World Series–1974, Game 3

November 2, 2009

74 world series game 3

I don’t know what kinds of pitches Rollie Fingers threw. I saw him pitch a few times in All-Star game play, and I’m sure I’ve read about his repertoire at some point, but the information from both of those sources has receded back behind the fiction I’ve had in my mind about him since I was a young kid, one that combined his unusual name, his curly mustache, and the heavy influence on my worldview of Saturday morning cartoons that toyed with the rules of physics. In my mind, it’s simple: Rollie Finger’s goofy bamboozling pitches came with their own clownish slide-whistle soundtrack.

Here he is in one of the handful of cards in my collection that make reference to World Series play, looking as if he’s about to unleash another corkscrewing dipsy-doodle to tie Steve Garvey or Jim Wynn into a bow. The back of the card offers little in the way of the kind of illustrative data that might have dampened my imaginary version of Rollie Fingers. There’s no text recounting the game, just a box score in the style used back in the days of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. There is a line score but no pitching statistics, and the efforts of each hitter are represented in terms of AB, R, H, PO, A, and E. I doubt that when I first got this card at the age of seven I knew what all these abbreviations referred to, and when I did figure them all out I probably was disappointed that so much space had been given over to fielding statistics that did little to suggest how the game was won and lost. Who was the hero of the game? Who had the key hit? It’s impossible to tell.

The pitcher who was awarded the win is identified in the primitive box score, his name in capital letters (HUNTER) and the initials “w.p.” after his name. (There is no corresponding designation for the losing pitcher.) Fingers’ name is also on the card, but it has only zeroes in the batting and fielding columns beside it.

A few names above Fingers: “H. Washington, pr.” He’s the only other A besides Fingers with nothing but zeroes after his name. This was Herb Washington, the sprinter who was the “designated pinch runner” for the team. I’m somewhat shocked that Oakland’s brief experiment of carrying a player on the regular season roster who couldn’t pitch, hit, or field extended into postseason play. In fact (and by this point in my imagining of October 1974 I have moved beyond the limitations of my cards and begun checking baseball-reference.com), Herb Washington got into two games in the 1974 American League Championship series (he was caught stealing both times) and three games in the World Series (perhaps cowed by his results in the ALCS, he didn’t attempt a steal and did not score a run).

Rollie Fingers got into one more game than Herb Washington in the 1974 World Series, and his pitching in each of his four appearances, all A’s wins, was seen as the key contribution of any player: he won the series MVP award. Despite ending in just five games, the series was a tightly contested one (four of the five contests ended in a 3-2 score), so the work of an effective and tireless reliever stood out more than it would have if the teams had taken turns crushing one another. Fingers was credited with two saves and a win, and it seems to me that he should have earned another save in the game commemorated by the card at the top of this post. He entered that game with one out in the eighth inning with a two-run lead and closed things out despite surrendering a solo home run in the ninth to Willie Crawford. I was thinking that saves were accounted for differently in those days, but in the very next game Fingers entered with one out in the eighth inning with two men on and an even bigger lead (5-2) and upon closing out the game was credited with the save. The only thing I can think of is that maybe in those days they stripped you of a save if you gave back any of the inherited lead. But the entry on the history of the save statistic at BR Bullpen doesn’t seem to offer any evidence that this was the case. Am I missing something obvious? Or does Rollie Fingers deserve to be awarded an additional World Series save? [Update: See comments below for an explanation of why Fingers didn’t get a save.] 

Anyway, back to the card. In the absence of any defining data, the picture has to carry all the weight of any questions about how the game was won and why. The game was won because in the otherwise murky shadows of that game, the A’s had bright yellow shirts, yellow socks, and white shoes. The A’s had Rollie Fingers.


  1. Herbie DID get picked off by Mike Marshall in Game 2 in the 9th when the A’s were down 3-2. Joe Rudi singled in Bando and Jackson, and after an out Angel Mangual pinch hit for Blue Moon Odom. Washington ran for Rudi. Marshall picked off Washington and then struck out Tenace. If I were Rudi, I’d probably have throttled Charlie O Finley on sight.

    I remember that clearly, since whenever the Cubs went into Rain Delay, they trotted out films of the World Series and the All-Star games of the 70’s. I think LaSorda was miked up as well (if I recall – he changed the pitchers for Alston).

