Unless you followed baseball in the 1970's you just can't have an appreciation or lack there of for what Charlie Finley did to his dynasty team. At the beginning of the decade he assemble himself a team of young superstars who battled opponents on the field and themselves off the field. From 1971-1975 they won 5 straight AL West Titles and 3 Straight World Championships. While the A's dominated on the field, they struggled mightily at the gate. Once free agency hit Finley realized that he couldn't keep everyone, so he went radical and decided to keep no one. By 1978 the A's gaudy uniforms were the only connection to the teams from just a few years back. The A's resembled an expansion team sporting has been's, never was-es and young players trying to find their way. Their feeble attendance at the Oakland Coliseum dropped to the point where they started announcing fans instead of the players (just kidding, but not by a lot). At 69-93 the A's finished 6th, one slot out of the basement, which they occupied the previous season.
Oakland's offensive was quite offensive to anyone who was forced to watch it. They finished dead last in batting (.245) and 10th in homers, which translates to very little runs. That type of output puts a lot of pressure on a good pitching staff. Oakland's staff was average. Their won loss records look worse than their actual performance. They gave up a lot of runs, but not many earner runs, which translates to a lot of bad fielding behind them.
Key players: Mitchell Page (17) and Dave Revering (16) led the team in homers. Not good when your home run leaders can't crack the 20 homer plateau. Miguel Dilone in just 258 at bats hit a poor .229, but when he got on base he was off to the races with 50 stolen bases. Five Athletics in all had double figures in steals. The trouble was they just couldn't steal first.
Key pitchers: The bullpen troika of Bob Lacey (8-9, 3.01), Dave Heaverlo (3-6, 3.25, 10sv) and Elias Sosa (8-2, 2.64, 14sv) were the strength of the staff. 21 year old John Henry Johnson (11-10, 3.39) was the only starter with a winning record. Rookie Matt Keough (8-15, 3.24) was a hard luck loser, who could have had a reverse record on a better team.
Due to the state of transition that the franchise was in Topps had a hard time choosing which young players should receive a card and which should not. Because of that challenge and the numerous trades made during the season I needed to make 29 new cards to round out the team set. A lot of these players were quite obscure, so this required a lot of sleuth work to track down pictures. Most of those pictures required colorization as well as airbrushing. This was definitely a fun team to work on ! Erik and Chad discovered early on just how tough it would be to track down the photos, so they defaulted to using '79 or '80 Topps cards. For the most part I stuck with what they had unless I thought I could find some better shots.
Pittsburgh Pirates with a player to be named later and Miguel Dilone to the Oakland Athletics for Manny Sanguillen. The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Mike Edwards (April 7, 1978) to the Oakland Athletics to complete the trade. What the A's thought they were getting was a journeyman bullpen veteran. What they actually got was their 1978 closer. Sosa logged 114 innings and recorded 14 saves. He posted an impressive 8-2, 2.64 record for this poor 6th place team. He was granted free agency at the end of the season and signed with the Expos to become their closer. Interestingly Sosa is a footnote in World Series history having given up Reggie Jackson's 3rd consecutive homer in game 6 of the '77 Fall Classic. In 12 major league seasons he would pitch for 8 different franchises. This card was created from his 1979 card.
Conroy was the Oakland Athletics' first round draft pick after graduating from Gateway Senior High School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania in 1978. He was immediately called up by the A's that June with no minor league pitching experience.
In 7 seasons he had a 18-32 Win-Loss record, 135 games (71 started), 5 complete games, 1 shutout, 21 games finished, 466⅔ innings pitched, 438 hits allowed, 279 runs allowed, 244 earned runs allowed, 47 home runs allowed, 284 walks, 307 strikeouts, 10 hit batsmen, 31 wild pitches, 2,082 batters faced, 13 intentional walks, 2 balks and a 4.71 ERA. Basically another young arm that the A's rushed to the majors then ruined. This card photo came from a Donruss card in the early 80's.
Horton arrived from Toronto in exchange for the enigmatic Rico Carty. Basically both last placed teams swapped DH's. Horton hit over .300 in 32 games, but had little power (3 homers). He signed as a free agent with the Mariners at the end of the season. I found this autographed photo on ebay.