Oakland Athletics: Captain Sal Bando, 1968-1976

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The first to play the hot corner in Oakland, Sal Bando, was the first captain for the Oakland Athletics and led the team’s dynasty of the 1970s.

The recent call up of Oakland Athletics rookie third baseman Ryon Healy reminded me of the A’s great legacy of third sackers from their inception in Oakland in 1968.

One common factor to all the Athletics’ winning teams in their history is they had players at third base that were superior hitters and fielders. Bando, Carney Lansford, Eric Chavez and Josh Donaldson all played significant roles for those championship teams.

Along with Arizona State University teammates Reggie Jackson and Rick Monday on the A’s 1968 roster, Bando at the ripe age of 24 immediately took charge in the A’s lineup playing in all 162 games.

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He hit his first major league homerun in the club’s second game of the season and in 1968, known as “The Year of the Pitcher” when AL batters hit around .230, Bando finished the season with a solid .251 batting average, nine HRs, and was second on the team with 67 runs batted in. In the A’s initial year, the team attained their first winning season since 1952.

At the start of the 1969 season, Bando hit five home runs and drove in 17 runs in 19 games in April. Manager Hank Bauer named Bando team captain in May that season to help the young team forge an identity. “Captain Sal” held the title throughout his tenure with the Oakland Athletics.

By the 1969 All-Star break, Bando had 18 home runs and 64 RBIs and was voted in as the AL starting third baseman. By the end of the season the stocky Italian set career highs in home runs (31), runs batted in (113) ,hits (171), and runs (106). He again played in every inning of every game.

Playing in the shadow of Orioles star third baseman Brooks Robinson during the early 70s, Bando was a four-time All-Star and finished second, third, and fourth in the AL Most Valuable Player voting from 1971 to 1974.

From 1972 to 1974 the A’s were World Champs, and though his World Series stats were sub-par, Bando crushed things in the playoffs. Over four consecutive American League Championship Series from 1971 to 1974, he hit five home runs in 17 games, including a solo shot in Game 3 of the 1974 ALCS, a 1-0 victory.

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With the Oakland Athletics cruising to their fifth consecutive AL crown in 1975, Bando had struggled all season at the plate. Batting just .198 with a month left in the season, Bando hit .354 in his final 29 games with 29 runs batted in to salvage his year with a .230 batting average and 15 HRs.

Bando again came through with his best ALCS performance, batting .500, going 6-for-12 with two doubles, but the Oakland Athletics dynasty ended that year at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, who swept them in the best-of-five ALCS.

During the A’s championship years of 1971-75, Bando led the Oakland Athletics in runs batted in three times. He was the second AL third baseman to hit 200 career home runs, joining Robinson.

In 1976, his final season with the Oakland Athletics, Bando was one of seven players including Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Don Baylor, Bert Campaneris, Gene Tenace, and Rollie Fingers who refused to sign a contract in order to be declared free agents at the end of the season.

Bando was granted free agency at the end of the 1976 season and signed a five-year contract worth a reported $1.5 million with the Milwaukee Brewers and stayed with the Brewers until his retirement in 1981.

Bando was among the all-time leaders for third baseman in games played (5th, 1896), assists (6th, 3720) and double plays started (7th, 345) at his position. In a 16-season career, Bando was a .254 hitter with 242 home runs and 1039 RBI in his 2019 games.

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During Bandos’ eight-year tenure with the Oakland Athletics, he averaged 23 home runs and 90 runs batted in. The A’s would not have a solid third sacker of Bando’s caliber until Carney Lansford joined the team in 1982.

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