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Oakland Strong Men Have More Muscle Than Bulgarian Weightlifters

I think this whole team must be on steroids.

The Oakland Athletics are truly, uh, athletic. They are so big, so strong, you sometimes believe they could hit home runs without bats. Just stick out their forearms and knock baseballs over the fence. I mean, some of the oaks in this Oakland lineup have muscles in their caps. Their bunts could go for extra bases.

These people can hurt you, these Killer A’s. Not just Jose Canseco, the Cuban strongman who recently heard an accusation that he once snacked on steroids, but everybody on the whole homer-happy ballclub--even catcher Ron Hassey, a man who looks as though the only substance he has ever abused was Haagen-Dazs.

Canseco did not do a thing, except run the bases badly, in Saturday’s American League playoff game against the Boston Red Sox, but it mattered not in the least. The A’s still took it, 10-6, because Hassey, Dave Henderson, Mark McGwire and Carney Lansford went out and mashed a bunch of taters. Hassey, in fact, homered, doubled, singled and eventually intimidated Boston into an intentional walk.

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I pulled Hassey over to the side afterward and asked, “So how come nobody’s asking you if you use steroids?”

“Maybe they’ve looked at my body,” Hassey said.

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe by now it is simply taken for granted that most of the men on this Oakland club of Tony La Russa’s go out there night after night and flex their pecs as though they had just spent the whole afternoon at Jack LaLanne’s. No fence is too far, no wind too strong. About the only field beyond these batters’ reach is O’Hare.

I do not yet know who the A’s will be playing in the World Series, but whoever it is, their pitchers better come armed with more than pine tar in their mitts. Hey, Jay Howell used to pitch for these guys, didn’t he?. “Class guy, good pitcher,” La Russa said Saturday, before the Oakland-Boston game and after the pine mess the Dodgers got themselves into. “There must be an explanation.”

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Personally, I think Howell was preparing himself for a possible World Series appearance against the Athletics, just testing various substances that might work against the likes of Canseco, McGwire, Henderson, Lansford, Hassey, Dave Parker and the rest of these thumpers. Compared to the A’s, the New York Mets play pattycake. Oakland’s hitters turn to La Russa in the dugout and say, “Me mad. Me go hit home run now.”

Joe Morgan, the Boston manager, put it better than anybody else after watching all those Oakland home runs go zooming over the wall.

“I hope nobody got hurt in the seats out there,” Morgan said.

Even the fact that the Red Sox blasted off to a 5-0 lead failed to faze the mighty A’s. Back they came, with more bams and pows than a Batman comic book. Some idiot in the grandstand set off an incredibly loud firecracker at one point, but while others were ducking for cover, I just reached for my scorebook, figuring that Canseco had just connected with a fastball.

Sure, the A’s got a nice break with a fifth-inning interference call that wiped out a Red Sox run, but somehow the winners gave off an aura Saturday that they were going to keep scoring and scoring as many runs as it was going to take, until the Sox just got sick of it and said impatiently, “OK, OK, we give up.”

Mike Greenwell, Boston’s splendid young hitter, was shooting the breeze with Reggie Jackson before the game, and told him: “I think we need a Mr. October to show up for us. We really do.” A few minutes later, possibly having given the matter (or the A’s) some more thought, Greenwell put it differently.

“I think we may need a few Mr. Octobers,” he said.

He tried to become one, teeing off in the opening two innings for a double and a homer. Wade Boggs tried, too, bagging a sacrice fly and three hits. But against the A’s, a five-run edge is still a cliffhanger. When you hold a 5-0 lead on Oakland, you hold your breath. You know. Keep your best relief pitcher warm. You’ll probably still need him.

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By the time Hassey’s fourth at-bat rolled around, his team was leading the game, and the Red Sox were walking him deliberately, in the furtive hope that things would not get any worse.

Hassey was asked if he was sorry not to get his chance at hitting for the cycle.

“I think if you guys know me, you know I had no chance for the cycle,” Hassey said.

Triples are not in his personal arsenal, not to mention his legs. Homers, however, are. Lumpy characters like Hassey as well as Adonises like Canseco have that much in common on this Oakland club. They swing from the heels and aim for the parking lot. This is one baseball team that ought to conduct Longest Drive contests.

You hope nobody gets hurt in the seats out there?

Better move back the seats.


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