  2. Fingers had a two-run lead with nobody on base when he came in to the game. At the time, the tying run had to be on base or at bat when a pitcher came in, if he was eligible for a save.

  3. I think that, according to the BR Bullpen save history, 1973 and 1974 were the only years since 1969 that Fingers’s Game Three performance would not have been a save.

  4. when i saw a mothers of invention album for the first time, i couldn’t figure out why rollie fingers was on the cover…

  5. smedindy:
    I think Rudi (and all the A’s) always wanted to throttle Charlie O on sight. Rudi (and whoever was at bat when Herb got picked off) probably wasn’t too crazy about manager Alvin Dark in that moment, either.

    Thanks for giving the matter a closer look. That clears it up.

  6. Gotta love those A’s teams — among Herb Washington, Larry Lintz, Matt Alexander, and Don Hopkins, they usually carried not one, but two bench players at any particular time who almost never came to bat.

  7. I never knew the save rule was changed for a couple of years. Interesting. Bill James always said relievers would be used differently if the save rule was different, so you wonder how things would look if the rule had stayed?

    In any case, with Joe Posnanski’s book about the 1975 Reds, I was wondering who had the better dynasty, the three-time champion A’s or the ’75-’76 Reds? It’s an abstract question and how you pose the question can change the answer, but those are clearly the two biggest powerhouses between the Yankees of the early ’60s and the Yankees of the late ’90s (if indeed those A’s and Reds weren’t even better than that).

    ’72 A’s vs. ’75 Reds is a pretty sweet matchup. Rob Neyer said in his book about baseball dynasties that the A’s were better than he had realized.

  8. sb1902:
    My feeling is that the ’75-’76 Reds are the best team of my lifetime, but you can’t argue with simple math: 3 > 2. And one of those 3 was against a ’72 Reds team that was not that far off from the ’75 version.

  9. This post gets an … A+! HAHA!

    Yeah, Fingers was kinda cartoony. These days the ump would probably make the pitcher remove the yellow because it’s distracting the batter. heh.

    I loved those ol’ Swinging A’s. They were before my time, but I’ve read a lot about ’em…from books to old newspapers.

  10. Anyone who has argued that the 70’s Reds were better than the 70’s A’s always have the same faulty analysis . . . they foolishly engage in a comparison of position by position: Bench was better than Tenace, etc., etc. As though pitching is only 1/9th of the value of a team’s performance. The biggest difference between these two teams is that the A’s pitching was far superior and way more consistent. The A’s could play small ball better than any team I’ve ever seen. I watched one of the full games from the ’74 series and the A’s bunted like five times in the game, for sac’s and for hits. They had speed, good defense, and awesome PITCHING! Oh ya, and they beat the heavily favored Reds in ’72, without Reggie Jackson. And, 3 is > 2. Rudi said that if the A’s still had Catfish in 1975 (he won 23 for the Yanks) they would have won it all again. I agree. The A’s went into Fenway in the playoffs and only had their two lefty starting studs (Blue and Holtzman) . . . they needed Catfish, and would have taken the Sox and the Reds (again).

  11. Catfish, if you’re comparing the 72 and 75 Reds, then you’re also guilty of making a foolish comparison. The 72 Reds had an automatic out playing 3rd in Denis Menke, the 75 version had Pete Rose at 3rd, which also had the added benefit of adding George Foster’s bat to the lineup full-time. The 75 outfield of Foster, Geronimo, and Griffey were far superior offensively and defensively to the 72 outfield of Rose, Tolan, and Geronimo/Hague/Uhlander/Foster. Also consider the fact that Dave Concepcion couldn’t hit a lick in 72 (.209 avg), but had developed into a decent hitter by the mid 70s (.270-.280). Morgan was also considerably better in 75.

    The 72 A’s definitely had the edge in starting pitching, but the Reds were quite good in 75 with Gullett, Nolan, Norman, and Billingham, along with Pat Darcy and Clay Kirby doing a serviceable job as spot starters. The Reds bullpen in 75, as throughout most of the 70s, was excellent.

