When Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley sold his team in 1980, he said, “No one loved owning a baseball team as much as me or was hated by so many in the game.”
Finley was bombastic, cheap, and a born showman. He once suggested MLB use orange baseballs, and he advocated for free substitution like exists in football, so he could insert a speed merchant to pinch-run throughout the game.
Finley may have seemed like a clown to some in baseball, but he was a winner. The former insurance salesman led his team to three consecutive titles in the 1970s. The Oakland A’s remain the last MLB team to “threepeat” as World Series champs.
But that’s the A’s for you: often laughingstocks, but better than you think they are, winning in their own inimitable style. Three times since the franchise relocated from Kansas City to Oakland, the A’s have produced a great dynasty. Members of each of those teams are sprinkled across this Kelly green-and-yellow all-time team.
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Oakland A’s All-Time Roster
Gene Tenace, Catcher, 1969-1976
The Oakland A’s still haven’t had a batter catcher than Tenace, who burst on the national scene in 1972 when he homered in his first two plate appearances in his first World Series game. That was 1972, the first of three straight titles for the team. Tenace was a sabermetric type of player well ahead of his time: He walked a lot, hit for power, and was adept at the three true outcomes — homers, walks, and strikeouts.
Honorable Mention: Terry Steinbach, Kurt Suzuki
Jason Giambi, First Base, 1995-2001, 2009
Oakland has a long history of long-haired, bushy-faced, wild-looking ballplayers. Giambi symbolized that more than any other ballplayer to wear the A’s uniform. He was also a beast at the plate. The lefty slugger hit 20-plus homers in six straight seasons for Oakland, and in 2000 he was named AL MVP when he blasted 43 home runs and drove in 137. He was second in MVP voting the next season.
Honorable Mention: Matt Olson
Mark Ellis, Second Base, 2002-2011
Second base has been a sore spot for the A’s for most of their time on the West Coast. Dick Green was famously a great gloveman who was a key part of the 1972-74 champions. Tony Phillips played all over the diamond, and was never much with the glove at second, but he could get on base as well as almost anyone.
But we’ll take Ellis for our all-time Oakland second sacker. He was one of the best defensive players at his position for a decade, and though he never won a Gold Glove, he should have. He hit as many as 19 homers in a season for the A’s. Few ever turned the double play better.
Honorable Mention: Dick Green, Tony Phillips
Bert Campaneris, Shortstop, 1964-1976
Who else could it be? Sure, Tejada has eye-popping hitting stats in his years with Oakland, but we know Miggy also liked to use PEDs. Even so, Campy is the clear choice. Many of his teammates insisted that Campaneris was the heart of those 1970s A’s teams that won five straight division titles and three championships. Quick as a cat, Campaneris led the league in steals six times, and topped 50 stolen bases seven times.
Honorable Mention: Miguel Tejada
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Sal Bando, Third Base, 1966-1976
The unquestioned clubhouse leader of the 1970s A’s, Bando was like a manager on the field. His manager, Dick Williams, said of Bando: “I never have to worry if he’ll make the right decision, and Sal is as tough as any player I’ve seen with a runner at third and less than two outs.”
Bando was second in MVP voting in 1971, fourth in 1973, and third in 1974. He finished in the top 10 in his league in Wins Above Replacement seven times. He’s vastly underrated and deserves Hall of Fame consideration.
Honorable Mention: Carney Lansford, Eric Chávez, Josh Donaldson
Rickey Henderson, Left Field, 1979-1984, 1989-1995, 1998
The greatest player in the history of the Oakland Athletics, Henderson is an all-time legend. He holds MLB records for stolen bases and runs scored. In 1982, he stole an incomprehensible 130 bags to set a league record. It was one of three times he topped the century mark with Oakland.
“Rickey Henderson was a run,” wrote baseball historian Bill James. No one in baseball history touched home plate more.
Honorable Mention: Joe Rudi
Rick Monday, Center Field, 1968-1971
The Athletics in Oakland have never had a long-term great center fielder. Monday’s numbers stand out as the best among the players who tended to appear at that position. The first overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft, Monday was a five-tooler. He had an even .800 OPS in four seasons with Oakland, good for a 133 OPS+, which ranks among the top 10 all-time in franchise history since the move to California.
