Athletics History: KC Drafting

Few teams in baseball history have been as good as the Oakland A's squads in the early 1970s. Those teams owed their success to a nucleus of young players who came up through the A's minor league system. Many of the biggest stars from the A's World Championship squads in the 1970s were acquired when the franchise was in Kansas City in the 1960s. Learn more about the KC A's drafting history.

Although the Kansas City Athletics draft history was a short one, the results had huge ramifications for the future success of the Oakland Athletics franchise. In the first three years that the KC Athletics drafted players, before the franchise moved to Oakland, 21 eventually made their way to the Major Leagues. Pitchers Vida Blue, Dave Hamilton, catcher/first baseman Gene Tenace, third baseman Sal Bando and slugging outfielder Reggie Jackson were all a part of that group. They would become the core of the 1972-1974 World Champion Oakland A's dynasty.

In 1965, the Kansas City A's received the first pick in the new Major League Baseball amateur draft. Clubs drafted in the reverse order from the previous season's standings. The Athletics chose Arizona State star outfielder Rick Monday with the first pick. A's owner Charlie Finley signed Monday to $100,000 bonus.

Monday went on to become an All-Star for Oakland in 1968 and continued to play for A's until he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman on November 29th, 1971. Holtzman would then become a huge part of A's pitching staff and major contributor to the 1972-1974 A's World Series Championship teams. Incidentally, Holtzman was not Oakland's first choice. Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley tried to pry away lefty Steve Carlton from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Monday, until the Philadelphia Phillies outbid him for Carlton's services. Eventually, Finley would work out a deal with the Cubs for Holtzman.

In that same 1965 draft, the A's also took future four-time All-Star and captain of their championship club, third baseman Sal Bando (also teammate of Monday's from Arizona State), with their 6th pick, 119 overall. Finley noticed Bando during the College World Series and gave him $30,000 dollar signing bonus. Bando would go on to play 11 seasons with the A's and would become one of baseball's best and most reliable third basemen, not to mention helping the Oakland A's capture three consecutive World Championships.

The A's also drafted a shortstop named Gene Tenace from Russelton, Pennsylvania, with their 20th round pick, 340 overall. Tenace was discovered by A's scout Dan Carnevale, who loved Tenace's swing and determination. He recommended that Charlie Finley draft Tenace and luckily for A's fans, he did. Tenace was converted to a catcher early in his career, and would go on to win the 1972 World Series MVP for his heroic and outstanding play. Tenace would become an All-Star in 1975 and go on to play eight seasons for the A's before leaving as a free agent.

The 1966 Kansas City A's had the second overall pick in the draft and took Arizona State outfielder Reggie Jackson. The NY Mets had the first pick in the 1966 draft and took catcher Steve Chilcott, from Antelope Valley H.S. (Lancaster, CA), over Jackson. Jackson was heavily wooed by the Phillies, Dodgers, Twins and Giants in high school, but chose Arizona State over a pro contract. The A's overwhelmed Jackson with an $85,000 dollar bonus and a new car. A's scout Bob Zuk and Finley were responsible for signing Jackson.

Reggie would become one of Major League Baseball's and Oakland's biggest and brightest stars with eventual induction to the Hall of Fame. Jackson would go on to play 10 seasons with the K.C./Oakland A's before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, along with Holtzman, in exchange for pitcher Mike Torrez and outfielder Don Baylor on April 2, 1976. Jackson was a 14-time All Star and the 1973 AL MVP. Reggie would return to Oakland in 1987 and then retire.

In 1966, the A's also drafted left handed pitcher Dave Hamilton in the 5th round, 82 overall, from Edmonds, Washington. Hamilton played six seasons for the Oakland A's. He appeared in two games for the A's in the 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. He also appeared on the A's 1973 and 1974 World Series roster but saw no action. Hamilton was dealt, along with outfielder Chet Lemon, to the Chicago White Sox on June 15th, 1975 for pitchers Stan Bahnsen and Skip Pitlock. Hamilton would return to the Oakland A's in 1979 and then retire from the game.

Nineteen sixty-seven was the last draft year for the Kansas City Athletics. They chose a left-handed pitcher, Brien Bickerton, from Santana High School (CA) with the 7th overall pick. Bickerton pitched six seasons in the Oakland organization, but never appeared in a Major League game, although he did occupy a 40-man roster spot for the Oakland A's in 1971. The A's second pick, 27th overall, was left-handed pitcher Vida Blue, from De Soto High School in Mansfield, Louisiana.

Blue was courted by A's scout Connie Ryan, who offered Blue a $25,000 dollar signing bonus. Blue's high school coach wanted a better offer from Ryan and the A's, but Ryan balked at giving Blue any more money. Blue refused the offer. Finley was enraged and then fired Ryan and offered Blue an extra $8,000 dollars for college and Blue then agreed to a contract. He was then signed by A's scout Ray Swallow. Blue would become the 1971 Cy Young Award winner, an AL MVP and six-time All Star pitcher. He was a major part of the World Series Champion Oakland A's rotation and one of the A's most popular figures. He retired as a member of the Oakland A's in 1987.

Six other major contributors to the 1972-1974 Oakland A's dynasty were also signed under Finley as minor league free agents while the club was located in Kansas City. They were pitchers Jim "Catfish" Hunter, John "Blue Moon" Odom and Rollie Fingers and outfielder Joe Rudi in 1964. Shortstop Bert "Campy" Campaneris was signed in 1961.

A 1968 Life Magazine reported that A's owner Charlie Finley spent $2.5 million dollars on bonuses for his minor league players and built one of the best minor league systems in baseball. Finley had the foresight to build a winning team from within, with great scouts and top bonuses. The players Finley signed while in Kansas City built the foundation of one of baseball's most dynamic and successful teams: the 1972,1973 and 1974 World Champions Oakland Athletics.


Sources
John E. Peterson, the Kansas City Athletics: A Baseball History 1954-1967. Baseball Reference.com. Wikipedia.

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