Man of Many Positions

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bert Campaneris

The Kansas City (and later, Oakland) Athletics had few bright spots during the 1960s. Six times during that decade, the A’s lost at least 90 games, and three times lost more than 100. Prior to the introduction of divisional play in 1969, the Athletics’ best finish was sixth in 1968, the first time in the 1960s that the A’s finished above .500.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

The only real bright spot for the franchise during the 1960s was the acquisition and development of a stable of young, talented players who would jell at the end of the 1960s and spur the Oakland Athletics’ championship years in the early 1970s. One of the first of those foundation players was a fleet Cuban native named Dagoberto Campaneris.

“Bert” Campaneris came up with the A’s as their shortstop in 1964, hitting a home run in his first at-bat and two homers in his first game. As an indication of things to come, that performance was misleading, as Campaneris’ primary offensive weapon was speed, not power. Starting in 1965, Campaneris led the league in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons and in six out of his first eight years with the A’s. When Campaneris led the American League with 51 stolen bases in 1965, he ended Luis Aparicio’s nine-year reign as AL base-stealing champ (1956-1964).

Campaneris led the league in triples in 1965 (12) and in hits in 1968 (177). During the 1960s, he batted a combined .264 with 292 stolen bases.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Campaneris was the A’s shortstop and lead-off for a dozen years. However, he was talented enough to play every position and, on September 8, 1965, Campaneris did just that. In a night game against the California Angels, he became the first major league player to field every position, giving up one run in the inning he pitched in a 5-3 loss. (Campaneris did not figure in the decision). His only error in that nine-position game occurred in right field. He was error-free in six chances at other positions and, ironically, had no fielding chances during the inning he played his everyday position, shortstop.

A five-time All-Star, Campaneris is still the Athletics’ career leader in games (1,795), at-bats (7,180) and hits (1,882).

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