    The 75 Reds led the league in fielding percentage and finished 2nd in double plays. That, to me, was a key ingredient – they were very strong up the middle defensively and, in my opinion, a much better defensive team than the 72 A’s, who ranked in the middle of the pack.

    As far as playing small ball; the 75 Reds stole nearly twice as many bases as the 72 A’s, yet the were caught stealing fewer times.

    There seems to be this lingering perception that the Big Red Machine was nothing more than a bunch of sluggers. Truth is that they were an exceptional defensive team, had great speed, and could beat you any number of ways. The A’s of the early 70s were great teams, but it’s no contest when they’re compared with the 75 Reds…

  12. Analysis of a “dynasty” requires a look over a period of years. In 1971, the A’s won 101 and won their division. The same season the Reds had a losing record and finished 4th in their division. In 1972 the Reds lost the World Series to the A’s. In 1973, the Reds won their division but lost to the Mets in the playoffs; the same season, the A’s won the World Series beating the Mets. In 1974, the Reds finished in second place behind the Dodgers. The A’s spanked the Dodgers in the World Series. In 1975, the A’s won their division without Catfish Hunter but lost to the Sox in the playoffs; Reds beat the Sox in the World Series. In ’76 the A’s finished in second behind KC, and the Reds won the WS. The A’s pitching was far more superior, durable and consistent over a longer duration . . . and they won it three consecutive times, even against the Reds.

  13. Also, as I posted earlier on the Wilker post on Gary Nolan:

    “[In ’72] The A’s won without their best player, Reggie Jackson. They won with only eight pitchers, and none of those pitched a complete game. They won because for most of the way their pitching muffled Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Bobby Tolan—the first three hitters in the Cincinnati batting order—and because the A’s decided that if anyone was going to beat them it was definitely not going to be Johnny Bench. During the regular season Rose, Morgan and Tolan got on base 43% of the time. In the Series that shrunk to 29% and Bench produced only one RBI.

    And, Rose hit .214 and Morgan hit .125. The A’s were better as a team.”

  14. Now you’re changing the argument. It wasn’t whether the 72 A’s were better than the 72 Reds – they proved it on the field. However, you tried to extrapolate that into saying that the A’s of the 70’s were better than the Reds of the 70’s. That’s where you fall short because the Reds of the mid 70s were much better than the 72 version, and much better than the A’s of the early 70s. You’re certainly free to disagree, but I never hear anybody mention those A’s teams when the talk centers on all-time great teams. There’s a reason for that….

  15. All three of the particulars in that pickoff play – Washington, Marshall and Steve Garvey – went to Michigan State.

    The A’s did have a pinch runner on the roster for the ’72 and ’73 Series, a guy named Allan Lewis who had played a few games in the outfield but seldom went to bat in his career. His nickname was “The Panamanian Express” but sadly I’d be surprised if he was immortalized on cardboard.

  16. I remember him. Charley O was a nut. At least Lewis had a little baseball experience. I’ll never figure out what made him think he could take sprinter like Herb Washington with zero baseball experience or instinct and turn them into base stealing wizard. Besides, even if he did steal the base (which wasn’t that often), he still had to make it home, which was a dicey proposition for someone who knew virtually nothing about the game.

  17. I’d take the Swingin’ A’s on the basis of their pitching. I also notice that Josh has somehow ignored that the Yankees won 4 pennants, 5 division titles and 2 WS from ’76 – ’81. I guess you just forgot about those late 70s Yanks, Josh, right? Guidry and Jackson and Nettles and Randolph and…BUCKY DENT?

  18. Josh, I hope you’ll take my Dent comment/joke in stride. It was meant as playful teasing about something that happened over 30 years ago, and I hope it didn’t come off as Troll-ery.

    However, yeah, what about those late 70s Yankees?

  19. I have no recollection of the Yankees being a team of any distinction in the 1970s.

    Seriously, despite their painful dominance, I’d slot them in at third for the decade, after the two teams being discussed. The A’s had more titles, and the Reds were strong for the whole decade and were in the playoffs more often, plus they pounded the Yankees in ’76.

  20. Another point in the Reds favor is that they faced a divisional rival (Dodgers) who was also excellent throughout the 70s. Oakland dominated baseball’s weakest division during the early part of the decade. The Twins were reasonably good at the very beginning and the Royals were very strong the latter half, but there was nothing to match the sustained excellence of the Reds/Dodgers rivalry.

