Oakland Athletics history: Appreciating Mike Gallego

1989: Mike Gallego of the Oakland Athletics bends down to scoop up the ball. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport
1989: Mike Gallego of the Oakland Athletics bends down to scoop up the ball. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport /

Mike Gallego was an overlooked part of the Oakland Athletics teams from the late 1980s and into the 1990s. But he was a key part of that success as well.

When one thinks of the Oakland Athletics of the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, there are certain indelible images. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco belting home runs and giving each other forearm bashes at home plate. Dave Stewart glaring from the mound, intimidating the competition from the moment they stepped into the batter’s box. Dennis Eckersley slamming the door in the ninth inning, preserving those many victories.

Yet, on every great team, there are role players who do all the little things to make certain that a team wins. They may never get the headlines or the notoriety, but they are indispensable to the team’s success. During the A’s run of success in the 1980s and 1990s, Mike Gallego was one such player.

He was not the type of player that would impress with the bat. During his career with the A’s, he produced a .232/.313/.312 batting line, hitting 63 doubles and 23 homers over eight years. The stereotypical light hitting middle infielder that permeated the majors at the time, Gallego did not offer much in the speed department either, stealing 21 bases with Oakland.

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What Gallego could provide was defense. He excelled with the glove, a sure handed option at the keystone. Paired with similarly light hitting Walt Weiss, the A’s had excellent defense in the middle of their infield, making sure those runs provided would stand up.

Gallego never won a Gold Glove award, but he likely deserved to. He led the league in runs saved at second in 1991, and ranked in the top five two other times. In that 1991 season, Gallego was also third amongst AL second basemen in fielding percentage, while showing solid range and a respectable arm.

After that 1991 season, Gallego would depart in free agency, heading to the Yankees for two seasons where he served as a utility infielder. He returned to Oakland in 1994, a lost year where he served as a reminder of what the team had been. Following two more years as a role player in St. Louis, Gallego retired, a 13 year veteran in the majors.

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Mike Gallego may not have had many headlines, but he was a key member of the Oakland Athletics run of success. His steady defense may have been overlooked, but he was the type of player that every winning team needs.