Posted by keithosaunders on October 16, 2011
I played an early morning gig the other day — like 8AM early. How strange to wake up for a gig to find that it was still pitch black outside, not to mention leaving the gig in broad daylight — it’s the reverse of how it usually works.
The gig was for a non-profit corporation that had a breakfast affair and wanted music. As usual the band was talking sports before the gig. With the playoffs ongoing, baseball was the subject of the day. The drummer asked if we remembered that the AL had a designated runner for two years. The sax player and I knew that this wasn’t the case — that it was an innovation that Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, wanted to implement.
A little while later the drummer emailed this info:
1974. Herb Washington of the Oakland Athletics is known as the only “Designated Runner” in Baseball history. As a world class sprinter who broke various sprinting records while in College at Michigan State University he caught the attention of Oakland’s free spirited owner Charlie Finley. He was able to convince Washington to take the role of Designated Runner even though he had no Baseball prior experience. He spent the entire 1974 season and 1 month of the 1975 season with the A’s where he had zero at-bats or time playing the field in the 105 games he appeared in. With that said, Washington still accomplished to steal 31 bases, score 33 runs, and win a World Series ring in his short career. After being released by the A’s he remained in professional sports for 2 additional years as a competitive sprinter in Track & Field.
Funny thing, though. Later that night I was playing a gig with a bass player who is an avid sports fan and who has lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years. He remembered Washington and he told me that, in fact, he was a terrible base runner. He got picked off many times, got terrible leads, and made a myriad of mistakes on the bases.
Kind of funny, but it brings out the point that there actually is a skill to running, and that it is not merely speed that steals bases. It serves to illustrate how great players like Lou Brock, Tim Raines, and of course, Rickey Henderson were.
One of the things I love about living in the Bay Area, after having been in New York for so long, is hearing the inside dope about the players and teams of yesteryear. Even though a hard-core sports fan like myself is aware of those teams and players, there is nothing like getting the first-hand, inside dope. I eat that stuff up!
Too bad the Tigers couldn’t pull out the ALCS. Now we’ll have to suffer through another Series of Bush sitting next to jowly Nolan Ryan. In the end the Tigers were a little too beat up, didn’t have the arms, and suffered from way too much Nelson Cruz.
I’m still hopeful that Milwaukee can pull it out at home, but I am steeling myself for another Series of delicate-genuis LaRussa, with his revolving door of pitchers. How does he get away with it? I only hope we see a 16 inning game with LaRussa forced to pitch Nick Punto when he runs out of relievers.