Sal Bando, Oakland Athletics championship captain, dies at 78

Sal Bando, third baseman and captain of the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s during the team’s three-game World Series winning streak, died Friday in Oconomowoc, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee. He was 78 years old.

The cause was cancer, Major League Baseball and Bando’s family said in a statement.

Along with Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Joe Rudi, Bando broke through the A’s farm system and propelled the team’s greatest era of dominance. Outside of mid-1970s athletics, only three Yankees teams (1936-39, 1949-53, and 1998-2000) have won three or more World Series in a row.

In a tight, back-and-forth World Series, the Athletics defeated the “Big Red Machine” Reds, featuring Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, in 1972. They went on to defeat the Mets in the 1973 series and the Dodgers in 1974. – teams that included Tom Seaver and Don Sutton on their pitching squad.

Athletics were known as “Swingin’ A’s” for their powerful offense, led by Jackson, and as “The Mustache Gang” for introducing a then-hip shaggy style into the clean-shaven conventionality of professional baseball .

Bando was first introduced as a defensive talent, and he struggled early on trying to hit major league pitchers. He credited Joe DiMaggio — then an executive and occasional athletics hitting coach — with getting him to close his stance and keep his head down to hit for more power, The Sporting News reported in 1969.

Bando became the team’s captain that year, when he was just 25 years old and in his second full major league season. His teammates respected his durability — he played every game or nearly every game in each of the nine full seasons he spent with the Athletics — and he hit for moderate but consistent power, averaging over 20 homers and about 90 RBIs.

“You don’t tell a Jackson or a Hunter or a Rudi what to do,” Bando told a team publication for the Milwaukee Brewers, who he was playing for then, in 1978. “You lead by example, giving 100 %, by giving continuous effort A successful individual is one who is dedicated.

The Sporting News described the A’s of that era as “a team in which problems boiled over like a living volcano”, with bitter fighting between the players and owner Charles O. Finley, but the publication added that “Bando, more than anyone, allows his teammates to relax and think about baseball.

He was voted to four All-Star teams, but Bando resented the stardom of teammates like Jackson, who gained fame later playing for the Yankees. The A’s went through periods without a local television contract, and for a championship baseball club, attendance at home games was low.

“In another town, somewhere in the East, we could be heroes,” Bando told Sporting News in 1973. “Here we’re not even anything special.”

Nor was Bando known for the statistical feats of a player like Jackson, who while playing for the Yankees hit three consecutive homers in the 1977 World Series.

Yet, in a detailed 2013 biography of Bando, the Society for American Baseball Research determined that from 1969 to 1973, his “wins above replacement” figure — which estimates a player’s total contribution over a hypothetical probable replacement – ​​was the highest in baseball. , defeating not only Jackson but also Rose and Bench.

Salvatore Leonard Bando was born on February 13, 1944 in Cleveland. His father, Ben, was a carpenter and amateur softball player, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. His mother, Angela Bando, was a housewife and she also played softball. Sal grew up in Warrensville Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.

After the 1976 season, Bando became a free agent and was signed by the Brewers. He helped the team establish a culture of winning, but it found nothing like athletic success. He retired after the 1981 season and began working in the front office for the Brewers. He served as general manager for most of the 1990s, a time when the team generally had a losing record.

Bando married Sandy Fortunato in 1969. Besides her, survivors include his sons, Sal Jr., Sonny and Stef.

In a 1982 essay for The New York Times, Bando discussed witnessing his first opening day as a retired professional. He described the first game of the season as a constant source of tension: having to prove yourself once again to fans and journalists, working to achieve your long-term dreams of the offseason and adapting to new uncomfortable uniforms.

“For the first time I can sit down with my family and enjoy the American pastime,” he wrote. “My wife won’t have knots in her stomach and prayers on her lips worrying about my performance. Now I can be the one to take care of the food and drinks and keep the kids seated.

“I’m very grateful,” he continued, “for my career and all the blessings that come with it, but of course it’s nice to live a normal life.”

nytimes sport

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