Former A’s manager John McNamara dead at 88

Former Oakland A’s manager John McNamara passed away on Tuesday. He was 88 years old.

John McNamara, who led the 1970 Oakland A’s to an 89-73 record at age 38 and later managed the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, California Angels, and Cleveland Indians, died at his Brentwood, Tenn. home on July 28. The Sacramento-native was 88 years old.

McNamara will famously be remembered as the manager of the Red Sox when they were one strike away from a title in game six of the 1986 World Series at New York’s Shea Stadium. But a wild pitch tied the score and the Mets Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that got through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner that is forever etched in baseball lore.

After the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in game seven, in the bottom of the sixth the Mets would tie the game, go on to score five more runs in the next two winnings, and win 8-5 to become the 1986 World Champions. McNamara would win the 1986 American League Manager of the Year, but never a World Championship.

In his first stint managing a collection of young and talented Oakland players that included Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Rick Monday, Joe Rudi, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Rollie Fingers, McNamara guided the A’s franchise to their best winning percentage (.549) in 38 years since the 1932 Philadelphia Athletics.

He was on Oakland’s first coaching staff when they moved from Kansas City before the start of the 1968 season. He took over as manager at the end of the 1969 season from Hank Bauer and went 8-5. McNamara’s lifetime managerial record in the major leagues was 1,167-1,242.

McNamara’s played minor league baseball as a catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and later throughout the Kansas City Athletics’ farm system. He never played above Triple-A.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who’s father Tito played for McNamara in Oakland in 1969 and 1970, told the Associated Press, “I think my dad was actually a year older than him when he was managing in Oakland, so it was kind of funny. Just a sweet, sweet man.” Tito was the oldest player on the A’s roster but was actually exactly five months younger than the manager.

Always the showman, A’s owner Charlie O. Finley introduced a Dixieland band that would stroll through the Coliseum between innings and entertain the fans. In 1970, the band was labeled “McNamara’s Band,” after a pub song written in 1889 and made popular in 1945 by crooner Bing Crosby, as a tribute to the A’s young skipper. The name was promoted by A’s longtime radio play-by-play announcer Monte Moore.

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John McNamara’s death was unexpected. He is survived by wife Ellen. In Oakland, “McNamara’s Band” would have removed their straw hats as a sign of respect.

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