  21. Awelliott, I agree that the Reds had stiffer divisional competition with the Dodgers, who really had some damn good teams in the ’70s. But, the A’s blew past them both. On paper, it looked like the ’74 Dodgers, who were really solid, would smoke the A’s. Dodgers won 102 games to the A’s 90 wins. Before the series, Dodger Bill Buckner boasted that there wasn’t a single A’s player that could crack the Dodgers starting lineup. Another Buckner World Series boner. To cap things off for Billy Buck, in the final ’74 WS game (five), with the Dodgers down 3-2 late in the game, Buckner had a nice hit to the outfield . . . he stretched it to second on an error by Billy North, but true to his post-season form, Buckner was gunned down trying to get to third base . . . classic relay from Reggie Jackson to Dick Green to Sal Bando. Buckner pegged by a bunch of second stringers.

    One of the coolest plays I’ve seen was by Joe Ferguson in the ’74 series. Ferguson had a bazooka for an arm. He was put in right field. With a runner trying to score, Ferguson waved of the center fielder on a fly ball to the outfield . . . Ferguson seems to come out of nowhere, waves off the positioned centerfielder who was waiting patiently for the fly ball to land in his glove, Fergy catches the ball with full momentum going towards the plate, and he then unleashes the best no-hop gun to the plate I’ve ever seen to cut off the run. Wow. Bazooka Joe. Wow.

  22. I stand corrected. Bazooka Joe didn’t really wave off the centerfielder (Jimmy Wynn . . . who had a terrible arm). Big Joe was much taller than Wynn . . . and he darts into the viewing screen and really intercepts the ball from Wynn, and then unleashes his perfect bullet to the plate. Best throw I’ve ever seen.

  23. Yup, I remember that. Joe, being primarily a catcher, didn’t cover a whole lot of ground, but if he did get a glove on it, then woe to anyone who tried to take an extra base.

    As for the 72 series, I don’t think I’d describe it as the A’s blowing past the Reds. Even though the Reds dropped the first two games at home and went down 3-1, it went 7 games, and every game was a one-run pitcher’s duel, with the exception of an 8-1 Reds blowout in Game 6. However, that does reveal a telling point, which is that the A’s had that swagger and knew how to win, regardless of who they were facing. It took the Reds until the mid 70’s to capture that mojo.

    For example, the Reds had an awesome team in 1970, winning 70 of their first 100 games. However, their pitching staff became decimated by injuries, so they actually limped into the WS and were taken out by a great Orioles team. 1971 was an anomaly – the pitching staff was still in shambles. We know what happened in 1972, though I believe the Reds were favored going in. In 1973, they overcame a strong Dodger team that was leading by double digits in early July, only to fall short against a very average Mets team. They let the Dodgers get another big lead in 74, but couldn’t quite reel them in. They finally put it together in 75 and 76 and probably would have been a dominant team for the rest of the decade had they not made the fatal mistake of trading Tony Perez after the 76 season.

  24. Bah…that’s the whole problem with the “Save” statistic; it seems like they keep changing the requirements to earn a Save every time you turn around, as well as adding new ways to get one. That’s why I don’t put too much stock in Save-based comparisons between the Hoffmans of today and the McGraws of yore.

    Sort of reminds me of another irksome trend repeatedly shown in television graphics during the playoffs and series… the whole hullabaloo over all of the current players (ie: Yankees) who seem to hold breathtaking and unassailable “Postseason” records.


    Where’s the asterisk? Give us a break.

  25. I agree. Postseason records are nothing what they used to be, and it does get really tiresome hearing all the commentators building up these new “records,” which now dwarf the World Series records of the likes of Mantle and Ford.

  26. The fawning treatment of bloated playoff statistics is a pet peeve of mine too. Not only do they play many more games now, but it’s also much, much easier to make the playoffs now than it was during the Division Series era, let alone pre 1969, when there was only the World Series.

  27. Wow, I like the Reds vs. A’s arguments! All these years and I still can’t make up my mind between the two. The ’75 Reds definitely had the best starting nine you’ll ever see, but the A’s were very complete, all the way through the back of the pitching staff. Everyone forgets the Reds won 102 games in 1970 and the A’s 101 in ’71. Both teams were more than their World Series years, too.

