Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.
2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?
I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…
SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!
The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.
Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642
2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582
3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614
So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.
That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.
So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.
Part 2> What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover?
It is probably more interesting the effect the SI cover had on me for years after the day it was taken……………
The photo was taken in the visitors locker room at Anaheim Stadium. All of us were proud to be on the cover. Perhaps I was a little less proud than the others.
They were all winners, and I was a 20 game loser. 1980 was a nightmare year for me. In fact that was the hardest part of my 20 loss season was that I was losing
while everyone else was winning. Virtually every 20 game loser pitches for a bad team where losing becomes expected . Typically these are 90-100+ loss teams.
In 1980 we were a winning team (83-79). The last time a pitcher lost 20 game was in 1922 when Dolf Luque was 13-23 for the Cincinnati Reds.
Misery Loves Company
The last pitcher before me to lose 20 games for a winning team might have had some good advice for me. Trouble is he died in 1957.
They say misery loves company, but I had to suffer in solitude. While the other guys enjoyed the thrill of victory I had to endure the agony of defeat. Sports Illustrated
gave each of us a framed blow up of the cover but, I couldn’t look at it for at least ten years. Not only did it remind me of the 1980 season, but when my career was
over looking at the cover made me dwell on how different things may have turned out if I had won 14-15 games instead of losing 20.
Just as dramatic as the 1979 A’s turnaround from last place in 1979 to second place in 1980, was my turnaround from 8-7 In 1979 to 8-20 in 1980:
Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?
Answer: Brian Kingman, 1979
Brian Kingman was 8-7 for the 1979 Oakland A’s who were 54-108. Before that Tom Seaver was 16-13 for the 1967 NY Mets who were 61-101. Kingman ironically went on to become a 20 game LOSER the very next season going 8-20 for the A’s. Not only did he remain the last 20 game loser for 23 years until Mike Maroth lost 21 for the Tigers in 2003 he did it for a winning team, the A’s were 83-79. The last time that happened was in 1922 when Dolf Luque lost 20 for the Cincinnati Reds.