Coco Crisp and 10 Most Clutch Postseason Moments in Oakland A's History
In the annals of Oakland A's history, tonight's incredible ninth inning comeback win will be thrust right to the top of super clutch moments from one of the more storied franchises in Major League Baseball's existence.
Coco Crisp's single set off not just another wild, shocking celebration at the Oakland Coliseum, but a reminder of why October baseball is still one of the best sporting times of the year.
With a stunning Game 5 now very much a reality, we take a look at Coco Crisp's heroics and where they rank among the most clutch moments in Oakland A's playoff history.
#10: Mark McGwire Game Winning Home Run (1988 World Series)
It would be easy for some to forget all of McGwire's home runs given his connections to performance enhancing drugs. But I wonder if many even remember his walk-off long ball in the '88 World Series in the first place?
His solo shot off of Jay Howell in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 gave Oakland a 2-1 win over the L.A. Dodgers. However, the only walk-off home run we remember from the '88 Series is Kirk Gibson's legendary blast in Game 1, especially since the Dodgers won that Fall Classic in by shocking Oakland in five games.
#9: Harold Baines Game-Winning Home Run (1992 ALCS)
Another forgotten moment was Harold Baines's ninth inning moonshot at Toronto's then Skydome off of Jack Morris in Game 1 of the 1992 American League Championship Series.
Baines's home run gave the A's a 4-3 victory and led many to believe Oakland would be making its fourth World Series trip in five years.
But it was not to be, as the Blue Jays would win four of the next five games en route to the AL pennant and their first world title. However, Baines's blast was one of only three ninth inning game-winning home runs in Oakland playoff history.
#8: Ramon Hernandez Game-Winning Single (2003 ALDS)
A play that is much more familiar to more recent A's fans took place in 2003. In the 12th inning of a tight ALDS Game 1, Ramon Hernandez came up against Boston's Derek Lowe with the bases loaded and two outs.
To the shock of everyone in the Coliseum, the Red Sox and even his own teammates, the catcher dropped a perfect bunt to score Eric Chavez, giving Oakland a marathon 5-4 victory. The A's would win the next night but lose the final three and the series in five games.
But Hernandez's gutsy play was one that defined the series.
#7: Barry Zito's Brilliant Start (2000 ALDS)
The scene was Yankee Stadium. It was 2000. The New York Yankees were the two-time defending world champions and primed to eliminate the young Oakland A's in Game 4 of the ALDS. New York had the legend Roger Clemens on the mound.
Oakland countered with a rookie who had pitched all of 92 1/3 innings over 14 starts. His name was Barry Zito. Seemed like a clear advantage for the Yankees.
Instead, Zito went 5 2/3 innings allowing just one run and striking out five Yankee hitters. Buoyed by an early Olmedo Saenz home run, the A's never looked back, and led by Zito's performance, smoked the Yankees 11-1 to force a deciding game back in Oakland.
#6: Dave Stewart's 1990 ALCS Dominance
The last of the three American League championship pennants won by Tony LaRussa's A's came in 1990. That title was won largely because Dave Stewart proved to be a better pitcher head-to-head than Roger Clemens. In their career, Stewart delighted in facing and beating the Rocket.
But in game one of the 1990 ALCS, Stewart further antagonized Clemens by outlasting him in a tone-setting 7-1 victory. Clemens would only lose three games at Fenway Park in 1990. All three were to Dave Stewart. By game four, Clemens seemed to sense he could not beat him and his frustration led to an early ejection in Oakland's clinching victory.
For the series, Stewart went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings.
#5: Coco Crisp's Game-Winning Single (2012 ALDS)
Amazing. Simply amazing. Admit it (if you're an A's fan especially), you were writing the epitaph on the 2012 Oakland A's season. Down 3-1, having made key mistakes and facing Detroit closer Jose Valverde, the amazing run seemed to be over for this Oakland team.
But then, they simply did it again. A single by Josh Reddick. A crushed double by Josh Donaldson. Then a pretty clutch play in its own right, Seth Smith's tying double to knot the score at three. In typical A's fashion, the runner was stuck on second after the next two hitters couldn't come through.
And that set the stage for Crisp.
On the second pitch he saw, Crisp laced a single to right field and when rookie Avisail Garcia misplayed the ball, Smith scored and chaos reigned (again) in Oakland.
Fifteen times the A's have won in walk-off fashion in 2012. None will be as enduring as this. Crisp's single, whether the A's end up being a team of ultimate destiny, will live as one of the most memorable in team history.
