Saturday, September 4, 2010
Jim "Catfish" Hunter. Or, simply Catfish Hunter, as I knew him as a kid. I grew up 20 miles east of Oakland and the A's won their first of three consecutive World Series in 1972 when I was eight. These came in the middle of five consecutive division titles. It was a great time to be a kid. I wasn't old enough to know that the Charlie Finley A's were a tiny blip invaders in a market that had been dominated by the Giants and Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, Perry and Bonds. Their three trophy seasons only produced one season with a million in attendance. When you're a kid, things like that don't matter.
Catfish would end up in the Hall of Fame, and looking at his numbers from '71-'73 here, it's no wonder. All the A's players were intimate household names. Here, he's seen with a mustache, another crazy scheme of eccentric owner Finley. Finley paid any of his players 50 bucks to grow a 'stache. In those days, fifty bucks was a lot of cash, so most players joined in. Finley also relaxed facial hair and hair policies from the rest of baseball. The A's were also known as "The Mustacheo A's" in the early 70's. Rollie Fingers grew a handlebar mustache during that time and it became his career trademark.
Finley also started a uniform revolution. The A's started wearing white shoes in the 60's, along with a bit of color with their yellow vest uni's and green undersleeves. In 1972, the A's changed their look radically, with the donning of double-knit polyester pullover jerseys and pants without a belt, favoring an elastic waistband instead. Their hats took the traditional Gothic "A" and added an apostrophe and an "s." Their official colors were Kelly Green, California Gold and Wedding Gown White. Announcer Monte Moore always talked about the colors.
This picture of Catfish was taken on a Sunday, as the A's wore white on Sundays and either green or gold the rest of the week. This 1974 year would be his last with the green and gold, as he had a dispute with Finley and ended up with the Yankees the next year. Catfish Hunter will always hold a special place in my heart, as such things stick in the mind of a kid the rest of his life.