Mustache Gang - Presentation on the 1972 A's
The following is an outline of Bruce Markusens presentation on the 1972 A's at the SABR Convention. It was a power-point presentation with visuals.
Slide 1—Charlie Finley Slide:
The 1972 World Champion Oakland A’s remain one of the most fascinating teams in major league history, in part because of the presence of this man, Charlie Finley, who served as both the team’s owner and general manager.
In examining the 1972 A’s, there are three main themes that I would like to explore:
- The role of the 1972 A’s as pioneers in baseball fashion
- The whirlwind of player movement and trade activity—unprecedented for a pennant-winning team
- The team’s difficult road to a championship: two tough opponents in the post-season and a series of hard-fought, one-run games
Dick Allen Slide:
From 1915 to 1971, no player was documented to have worn a mustache in regular season play in MLB.
- Dick Allen, in this 1971 Topps baseball card, is shown with a mustache; this photo, however, was believed to have been taken prior to the start of the 1971 season.
- He apparently shaved off the mustache before the season and did not wear it during the regular season.
Mudcat Grant Slide:
With players discouraged from wearing mustaches and beards, the mutton chops worn by Mudcat Grant (as shown here) represented the extent of “radical” baseball fashion; a few players wore mutton chops, a few wore their hair long, but most players stayed with short hair, even military crew-cuts.
Reggie Jackson Slide:
In 1971 and ’72, Reggie Jackson bucked the mustache-less trend.
On Opening Day, 1972, (April 15 against the Minnesota Twins at the Oakland Coliseum), Jackson took the field wearing a mustache, becoming the first big leaguer since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s to have a mustache during the regular season.
- In the 1971 ALCS, he started growing a mustache.
- He then showed up in spring training of ’72 with a fully-grown mustache
- He caused quite a stir in the conservative baseball world and sparked a negative reaction, initially, from team owner Charlie Finley.
- Finley told Dick Williams to tell Jackson to shave the mustache, but Reggie refused the request.
- As a psychological ploy, other members of the A’s—including relievers Bob Locker and Rollie Fingers—started growing mustaches.
- Finley then changed his mind and eventually encouraged all of his players to grow mustaches.
First Rollie Fingers Slide:
No player benefited more from the mustache trend than Rollie Fingers
- In this 1971 photo, Rollie is seen clean-shaven. He looks unrecognizable compared to the Fingers we have come to know.
Second Rollie Fingers Slide:
In this 1972 photograph, we see the beginnings of Rollie’s handlebar mustache.
- The handlebar would become his trademark, making him one of the game’s most recognizable players and leading to endorsement opportunities.
Sal Bando Slide:
While Fingers loved his new look, other players balked at Finley’s request to grow mustaches.
- Captain Sal Bando became one of three mustache “holdouts,” along with backup infielders Larry Brown and Mike Hegan.
Mike Hegan Slide
Hegan, who resisted facial hair at first because of his wife’s dislike of a mustache, and the other two players eventually gave in, tempted by Finley’s promise of a $300.00 bonus to each player who grew a mustache by Father’s Day.
Dave Duncan Slide
On Sunday, June 18, the A’s held “Mustache Day” at the Oakland Coliseum.
- All fans wearing a mustache to the game received free admission.
- Each player received his $300.00 bonus after the game
- A’s players started to add long hair and beards and officially became known as the “Mustache Gang.” This would set a major trend, as other teams followed suit. By the mid-1970s, many players wore mustaches, beards, and long hair.
- Later in 1972, the A’s would advance to the World Series, creating a matchup against the Cincinnati Reds, which some writers dubbed “The Hairs” vs. “The Squares.”
Denny McLain Slide
The ’72 A’s also made news on fronts other than the issues of facial hair and hair length.
- Star pitcher Vida Blue, the Cy Young and MVP Award winner in 1971, held out of spring training, dissatisfied with Finley’s contract offer.
- The holdout forced the A’s to make a move for a starting pitcher, someone who could follow Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Ken Holtzman in the rotation.
- On March 4, the A’s sent two minor leaguers, Jim Panther and Don Stanhouse, to the Texas Rangers for Denny McLain.
- McLain, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and a onetime MVP, had won 31 games in 1968.
- By 1972, McLain was a shell of his former self.
- After five mostly ineffective starts with the A’s, he was sent to the Birmingham A’s, Oakland’s Class-AA affiliate in the Southern League.
