OAKLAND -- With apologies to Brad Pitt, members of the Swingin' A's wondered Friday night if Hollywood made a movie about the wrong team.
For a real blockbuster about Oakland baseball, forget "Moneyball" and get a load of the Technicolor bunch that won three consecutive World Series from 1972-74.
"It would have to be a seven-hour movie," reliever Rollie Fingers said.
"It would have to be Rated-R for violence, language and all of the above," former pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom said.
"What would that title be? 'The Misfits'?" pitcher Vida Blue asked.
The cast of characters is back in town for a 40-year reunion this weekend, spinning tales that even the hackiest of screenwriters would dismiss as implausible. The '74 team featured mustachioed brawlers, nutty nicknames, brightly colored uniforms, a world-class sprinter who played "designated runner" and an eccentric, tightfisted owner named Charlie Finley -- and yet somehow delivered some of the most exquisite baseball ever played.
The New York Yankees are the only other franchise to win at least three consecutive World Series.
"I will admit, I took it all for granted," Blue, 64, says now. "That is the perilous part of youth. You think about Ernie Banks, who was never even in the playoffs let alone the World Series. You think about all the great players that have played this game that never had a taste of postseason play.
"So it's mind-boggling winning three straight. What we did is one of the great accomplishments in sports."
The '74 team capped the Oakland three-peat by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a five-game Fall Classic.
Players will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday, and three World Series MVPs -- Gene Tenace ('72), Reggie Jackson ('73) and Fingers ('74) will throw out first pitches.
The first 15,000 fans will receive a Jim "Catfish" Hunter bobblehead doll in honor of the pitcher who won 25 games and captured the American League's Cy Young Award in the '74 season. That team also featured four hitters who blasted at least 20 home runs apiece: Jackson (29), Tenace (26), Joe Rudi (22) and Sal Bando (22).
Billy North (54 steals) and Bert "Campy" Campaneris (34) provided the speed.
There was at least one thing about the team that today's movie audiences might recognize: the lack of spending. Oakland did it on the cheap.
"You look at the money that players made and the talent that we had, that's the original 'Moneyball,' isn't it?" Tenace said. "Being able to do things with less payroll? That was us. We won three World Series and won the division five years in a row with a payroll probably as low as anybody in the league at that time."
The Swingin' A's did it despite a clubhouse chemistry that could require a hazmat suit. Hours before Game 1 of the '74 World Series, for example, players kept insisting to reporters that tales of their infighting were greatly exaggerated. Then Fingers and Odom started brawling right there in the clubhouse.
Fingers required six stitches in his head. Odom wound up with a sprained ankle.
"We had some characters and we were beating the (expletive) out of each other. But we still won," Fingers, 67, says now. "We had our moments, but when the game started we were all baseball."
Fingers was the World Series MVP. Odom earned the win in Game 5.
Nothing ticked off Oakland in those days quite like being disrespected. In the days leading up to the '74 World Series, somebody from the Dodgers said they had reviewed the rosters and said the only two A's players who could crack the Los Angeles lineup were Jackson and Hunter.
"Somebody taped the newspaper up in our locker room," Tenace, the catcher, recalled. "Nobody said anything to the media. Nobody said anything to the Dodgers. We just went out and beat them.
"And I'll tell you what. We should have swept 'em. That's the kind of talent we had. You rattle our cage and we took it to another level."
Need an opening scene for the movie? In the early days of the '74 season, A's players were ticked off at Finley for what Fingers called "just a piece-of-crap ring with no diamond in it." That was their reward for beating the New York Mets for the '73 title.
So opening day in Oakland, Fingers and starter Ken Holtzman were shagging balls in the outfield when they spotted their owner in the third-base dugout.
"Kenny Holtzman hated Charlie Finley as much as I did," Fingers recalled, still chuckling. "So we got a couple of balls in our pocket. And on the count of three, we threw two each right at him. And then we laid down in the grass and started doing sit-ups.
"By the time the balls got to him, they were rattling all over the dugout. He had no clue where they came from."
But the innovative Finley could press the right buttons, too. "I thought of Charlie as a father figure to us," Odom, 69, said. "He gave us all a chance. Even though he didn't pay us a salary that we deserved, we still went out and won regardless."
One of Finley's gambits in '74 was the invention of the designated runner. He signed Herb Washington -- a track star from Michigan State with no baseball experience. Washington went on to spend 105 career games in the major leagues without batting, pitching or fielding. As a pinch runner, he stole 33 bases and scored 31 runs.
He also had an ignominious Game 2 in '74, getting picked off in the ninth inning by Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall.
"Herb was a very confident, outgoing guy," Bando said Friday. "He got teased a lot -- and he also gave it back a lot.
"He fit in perfect."
A's players chide fans for booing struggling reliever. PAGE 5