'Legends: Oakland A's Dynasty' debuts Friday


'Legends: Oakland A's Dynasty' debuts Friday

OAKLAND -- They were known as the "Swingin' A's," yet they often took swings at each other. They were rebellious, at times crazy, dangerous in the clubhouse and on the field. Yet, there are many misconceptions about the A's of the 1970s and on Friday at 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California you will get to learn the truth about one of the best baseball teams ever assembled, the 1971-1975 Oakland A's, in 'Legends: Oakland A's, The Forgotten Dynasty.'
Some may question the title of this documentary. "Forgotten Dynasty?" Well, many of the A's players involved in making the show certainly didn't. They feel they never got the respect they deserved. Only one other franchise in the history of Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees, have won three World Series trophies in a row. Yet, you rarely hear the A's mentioned amongst the best teams ever. Maybe not enough people actually witnessed what they did. Only twice in that era (1973, 1975) did the A's draw more than one million fans. Only 921,323 people came to see the A's of 1972 play. The combined attendance from 1972-74 didn't even equal the 2.9 million that came to see the A's of 1990. The A's of the 70s didn't hate each other. They may have thrown fists a lot, but they actually did it out of love. The key members of the A's dynasty played in an era that pre-dated salary arbitration and free agency. The core of the team came up together from the minor leagues. They were so close that they more closely resembled a family. And brothers will bicker. As a result they knew how to push each others buttons, and they knew that if they fought one another, that they'd fight their opponents twice as hard. In this documentary you'll get to hear why Gene Tenace says he would show up early every day just to get a front seat to whatever madness was going to go down in the clubhouse and John "Blue Moon" Odom explain why he was the primary instigator on the team. You'll also find out what led to Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers and lefty starter Ken Holtzman throwing baseballs at the A's eclectic owner Charlie O. Finley. This show is packed with never before seen or heard interviews from all the major players on and around the A's. When the concept of this show came together, I jumped at the chance to be a part of helping Emmy award-winning producer Sean Maddison put together the documentary. As an East Bay native born in the early 80s, I had always heard about the A's championship years of the 70s, but never got to experience them. As we dug into the history of the team we learned that beneath the tough exterior was a fundamentally sound baseball team led by Dick Williams. You hear a lot about Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi -- all of whom you will hear from in the show -- but this team really should be remembered for the pitching and defense.As I began my research process, and talked to the guys on the team, I was granted the special and unique experience of following the stories of one of the greatest teams ever to take a field with unprecedented access. What I was able to learn and discover was extremely rewarding. Whether you are a youngster like myself, or a person lucky enough to have watched this colorful and offbeat team, our goal was to deliver the A's dynasty as never seen before. It was an honor to work with producer Sean Maddison and the crew on this show. What he is about to deliver on the TV screen is a richly rewarding experience for any A's fan. The Oakland Athletics didn't pull any punches on the field, and they certainly didn't in this documentary. It's amazing the things that guys are willing to talk about 40 years after the fact. It's safe to say many of the behind the scenes stories you will hear were kept secret up until now.

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.

Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.

Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.

Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.

The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.

“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”

Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.

Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.

“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”

Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.

“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”

Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.

“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”

Alonso said his motivation was simple.

“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.

As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.

“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”

Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.

“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”

Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”

The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.

Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.

“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”

Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”