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Murphy, Coco Crisp
Reggie Jackson, Right Field, 1967-1975, 1987
If Rickey was a run, then Reggie was an RBI. No one ever made more of a splash as a power hitter than Reggie, who in some ways invented the modern superstar. Unafraid to be himself in an era when Black ballplayers were still expected to be quiet and play ball, Reggie was larger than life. He also set trends: He made it OK to swing really hard and strike out, and when he reported to spring camp with a beard one season, he became the first big leaguer to wear facial hair since the 1930s. Finley loved it, offered to pay players $300 if they would not shave, and “The Mustache Gang” was born.
Honorable Mention: José Canseco, Josh Reddick
Mark McGwire, Designated Hitter, 1986-1997
Big Mac hit 363 homers for Oakland as part of the famed Bash Brothers with teammate (and drug supplier) José Canseco. He was a fearsome right-handed slugger immediately: crushing a rookie record 49 homers in 1987. He helped lead Oakland to their second dynasty — pennants from 1988-1990.
Honorable Mention: Matt Stairs
Vida Blue, Starting Pitcher, 1972-1979
For a few seasons, Vida Blue was practically unhittable. In his sixth MLB start, when the was just 20 years old, the southpaw from Louisiana pitched a one-hitter. Two starts later, Blue tossed a no-hitter. He won 24 games and fired eight shutouts in his first full season, earning both the Cy Young and MVP awards. He won 20 games three times for the flashy 1970s A’s, and ended up with 209 for his career that included recovery from drug addiction.
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Catfish Hunter, Starting Pitcher, 1965-1974
Jim Hunter was given the nickname “Catfish” by team owner Charlie Finley, who was always in search of a great origin story to sell tickets. Hunter’s pitching did that for him. He pitched a perfect game for the A’s, and became the dependable ace of the 1970s championship teams. He won 20 games in four straight seasons (1971-74), and 25 in his final season as a member of the A’s. And he was also 7-2 in the postseason for Oakland. He’s the only starting pitcher on this all-time staff in the Hall of Fame.
Dave Stewart, Starting Pitcher, 1986-1995
Staring out from underneath his cap pulled down just above his intense eyes, Stewart was an ace in every sense of the word for Oakland when they dominated baseball in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He won 20 games in four straight seasons from 1987-1990 when he averaged 36 starts, 10 complete games, and 265 innings. His best was saved for the postseason, where Stewart was 8-3 in 14 starts for Tony La Russa’s A’s from 1988 to 1992. He was named MVP of the 1989 World Series and the 1990 ALCS.
Tim Hudson, Starting Pitcher, 1999-2004
Arguably the most effective pitcher the A’s ever had in Oakland, Hudson’s 31 WAR is the most ever by a pitcher since the franchise moved west. The trusty right-hander averaged 15 wins per season with a 3.03 ERA in his A’s career.
Barry Zito, Starting Pitcher, 2000-2006, 2015
Guitar-strumming, yoga-practicing, incense-burning Barry Zito was unusual but also an ace for Oakland when he teamed with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder to form a talented pitching trio. Zito, a lefty, won the AL Cy Young in 2002 when he was 24. That season he used his patented looping, devastating curveball to win 23 games.
Honorable Mention: Ken Holtzman, Mike Norris, Bob Welch, Mark Mulder, Rich Harden
Dennis Eckersley, Closer, 1987-1995
It’s a coin flip between Eckersley and Fingers. Both were dominant, both helped lead the A’s to World Series titles, and both won the Cy Young and MVP in the same season as bullpen specialists. Eckersley was a gunslinger at heart, with his knee-high fastball and backdoor slider that broke in on lefty hitters. He was blessed with outstanding control. In 1989-90, in 125 games in the regular and postseason, the ace closer walked only seven batters.
Honorable Mention: Rollie Fingers, Billy Taylor
Dick Williams, Manager, 1971-1973
Most would pick La Russa, who led the A’s to three straight pennants, but our choice is Williams, a brilliant task master who had the unenviable job of taming the rowdy 1970s Oakland teams. Imagine trying to keep Reggie, Campy, Vida, and the rest of The Green Gang happy? Williams managed (pun intended), and he guided the franchise to titles in 1972 and 1973. Fed up with meddling by Finley, Williams quit the team after the 1973 World Series triumph.
Honorable Mention: Billy Martin, Tony La Russa