Coliseum exit casts ‘sad’ pall as Athletics honor 1974 World Series three-peat

OAKLAND – Rollie Fingers strode to the Coliseum’s pitching mound Sunday and relived throwing the final pitch that touched off the A’s third straight World Series celebration 50 years ago.

“Next thing I know, I’ve got 24 guys jumping all over my ass,” Fingers recalled to the A’s biggest home crowd yet (18,491) for this final season in Oakland. “It’s good when you’ve got guys jumping on you, because it means you did something right.”

The A’s certainly did baseball right a half-century ago, and they pulled off an impressive reunion Sunday that drew 11 former players and multiple generations of their families for a nostalgic pregame ceremony.

Yet it was a bittersweet moment, beyond the A’s ensuing 3-0 defeat to the Minnesota Twins.

Their 1974, three-peat champions came not only to say hello again to their teammates and loyal fans, but also to say goodbye to the stadium and city the A’s have called home since 1968.

“It’s going to be sad to see it go. I’m sure a lot of Oakland fans don’t want to see it go,” Fingers said in an exclusive interview with this news organization before the game. “They should have built a ballpark right next door here in the parking lot four or five years ago and they wouldn’t have this problem.”

Owner John Fisher plans to uproot the franchise and relocate it the next three seasons in Sacramento before moving into a planned, $1.5 billion stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Here’s the irony, look what the city of Oakland has lost: They lost the Raiders, lost the Warriors,” said Herb Washington, a designated runner on that ’74 team. “If anything, you hold onto a baseball team. Here’s your three strikes. You’re out. How can that happen, when you’ve had such a long period of time to secure the A’s here? It’s really sad.”

“The park, to me, is still a great looking park,” outfielder Joe Rudi said. “If only they could pick up the whole thing and move it. There used to have a military base out in Pleasanton (Camp Parks in Dublin). They should have tried to buy that because that would have been a perfect place.”

Rudi reflected on making his Coliseum debut in 1968 the same game Catfish Hunter threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. “I’m playing left field, never been in this ballpark in my life, and I’m praying I don’t screw it up,” Rudi recalled.

He didn’t. As for the A’s relocation plans, Rudi said: “Society’s changed. The neighborhoods are not as safe as they were back then. We used to come in all the time off (Interstate) 580 and come down through East 14th and we never worried about getting mugged. That’s how it was in the ’60s and ’70s. Unfortunately, it happens to a lot of parks. They become outdated.”

A Ford Thunderbird caravan delivered alumni to Sunday’s pregame ceremony: Fingers, Rudi, Washington, Bert Campaneris, Gene Tenace, Dick Green, Billy North, Ted Kubiak, Blue Moon Odom, Dave Hamilton, Darold Knowles, and Paul Finley, son of former-A’s owner Charlie Finley. Honored in memoriam on the Coliseum’s video boards were 10 players and five coaches, with the crowd applauding loudest for the late Hunter, Sal Bando, Claudell Washington, Ray Fosse and Vida Blue.

The alumni present gathered for a photo with the 1974 World Series trophy that Fingers brought onto the field, 50 years after he won World Series MVP honors for his Hall of Fame brilliance against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fingers, 77, lives in Las Vegas and said the Tropicana Hotel’s demolition is going slow on the A’s future stadium site. “I think they’re going to be there, it’s just going to take a while,” Fingers said. “I don’t know what is going to happen if they go to Sacrmanteo and win a World Series. We’ll see what happens.”

Manager Mark Kotsay said of ex-players’ encouragement: “Obviously they know what we’re going through, they follow us, which is awesome, and they are definitely supportive of how things are going right now.”


Reggie Jackson was not in attendance while excitedly expecting the birth of his third grandchild, according to Rudi, who spoke with him Sunday morning. Three days earlier, Jackson appeared on Fox Sports’ pregame show in Birmingham, Alabama (before the Giants’ loss to the Cardinals) and delivered powerful words about the racism he faced playing there. “It was dead on,” Rude said of Jackson’s alarming descriptions. “Those poor kids, the minority kids playing then, they had to really be careful what they were doing.”

Rudi and his wife, Sharon, were among those Jackson thanked for their support as he began his career with the Birmingham A’s in 1967, saying: “I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for about a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn our apartment complex down unless I got out.” Jackson is now a Houston Astros executive and was at the Coliseum last month when they visited.

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Lawrence Butler’s first-pitch single to right field broke up Pablo Lopez’s perfect-game bid with two outs in the sixth. Lopez struck out 14 over eight shutout innings. He allowed just one other hit (Miguel Andujar single off the left-field wall) and one walk (Zack Gelof after an 0-2 count).. … Middle infielder Jordan Groshans was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for infielder J.D. Davis and cash considerations; Davis was designated for assignment Tuesday. Kotsay expects Grohan, a 2018 first-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, to start at shortstop for Double-A Midland. … Sunday’s first two outs came in dramatic fashion: Andjuar robbed Royce Lewis of a home run at the wall, then threw out (on the fly) Manuel Margot trying to take third. … Byron Buxton put the Twins up 1-0 in the second on a 432-foot home run into the left-field bleachers. Buxton’s RBI double in the seventh made it 2-0 and chased A’s starter Hogan Harris. … Third baseman Abraham Toro (Grade I hamstring strain) is expected to miss a couple of weeks. … Pitcher Dany Jimenez (Grade II oblique strain) went on the 15-day injured list after getting hurt on his third warmup pitch Saturday. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Aaron Brooks was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

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