After 52 years, A's legend Lieppman retires

November 9th, 2022
Joe Rudi, Carol Fosse, Steve Vucinich, Keith Lieppman and Sal Bando Jr. pose on Aug. 7 during the Oakland Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos' Athletics Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

After a legendary 52-year run serving a variety of roles with the A’s, Keith Lieppman announced his retirement from the organization on Thursday.

Lieppman, 73, began his journey with the A’s as a second-round pick in the secondary phase of the 1971 MLB January Draft. Spending nine Minor League seasons in the system from 1971-79, he then transitioned into coaching and managed A’s Minor League affiliates from 1980-87.

After a few years as director of instruction, Lieppman was elevated to his most prominent role in the organization in 1992 as director of player development. Holding the position for 28 years, he was a key figure in helping cultivate both players and coaches who went on to form successful A’s clubs of the past three decades which reached the postseason 12 times from 1992-2020.

“For the five decades Keith worked for the A's, he brought passion, deep knowledge, kindness and integrity to the field with him every single day,” A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst said in a joint statement.

“No one better embodies the spirit of this organization. Through his teaching and his leadership, Keith enhanced the careers and lives of countless A's players, coaches, managers and staff. We're incredibly grateful that he shared so much of himself with this team, and incredibly proud to call him a friend. We will miss his daily presence dearly, and we wish him and his wife, Corinne, all the best in a well-earned retirement."

Eric Chavez, who spent the first 13 of his 17 big league seasons with Oakland, was inducted into the A’s Hall of Fame alongside Lieppman earlier this year at the Coliseum. Upon getting drafted by the A’s 10th overall in the 1996 MLB Draft, Chavez said he viewed Lieppman as a father figure while learning how to navigate his introduction to professional baseball.

“Keith Lieppman basically helped raise me,” Chavez said. “I had many talks with Keith Lieppman in Arizona before I even started my career. He kind of opened my eyes. One of the first questions he asked me was, ‘How long do you want to play this game?’ I told him, ‘10 years.’ He goes, ‘You kidding me? Why not 15 or 17?’ It ended up being about 17 years. He just taught me a lot about the game. ... A guy that maybe didn’t always get the headlines but meant a lot to the organization.”

Most recently, Lieppman served as a special advisor to player development over the past three years, helping current A’s director of player development Ed Sprague Jr. transition into the new role while also remaining involved in player development himself by traveling around to the club’s Minor League affiliates.

“Keith Lieppman is the most selfless person in Major League Baseball,” said A’s assistant general manager Billy Owens. “His entire career was about helping others, whether that be players, manager coaches, front office or staff. Keith embodied everything good about the game. He challenged you to improve while providing guidance on how to navigate the challenges. His impact and leadership throughout the organization is endless and remarkable.”

Though he’s officially retired, Lieppman still plans to remain part of the A’s in some capacity with occasional visits to Minor League training camp in Arizona. He’ll also continue to take pride in watching an A’s big league staff filled with coaches he helped along the way such as Tommy Everidge, Darren Bush, Marcus Jensen and Eric Martins.

“I think the one thing I’ve been good at is picking good people,” Lieppman said. “That might be my only claim to fame. I’ve found people that were able to develop. As a farm director, you set the tone and make the moves. But at the end of the day, work takes place in the trenches. This group in the big leagues, they’ve all been good soldiers in the system, and it’s gratifying to see them in the big leagues and moving their careers forward.”