10 players you forgot were A's

December 1st, 2021

OAKLAND -- It's a rich irony that the man most responsible for the A's tendency to keep players for an abbreviated tenure briefly passed through Oakland himself during his Major League career.

He reputedly possessed considerable talent, having been selected in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1980 Draft by the Mets, who believed he would hasten their return to glory. The right-handed-batting outfielder indeed reached the Majors in 1984, but was eclipsed by the likes of Darryl Strawberry and Len Dykstra. A solid Triple-A performer, he played for the Twins and Tigers before finishing his six-year big league sojourn with the A's.

As an executive, he remains directly responsible for the A's success, capable of determining their fortunes much more than he could have done in uniform. This man heads the list of surprise A's alumni, which follows.

Billy Beane, 1989
Having signed with the A's as a free agent during the 1988-89 offseason, the team's future general manager began his Oakland tenure in promising fashion. He rapped two hits in back-to-back games at Seattle April 18-19 during an early burst of playing time. But the outfielders ahead of Beane on Oakland's depth chart included veterans Dave Henderson, Stan Javier and Luis Polonia. When the A's traded Polonia to the Yankees along with pitchers Greg Cadaret and Eric Plunk for Rickey Henderson on June 21, Beane's chances of receiving significant activity ended. He finished with a .241 batting average in 37 games.

Denny McLain, 1972
The right-hander wasn't far removed from winning back-to-back American League Cy Young Awards in 1968-69 with Detroit. But numerous distractions, including gambling, grounded his career and high-flying lifestyle -- literally, given his penchant for flying private planes. McLain was clearly not the pitcher who finished 31-6 in '68 when he joined the A's in a trade from Texas. He lasted only five starts with Oakland, posting a 1-2 record and a 6.04 ERA before being traded to Atlanta on June 29.

Orlando Cepeda, 1972
The player Oakland acquired for McLain happened to be Cepeda, the future Hall of Famer who was enduring knee problems when he joined the A's. He went hitless in three at-bats spanning three games for Oakland before his injury sidelined him. Cepeda proved he could still hit one year later. Serving as Boston's very first designated hitter, he compiled a .289 batting average with 20 homers and 86 RBIs.

Joe Morgan, 1984
Having grown up in Oakland, it was entirely fitting for Morgan to spend the last of his 22 big league seasons with the A's. The future Hall of Fame second baseman had ceased to be the offensive dynamo who functioned as the heart of Cincinnati's great Big Red Machine ballclubs. But he remained a respectable performer, amassing 66 walks and 21 doubles in 438 plate appearances at age 40.

Willie McCovey, 1976
Always on the lookout for potential DH candidates, the A's purchased McCovey's contract on Aug. 30 from San Diego, where he landed in a trade preceding the 1974 season after 15 illustrious years with the Giants. McCovey hit .208 with no homers in 11 games with the A's. Still, the move set up McCovey's return in 1977 to San Francisco, where he spent the final 3 1/2 seasons of his career.

Don Sutton, 1985
Age meant nothing to Sutton, whose big league career spanned 23 seasons. He was 40 when he pitched for the A's, who obtained him from the Brewers for three players. Sutton thrived with Oakland, posting a 13-8 record with a 3.89 ERA in 29 starts. Competing with Kansas City for the AL West title, the Angels obtained Sutton for a pair of Minor Leaguers on Sept. 10. The future Hall of Famer went 2-2 in five starts with the Angels.

Tommy John, 1985
In fact, John and Sutton crossed paths during the season. John began the year with the Angels, who were tired of watching him struggle. He went 20-30 from 1983-85 before California released him on June 19. Oakland picked up John on July 12 before he finished 2-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 11 starts. But he proved that he still could be effective as he finished his career with four seasons as a Yankee.

Billy Williams, 1975-76
Most people believe that Williams' Hall of Fame career ended with his 16-year stint as a Cub. He performed admirably as Oakland's primary DH in 1975, accumulating 23 homers and 81 RBIs. Williams retired after 1976, when he batted a career-low .211 with four homers and 11 RBIs.

Willie Horton, 1978
Horton hailed from the era when performers of his stature spent their entire career with one team. However, Horton bounced around the AL after being named to four All-Star teams in 15 years with Detroit. From 1977-80, the immensely strong outfielder-DH played for five teams -- including Oakland, where he hit a typically robust .314 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 32 games. Horton left the A's in an Aug. 15 trade with Toronto.

Rico Carty, 1973 and '78
Carty, one of the best hitters almost nobody has ever heard of, played for six teams in 15 years, so he never received much of a chance to establish himself anywhere. His 1973 stint with the A's was a perfect example. Needing an extra bat down the stretch, eventual World Series champion Oakland purchased Carty's contract from the Cubs. He received 10 plate appearances in seven games. Oakland used Carty a little more in 1978 after he arrived in the trade from Toronto that involved Horton. In 41 games, Carty slashed .277/.368/.560 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs.