Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Bert Campaneris. Campaneris was born and raised in Cuba and signed with the Kansas City Athletics as a 19 year old in 1961. He reached the big leagues in 1964 and in his first at bat he homered off of Jim Kaat. He homered later in the game, making him one of five players to hit two homeruns in his debut. He would hit only two more homers that season and only once in his career did he hit double digit homers in a season (a fluky 22 in 1970; today PED allegations would be flying), but this meant the Athletics actually had a player of major league quality. The A’s 13 years in Kansas City were terrible. They 829-1224 in their time in KC and their best record was 73-81 in 1958. The A’s remained terrible while Campaneris was there, but they A’s left for Oakland following the 1967 season and began to get better. Over the next few seasons they added Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and others as they A’s became an American League powerhouse.
In 1965 Campaneris won his first of four straight and six total stolen base titles. In 1968 – the A’s first season in Oakland – he made his first of six All-Star teams. In 1971 the Athletics won their first division title and made their first postseason appearance in 40 years. They were swept by the Orioles, but it would be the last series they would lose for some time. The A’s won five straight AL West titles from 1971 through 1975 and won three straight World Series from 1972 through 1974. In 1975 they were swept by the Red Sox, but things were already changing. The players union, led by Marvin Miller, won their suit against Major League Baseball, granting players free agency. A’s owner Charlie Finley was prepared to handle it in his own way. In a series of moves, Jackson and pitcher Ken Holtzman were sent to the Orioles, and attempted to move Rudi and Fingers to the Red Sox before Bowie Kuhn stepped in. While many people were upset at what Finley was doing, they didn’t see the bigger picture. After the 1975 season Jackson was turning 30, Rudi 29, and Campaneris 34. It was an aging team and soon to be an expensive aging team. Nonetheless, much like the arrival of Sandy Alomar Jr. in Cleveland, Campaneris’ arrival in Kansas City was the first building block of the A’s dynasty.
Of the various quirks of his career my particular favorite one came on September 8, 1965 when in a page out of Bill Veeck’s book, he became the first player to play all nine positions in one game. On that day he led off and started at shortstop. In the second inning he moved to second. In the third he moved to third. In the fourth he moved out to left field. In the fifth he moved to center field. In the sixth he moved to right field. In the seventh he went to first base. In the eighth inning he went to the mound and pitched both left handed and right handed. In the ninth he moved to behind the plate. In the tenth he was replaced by Rene Lachemann. The Angels won (because this WAS the Kansas City A’s) 5-3 in 13 innings. Campaneris’s stat line for the game: 0-3 with a walk, stolen base and run scored, recorded five putouts and an assist in the field and on the mound went one inning allowing one hit, two walks, one strikeout and an earned run. Cesar Tovar played all nine positions in 1968 for the Twins and Scott Sheldon did it with the Rangers and Shane Halter did with the Tigers, both in 2000. Only Campaneris pitched from both sides.