#4: Gene Tenace's Unlikely Power Surge (1972 World Series)
There are moments that make a player's legend. But in some instances, a player sustains the moment for an entire series. For Gene Tenace, the 1972 World Series was his moment. His performance over the A's seven-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds will forever make him an Oakland A's immortal.
Many thought Oakland's chances for winning were severely damaged when Reggie Jackson tore his hamstring in Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS against Detroit. But over the course of the seven-game series, Tenace would more than make up for his absence. En route to the series MVP, Tenace hit .348 with four home runs and nine RBIs.
Though Tenace would go on to have a more than solid career, including a lone All-Star appearance in 1975, his World Series performance would be his landmark achievement. It also stands as one of the great performances in Oakland and Major League baseball history.
#3: Reggie Jackson's 'Souvenir' Home Run (1973 World Series)
Having missed the 1972 World Series due to a torn hamstring, Reggie Jackson was determined to make up for lost time in 1973. He did in a big way, earning Sport Magazine's World Series MVP award while hitting .310 over the seven game series against the New York Mets.
For many, Jackson became Mr. October in 1977. But his legend was truly established in 1973.
Facing Jon Matlack in the seventh game, Matlack in Jackson's words on HBO's Rebels of Oakland:The A's, The Raiders, The 70's, "hung a slider and I dropped a souvenir on 'em" (referring to the A's fans in right field). The two-run shot enabled Ken Holtzman to cruise to a 5-2 victory and give the A's their second straight championship. Jackson and the A's of course would win their third straight the following year, cementing their dynastic status.
#2: Rickey Runs Wild (1989 ALCS)
Much like Gene Tenace, the feats of Rickey Henderson in 1989 were not condensed into one play or game. No, the greatest lead off hitter of all time terrorized the Toronto Blue Jays for five games in the '89 ALCS. His dominance was the single biggest factor in Oakland's five-game pennant victory.
For the series, Henderson hit .400 and walked seven times. That made for a ridiculous .609 on-base percentage. But what was really impressive was the fact that in five games, Henderson stole eight bases without being thrown out once. He literally ran wild on Toronto's defense and made the game that much easier for the Bash Brothers (McGwire and Jose Canseco) hitting behind him.
If that wasn't enough, Henderson even had time to smash two home runs of his own. It was truly one of the most spectacular all-around playoff performances in baseball history.
How is it not the number one clutch moment in A's history, you ask?
#1: Joe Rudi's Series-Turning Catch Saves A's, Cements Dynasty (1972 World Series)
There are plays that win games. There are plays that get you remembered. But there aren't many plays that can help a team start a dynasty. The number one clutch play in Oakland A's history happened 40 years ago in a stadium that no longer exists.
The player who made the catch was one of the three key components of the team: Joe Rudi. Along with Bert "Campy" Campanaris and Reggie Jackson, Rudi was a cog in the A's engine. A solid two-way player, Rudi was often overshadowed by Jackson, Campanaris and team captain Sal Bando.
But Rudi had come in to his own by 1972, with a career-high 182 hits that season. With the A's leading the series 1-0 in Game 2, Rudi's home run had helped Oakland to a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Tony Perez singled and Catfish Hunter faced Denis Menke.
Menke hits a smash to the left-field wall that would be at least extra bases and probably score Perez. Instead, Rudi made a leaping, wall defying catch that would retire Menke and force Perez back to first. The amazing catch wound up being the difference in Oakland's 2-1 victory.
Forty years later, it is still one of the most iconic plays in World Series history.
Without that catch, the Reds likely tie the series and considering how Cincinnati came back down 0-2 anyway, likely the series. Instead, the catch gave the A's enough of a cushion to win the title in seven games and kick start the most unheralded dynasty in the history of Major League baseball.
There you have it. Those are my 10 all-time A's clutch moments. Wednesday's game conjured up all of the things that makes the postseason so amazing.
Most of all, its the sheer unpredictability.
Coco Crisp's two out single will go in the pantheon of amazing Oakland baseball moments. And in spite of the daunting task of facing Justin Verlander in the deciding game, you can't help but think this team will have something else in the reserve Thursday night.
From Rudi to Rickey, from Baines to Barry Zito, the A's have had their big time moments. I could have mentioned Frank Thomas going deep twice against Johan Santana in 2006 or Dennis Eckersley's brilliance in 1989, but this list is great because maybe the past is prologue for this version of the Oakland A's.
Billy Beane is fond of saying that the postseason is a big crap shoot. Maybe, just maybe, the lucky sevens are coming up in Oakland's favor this year.