#6: Dennis Eckersley
Dennis Eckersley is such an important part of the Athletics franchise that his number 43 was retired by the A’s in 2005. But before he was an Athletic, he was a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, where he partnered with fellow Indians/Athletics alum Ray Fosse behind the dish at times. Eckersley pitched a no-hitter in 1977 for the Tribe, allowing a pair of baserunners on a walk and a wild pitch.
He was an All-Star pitcher in Cleveland, but the Indians were forced to trade him after a teammate – then-outfielder and current Indians broadcaster Rick Manning – had an affair with Eckersley’s wife. The awkwardness forced the team to trade at least one of the players, and unfortunately for Tribe fans, they chose to deal Eckersley to Boston. After a brief stop with the Chicago Cubs, Eckersley made his way to Oakland in 1987, where he was expected to be a long reliever. However, A’s closer Jay Howell was injured early in the season, and Eckersley took over the ninth inning roll and never looked back.
In 1988, Eckersley led the league in regular-season saves, as well as earning a save in each ALCS game. He gave up the fatal blow to the Athletics’ season in the World Series, when he allowed Kirk Gibson to hit a walk-off home run, but he returned with just as much fire the following season. In 1990, his ERA was just 0.61 in over 73 innings, and he allowed just 92 walks during his entire career with Oakland.
Eckersley is one of the most dominant closers the game has ever seen, and with a Cy Young, an MVP and two Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards, it’s no wonder he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004.
Next: Top 50 Oakland Athletics: #5