Lodi News-Sentinel

Sal Bando, former A’s captain and World Series winner, dies at 78

- Laurence Miedema

Sal Bando, the mustachioe­d third baseman and captain on the “Swingin’ A’s” teams that won three straight World Series titles from 1972-1974 has died after a battle with cancer. He was 78.

Bando’s family released a statement Saturday morning that the member of the A’s and Brewers’ Halls of Fame died overnight at his home in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin: “It is with a heavy heart, the Bando family is sad to announce the passing of its beloved husband and father, Sal, who last night lost his battle with cancer that began over five years ago. Sandy, Sal’s wife of 54 years, and sons Sal Jr., Sonny and Stef, send their love to family, friends and fans who mourn the loss of a humble and faithful man.”

“Captain Sal” spent the first 11 of his 16 years as a player with the A’s before joining the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent after the 1976 season. He later joined the Brewers front office and served as Milwaukee’s general manager from 1992-99.

Bando was drafted by the A’s in the sixth round out of Arizona State in 1965, when they played in Kansas City, and made his major league debut a year later. Along with Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, Bando was one of the first stars of the franchise’s Oakland era when the Green and Gold arrived in 1968.

An Oakland fan favorite during the 1970s, Bando was introduced to a new generation in 2006 when he made a cameo on an episode of “The Simpsons.” He played himself as a member of the 1974 Oakland A’s, the squad Homer labeled the “best team ever.” Bando is the driver of a convertibl­e filled with A’s players who pull up in front of the Simpson’s home and exclaims. “Look! That guy remembers us!” Then Bando and the crew drive off after he gives Homer a “’74 A’s thank you honk.”

Although his 33 WAR from 1969-73 was the best in baseball, he was somewhat overshadow­ed even on his own team by future Hall of Famers Jackson, Hunter and Rollie Fingers. But Bando was also the unquestion­ed leader on a team that fought each other — and then-owner Charles Finley — but rarely missed a beat on the field.

Then A’s manager Hank Bauer named Bando the A’s team captain before the start of the 1969 season. Bando was just 25.

“I was a leader by example not by talking,” Bando said in an article in the Brewers’ 1978 scorecard magazine. “You don’t tell a (Reggie) Jackson, a (Jim) Hunter, or a (Joe) Rudi what to do. You lead by example, by giving 100 percent, by giving a continuous effort. A successful individual is one who is dedicated, on and off the field.”

The A’s won the American League West five times and were second three more times during Bando’s nine seasons in Oakland. The A’s rarely were on the field without Bando during that stretch. He played in at least 146 games every season from 196876, including in all 162 games three times.

Bando finished in the top four in Most Valuable Player voting three times, finishing second to teammate Vida Blue in 1971, and was a four-time AllStar. Despite his and his teams’ successes, Bando received just three Hall of Fame votes (0.7 percent) in 1987 when he first became eligible and fell off of the ballot. In large part because of the arrival of analytics to better measure players’ true values — Bando batted over .251 in just five of his 14 full seasons in the majors — he’s often cited as one of the most deserving players not in Cooperstow­n.

Many future A’s grew up watching Bando, including Oakland native Dave Stewart. The ace of the A’s “Bash Brothers” teams of the late 1980s tweeted, “I watched him as a kid growing up. I had a chance to personally meet him as an adult. One of the best examples of how you should treat people!! My sincere condolence­s to the Bando family. Another great one has left us.”

Despite being a strong defensive player, Bando never won a Gold Glove because the Orioles’ human vacuum cleaner Brooks Robinson was a contempora­ry. But Bando typically finished among the leaders of A.L. third basemen in putouts, assists, and double plays.

“Bando has such a strong arm that he can run down the ball after taking it in the chest and get the runner out,” longtime A’s beat writer Ron Bergman once wrote in The Sporting News.

Bando was a huge part of the middle of the “Swingin’ A’s” lineups, averaging 23 home runs and 90 runs batted in from 1969-1976. He ended his career with 1,790 hits, 242 home runs, 1,039 RBIs and a .254 batting average.

 ?? RON RIESTERER/OAKLAND TRIBUNE/BAY AREA NEWS GROUP ?? Oakland Athletics third baseman Sal Bando in 1972.
RON RIESTERER/OAKLAND TRIBUNE/BAY AREA NEWS GROUP Oakland Athletics third baseman Sal Bando in 1972.

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