Tommy Davis Slide
On March 30, the A’s made another player move related to the Blue holdout.
- They released Tommy Davis, their best bench player in 1971; he had batted .324 as a part-time player in ’71.
- Why did the A’s release Davis, receiving nothing in return? Davis, who was Blue’s roommate, had introduced Blue to his agent, Bob Gerst. In a sense, Finley blamed Davis for his contract problems with Blue, whose holdout had been orchestrated by Gerst.
Curt Blefary Slide
The moves continued during the regular season.
A dangerous left-handed batter, Blefary had hit well (.455 in a limited role), but his constant complaints over playing time grated on Finley. Finley finally gave in to his many trade requests.
- Useful backup catcher, infielder, and outfielder Curt Blefary was traded to the San Diego Padres on May 17.
Ollie Brown Slide
As part of the four-player deal with the Padres, the A’s acquired slugging Ollie Brown.
Denny McLain Slide:
On June 29, the A’s parted ways with McLain, who was pitching ineffectively at Double-A Birmingham.
- Plagued by an expanding waistline and a shrinking fastball, McLain went to the Atlanta Braves, who were desperate for pitching.
Orlando Cepeda Slide:
In exchange for McLain, A’s acquired slugging first baseman Orlando Cepeda, who was scheduled to platoon with Mike Epstein.
- The 1967 NL MVP showed up with bad knees, lasted all of three at-bats with Oakland, and then underwent season-ending knee surgery. He never played for the A’s again.
Don Mincher Slide
The A’s acquired another veteran first baseman on July 20, picking up Don Mincher from the Texas Rangers.
- In 1965, Mincher hit a home run against Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in the World Series
- The A’s needed a left-handed bat to replace Curt Blefary and hoped Mincher could fill the need where Art Shamsky had failed.
- Mincher did little as a part-time player during the regular season, but then came up with a crucial pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Game Four of the World Series. His pinch-hit helped give the A’s a lead of three games to one in the Series.
Matty Alou Slide
On June 7, the A’s had sold Diego Segui, the 1970 American League ERA champion, to the St. Louis Cardinals.
- No one knew it at the time, but the A’s would eventually acquire a onetime National League batting champion as compensation for Segui.
- On August 27, the A’s completed the Segui deal by acquiring Matty Alou from St. Louis.
- In 1966, Alou won the NL batting title with a .342 batting average.
- Although past his prime in 1972, Alou would deliver a number of timely hits for the A’s and satisfy their need for a third outfielder. He drove in 16 runs during the final month of the season, helping the A’s win the AL West by five and a half games.
Dal Maxvill Slide
On August 30, the A’s made another deal with the Cardinals, acquiring infielder Dal Maxvill, who had played on pennant-winning teams in 1967 and ’68.
- Maxvill gave the A’s another second baseman—one of 12 they would use throughout the season. Under Finley’s orders, Dick Williams had started pinch-hitting for his second basemen every time they were scheduled to come to bat. Maxvill became a part of the revolving door at second base.
- Generally a light hitter, Maxvill came through in the clutch on September 27 against the Minnesota Twins. In the bottom of the ninth, he cracked a double which scored Sal Bando with the winning run, clinching the AL West over the Chicago White Sox.
The A’s had to overcome a great deal of adversity throughout both the Championship Series and the World Series.
- In Game Two of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Bert “Campy” Campaneris responded to being bit with a pitch by firing his bat at Tiger reliever Lerrin LaGrow. The bat missed LaGrow, but Campaneris was ejected from the game and banned for the remainder of the playoff series. The suspension left the A’s without their starting shortstop and leadoff man.
- In a controversial decision, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned Campy for the first seven games of the 1973 season, but allowed him to play in the 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
- In Game Five of the ALCS, Reggie Jackson completely tore his hamstring while stealing home plate. The stolen base gave the A’s a 1-0 lead in a game they would eventually win, but the injury would force the A’s to play the entire World Series without their best everyday player.
- The A’s also had to play both the Championship Series and the World Series without their top left-handed reliever, Darold Knowles, who broke his thumb in late September.
- In spite of the injuries and the suspension, the A’s managed to persevere. In playing the maximum of 12 post-season games, they played nine one-run decisions. Of those nine games, the A’s won six of them, including one-run games in the fifth game of the ALCS and the seventh game of the World Series. From 1969 to 1994, no other team stretched to the maximum number of games in the Championship Series and World Series has won as many one-run games as the ’72 A’s.
by Bruce Markusen