Who are these guys? - A's in the 70'sby FrankieD
When I first got word that Oakland was about to get a Major League Baseball team it was the summer of 1967. This was always a special summer for me, and not just for the reasons for which it's best known -- the Summer of Love; though, I did happen to have my first school crush the previous school year when I was in the third grade. I can remember having a ton of fun all summer long. Sometime in July of '67, I had heard that the Kansas City Athletics were moving to Oakland, and they would be here the following spring. When I thumbed through my brother's stack of baseball cards, I saw the Athletics players with these old school uniforms and strange names, like Catfish Hunter and Blue Moon Odom. I was a kid who was being brought up as a Giants and National League fan, like every other Bay Area kid in the 1960s. I wasn't too excited about an American League team coming and I distinctly remember one of my older brothers saying, "Well, at least this way we can finally see the Yankees."
So, in the spring of 1968, this American league team with strange sleeveless uniforms, white shoes, mustaches, and a mule for a mascot started playing baseball in Oakland. I went to my first game that summer when the team gifted tickets to local churches and recreation centers to take busloads of kids to games. They threw us out in the bleachers where you were denied full access to the rest of the stadium. This being my first time in the new Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, I had to see the whole place. So I spent the first inning plotting how I would sneak into the reserved section, which I succeeded in doing, as did my brothers and friends.
The following year, as the '60s were coming to an end, we attended more games, getting more familiar with the players and with the American League. We grew very fond of the Coliseum. In 1971, the A's won the American League West, and the Giants also won their division that year. But both teams lost the pennant. Ironically, both the Niners and Raiders would make it to the NFC and AFC Championship games that year, with both teams also losing.
The A's were slowly becoming pretty entrenched in the hearts of East Bay fans, including my grandmother who had always been a die-hard Giants fan. But she took a real liking to the A's and their cast of colorful players, along with those bright "Kelly-green-and pot-of-gold" uniforms. They pretty much dressed like the on-field version of their owner, Charlie O. Finley; wearing gaudy polyester, white shoes, long hair, and attitude. The rest of baseball, save the Yankees and Dodgers, began to the mimic these wild color schemes and uniform designs throughout the 1970s. For better or worse, the A's started this trend, which was a sign of the times.
At the start of the '72 season, I distinctly remember completely shifting my allegiances from the Giants to the A's. Willie Mays returned to New York to join the Mets early in the season and I just didn't feel the connection with the Giants that I had in earlier years. After the '71 season, the Giants had some really abysmal teams. Meanwhile, these A's were capturing our hearts. Of course, winning the 1972 World Series didn't hurt much. The series against the Reds went a full seven games and everyone expected the Big Red Machine to wipe the field with the A's, but we know how that story ended. After that series, we had little doubt about the caliber of this team.
The following year I was lucky enough to attend the '73 World Series against the Mets, which also went 7 games. I attended all four World Series games in Oakland, sitting in the bleachers with classmates for a total cost of $20. That's right - just 5 bucks for a World Series ticket. It was Willie Mays' final appearance as a player, and he was a mere shadow of his once greatness. But the Coliseum was filled with signs saying goodbye, such as, "We Love Mays and the A's." Following the Game 7 victory, they let us storm the field like a college football game ending. Don't try that now.
In the early '70s, we went into the post season expecting nothing but success, and the team delivered. My whole high school experience each year involved the A's as champions at some level. But following the '74 season, Mr. Finley allowed Catfish Hunter to get away to the Yankees, and the A's couldn't make it past Boston in the '75 playoffs. Mr. Finley slowly started to dismantle the championship team, trading or selling stars such as Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue. As the team was slowly dismantled, the A's began to fall into mediocrity.
In the late '70s, the team's on-field performance further slipped and so did attendance. Also, there were all kinds of rumors of Mr. Finley selling the team and them moving to Denver. One rumor even had him swapping ownership with the then-owner of the Chicago White Sox. In 1980, the team would be sold. Fortunately, it was to a local new owner, Mr. Walter J. Haas of Levi-Strauss fame. But that's a whole other chapter of Oakland baseball history.