More from the reunion to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1989 World Series champion Oakland A's.
If you haven't read the first installment, click here: http://bit.ly/1o0CBa1.
A few months before I came west to cover the A's in 1985, Carney and Debbie Lansford had a baby boy. It was their second. Their first had died in 1983 at age 2 after spending half his life fighting kidney disease.
Why the Lansfords chose me, the new guy on the beat, to tell their story is something I've never asked. It might be as simple as this: Carney was Santa Clara born-and bred, and I was the hometown paper.
The story ran on Father's Day 1985, with a wonderful photo of the Lansfords and their smiling baby boy, all of them beaming., and I can still recite the lead.
Even today, with the holiday upon him, Carney Lansford couldn't tell you that Father's Day always falls on the third Sunday of June.
It doesn't matter.
Every day is Father's Day for the A's third baseman now.
"That baby boy, Joshua, is now 30 years old. He has a brother Jared, 27. They both were exceptional ballplayers. Both were drafted by the A's. Jared got as far as Triple-A; Josh, Single-A.
Today they are teammates, pitching for the Long Island Ducks, an Independent League team in Central Islip, N.Y.
As a ballplayer, Carney's value is best told by this fact: The A's, after reaching the World Series three years in a row from 1988-90, slumped to an 84-78 record in 1991. That was the year Lansford missed after an off-season snowmobiling accident.
Lansford returned the following season, and the A's won 96 games and returned to the postseason.
He retired after the Game 5 loss in Toronto. I can still see him, sitting at his locker, ice bundled around his back, his elbow, his shoulder, his knees, the last guy in the room.
Dave Henderson was one of my go-to guys. I could always go to him with a question. He might not give me an answer, but he always was accommodating.
He called me Buddy LeRoux, the name of a former Boston Red Sox owner. Henderson's greatest moment had come in a Boston uniform, in probably the greatest game I ever saw in person: Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS. But he had many great moments after joining the A's for spring training in 1988 -- on a non-guaranteed contract -- including the two home runs he hit against the Giants in Game 3 of the '89 Series.
Henderson wasn't related to Rickey, except in style. He preened in the outfielder, holding pose after making a throw. He pranced on the basepaths whenever the situation allowed.
Early in Henderson's first season with the A's, I asked Tony La Russa, the no-nonsense manager, how he felt about all of Henderson's showboating. La Russa surprised me. He said he didn't mind as long as Henderson was consistent, as long as he did it winning or losing.
That he did.
I shared that story with Henderson last weekend and he said La Russa didn't like him at first. He said La Russa carried hard feelings because of a home run that Henderson had hit years earlier to beat the White Sox. Knowing Hendu's penchant for showboating, and knowing Tony's long memory, that's entirely believable.
One last Hendu: once, in the late '80s, I asked him why he wore No. 42.
"Are you kidding?" he replied, genuinely incredulous. "Really?"
I am one example why the retirement of Jackie Robinson's number, in 1997, was so important to the history of the game.
Tommie Reynolds spent seven years as bench coach for the A's, but I learned more about him in two weeks last year when I read a book called "Southern League." The book, by former big league pitcher Larry Colton, details the 1964 season of the Birmingham Barons. Reynolds was a star on that team; I knew that much. But I had only a vague sense of the racism he faced at that super-charged time in South, until I read the book.
"I'd get knocked down by a pitch, then get knocked down again," he told me last weekend. "And there was nothing you could do about it. You sure couldn't go out to the mound."
Not in 1964, not in Birmingham, not if you were black.
Todd Burns -- With two outs in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the '88 World Series, Tony La Russa went to the mound to make a pitching change. There was no sense to it. Nobody was on base, nothing was at stake. The A's were losing 5-2 to Orel Hershiser, and they were going to lose this World Series. Even La Russa knew the odds of them scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth off Hershiser.
But he went to the mound and called for Todd Burns, not to keep the score at 5-2, but because he knew there might never come another opportunity for the kid to pitch in a World Series.
THAT is the kind of manager La Russa was.
(Burns pitched in two more World Series,)
Nobody was cooler than Rickey Henderson, and that hasn't changed. He strutted out from the center field tunnel Saturday, chillin' down the red carpet to join his teammates waiting at the pitching mound, mimicking his throwing motion, that little submarine flip he'd make from left field after a catch -- a snap catch, of course.
Oh, and Rickey blew off the media session Friday. It was good to see that not everything, not everybody, has changed.