I wanna win a championship before I die and you can’t take with you, Angels”. Free Agency jumped off in a big way in 1976 and Autry took full advantage, signing Joe Rudy, Bobby Grich and Don Baylor (1979 MVP) that year. This team had won the Western Division the previous year, 34 games ahead of the last-place A’s.
Well, it was April 20th 1980, and my childhood buddy, Jim and I took a trip to the Coliseum to check out what this “Billy Ball” thing was all about. And what a day of Baseball we had in store… a twi-night doubleheader against the Angels! Up to this point, Billy had been good on his word. The A’s were 7 – 3 while the Angles were 4 – 5. But come on? Its April! Ya had to figure this was like Jim Bouton’s line about how good he did playing against other kids until the big kids got out of school. Yep, the big kids had come to the Coliseum, and all we could do was hope for the best. But it was all good, Jim and I were going to see a real good team, the reigning American League West Division Champion, the California Angels.
And then it happened…Game one has Matt Keough v. Chris Knapp. Other than a leadoff walk by Al Cowens, the Angles go down quietly in the first. Then the A’s come up. Rickey Henderson grounds out to lead off (yea, we were disappointed) but Dwayne Murphy then hits a Double to right field past Dan Ford followed by another double to right by Dave Revering. Then Wayne Gross come up. Now, at this point, Dan Ford is having a bad day. As if the two doubles hit his way are not bad enough, he dropped an easy pop up in foul territory. Jim and I were right there behind the first base dugout and either one of us could have made that play. It wasn’t like he had to dive or anything. He just settled under it and it popped out of his glove. We in the stands could not let that go… the common refrain was “YOU SUCK”, clever, I know. Well, so Gross hits a pop up to Dan Ford… he just settled under it and the ball popped out of his glove and fell to the turf. Revering scores from second, Gross ends up at second. This was the last we would see of Dan Ford for the day. I guess Jim Fregosi got pissed off because he yanked Ford off the field. Well, by the third inning the A’s have scored 6 runs. Knapp lasts 2 2/3 innings and Keough pitches a complete game.
Now comes game two… Steve McCatty v. the Frank Tanana. Sure, Tanana had an off-year in 1979, but from 1975 to 1978 he averaged 17 wins, had struck out 872 batters and had an ERA of 2.78. Yea, we were looking at a split here. But low and behold, Tanana doesn’t make it out of the third inning. The A’s start beating Tanana like a red-headed stepchild. The third goes… error, bunt single, triple (Henderson!), single, double, double… and that’s when it dawns on us. The A’s had made the Angels look like shit. And the whole crowd, in a moment of group consciousness, expresses this realization by chanting…ANGELS SUCK…ANGELS SUCK… ANGELS SUCK…
The A’s didn’t win the division that year, that would come the next year, but Billy Martin was good to his word and the A’s finished above the Angels. Billy Ball electrified the Coliseum. The A’s were the A’s again with their brash aggressive style of play. It was fun while it lasted, but alas, it all crashed in 1982 and Billy was outta Oakland. But it seemed Billy Martin was a tortured soul who crashed and burned on a regular basis. Billy Martin drank regularly, and regularly drank to excess. He was a fighter, with players, umpires, management and bar patrons. He was a liar; he said he didn’t hit the marshmallow salesman, then said he did, said he did not call Steinbrenner a liar, then later admitted he did. Billy Martin was a cheater; he had his pitchers throw a spitter, he cheated on his wife. What I do know is that he was responsible for the most memorable moment I ever experienced at the ballpark and I’ll always love him for it.