    The third team I always lump together with the Bench Reds and the Jackson A’s are the 1970 Orioles. The Weaver Orioles were every bit as good as both the Reds and A’s, I’d say.

    Gosh, the ’70s were a great time for baseball. I want to break out my APBA cards right now….

  28. I wouldn’t dispute that a bit. The Orioles of the early 70s were a fantastic team with no real weakness and arguably the best starting pitching in history. However, they were underachievers in the postseason, and that may be why they have never received their full due. If Frank and Brooks had both been in their late 20s instead of their mid 30’s, the argument about the best team of the 70s would probably be moot.

    To me, the sad part is that we’ll probably never see such a thing again. We’re discussing best teams of the decade, and the talk centers around three small market teams. Today a small-market team might catch lightning in a bottle for a season or two, but to see sustained excellence with the same core group of players is sadly a thing of the past…..

  29. I don’t know, one thing the Reds, A’s and Orioles had in common is that they weren’t that popular where they played. When you think of the great baseball slump of the early ’70s, you think of the champion A’s in front of small crowds.

    You’re right, of course, about the Weaver Orioles being practically flawless, though. They had some power, they walked, a string of solid pitchers, top-notch defense, some speed.

    I’m excited enough about this topic to break out the Neyer and Epstein “Baseball Dynasties” book (which is great, BTW), and Neyer ranks the A’s 12th best, the Reds 4th best and the Orioles 2nd best. Epstein has the A’s (7th), Reds (6th) and Orioles (3rd). Pretty close in their estimation, and pretty impressive clumping of greatness, too.

  30. I don’t think you can blame the Reds fall-off after ’76 to losing Perez. Look at Perez’s numbers from ’76 on and they’re really not very good for a first baseman, even for the era. Danny Driessen had a better ’77 than Perez did. I really think you have to credit the Dodgers with simply finally passing them. That ’77-’78 Dodger team had a lot of power and, frankly, a better pitching staff.

    I agree that the A’s (you can’t argue with 3 straight WS wins) and the Reds were the premiere teams of the decade, but I think the Yankees faced the toughest competition. The Red Sox & Orioles of those couple of years were really elite teams, and the Royals team they played 4 times in the ALCS was one of the great also-rans.

  31. You make a defensible point, but I still have to disagree. Since Perez was nearly 10 years older and was showing signs of slipping, he was moved so that Driessen, a promising young player who had been platooned for several years, could become a full-time player. The Reds front office thought this would turn out similar to when they made George Foster an everyday starter. Driessen, while a serviceable player, never quite lived up to his early potential. He was a defensive upgrade over Perez, but Perez lasted nearly as long (1986 vs 1987 for Driessen), and had better offensive numbers for the remainder of his career. Driessen did have slightly better numbers in 77 than Perez, but it was pretty much a wash(17/91/.300 vs 19/91/.283).

    However, the bigger point in all of this was that Perez was the heart of The Big Red Machine. He was the silent clubhouse leader who was able to keep some pretty strong egos (Rose, Morgan) in harmony. He was like a father to the younger latin players on the team. And he was a deadly clutch hitter who could always be counted on to deliver the big hit. The Reds lost a lot more than 20 homers and 100 RBIs when they moved Perez.

    The other thing that really hurt the Reds in 77 was the loss of Don Gullett via free agency. Gullett, while brittle, was a very effective and underrated pitcher. Of course, the Reds picked up Tom Seaver midway through 77, but the Dodgers were just too strong that year.

    I don’t think the Reds would have run the table for the remainder of the decade – the 77 Dodgers were just too well-balanced. However, I think they would have won in 78, and the Reds did win in 79, ironically without both Perez and Rose. With or without Perez, the era of the Big Red Machine would have ended with the 70s, as Father Time would have taken care of whatever free agency missed.

  32. I am not sure about the ’74 World Series, but I am always amazed at the number of innings the relievers pitched in the 1973 WS.
    Fingers and McGraw eached pitched around 13 innings in that 7 game series. I think McGraw pitched 6 innings in Game 2 alone.

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