Bert Campaneris

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Dagoberto "Campy" Campaneris Blanco (born March 9, 1942 in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba) is a former professional baseball player and a star shortstop for the 1964 Birmingham Barons. He played in Major League Baseball for four American League teams, primarily the Kansas City and Oakland Athletics. One of the mainstays of the Athletics' championship teams of 1971 to 1975, he holds the A's franchise records for career games played (1,795), hits (1,882) and at bats (7,180). He led the AL in stolen bases six times from 1965 to 1972 and retired with the seventh most steals in history (649). He led the league in putouts three times, and ended his career among the Major League leaders in games (5th, 2097) and double plays (7th, 1186) at his position.

Minor Leagues

Campaneris was a small, skinny player at 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds. He was scouted by Felix Delgado and signed as an undrafted amateur free agent with the Kansas City Athletics for $500 on April 25, 1961. He got his start with the Daytona Beach Islanders of the Florida Developmental League and was promoted during his rookie season to the Single-A Binghamton Triplets of the East Coast League. He began the 1963 season with the Lewiston (Idaho) Broncs of the Single-A Northwest League and finished with Binghamton again. In 1964 Campaneris debuted with the Birmingham Barons in the AA Southern League and was hitting .325 when he was called up to the Majors.

Major League career

Campaneris made his debut with Kansas City on July 23, 1964, Campaneris hit two home runs, the first coming on the first pitch thrown to him by Jim Kaat. He is one of five players in major league history to hit two home runs in his first game.

In 1965, Campaneris led Kansas City in batting average (.270), and led the league in triples (12) and stolen bases (51), the latter mark being the highest total by an Athletic since Eddie Collins stole 58 in 1914 and breaking Luis Aparicio's nine-year run of the American League stolen base title. In 1966 he finished 10th in the voting for the AL's Most Valuable Player award after having a similar season at the plate, but playing more regularly at shortstop.

When the A's moved to Oakland in 1968, he had perhaps his finest year, leading the league in hits (177), steals (62), and at bats (642); the last mark was an Oakland record until Johnny Damon broke it in 2001. Campaneris enjoyed another fine year in 1970, batting .279 with career highs of 22 home runs and 64 runs batted in while leading the league in steals for the fifth time (42) and scoring 97 runs. He improved consistently on defense; his six double plays in an extra-inning game on September 13 of that year set an AL record, and in 1972 he led AL shortstops with 795 total chances while also breaking Collins' franchise record of 376 steals. An avid bunter, he led the league in sacrifice hits in 1972 (20), 1977 (40) and 1978 (25).

In his postseason career Campaneris had 11 RBI with 3 home runs, 4 doubles and a triple, scored 15 runs, and stole 6 bases in 37 games.

In Game 2 of the 1972 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, Campaneris already had three hits, two steals and two runs when in the 7th inning he faced pitcher Lerrin LaGrow. After a pitch hit him in the ankle, Campaneris threw his bat at LaGrow. The benches cleared, with Detroit manager Billy Martin going after Campaneris; both Campaneris and LaGrow were ejected. Campaneris was fined and suspended for the rest of the ALCS, as well as the first seven games of the next season, but was permitted to play in the 1972 World Series win over the Cincinnati Reds.

In the 1973 American League Championship Series, in which the A's defeated the Baltimore Orioles, he led off Game 2 with a home run, and won Game 3 with a leadoff home run in the 11th inning; in Game 7 of that year's World Series against the New York Mets, both he and Reggie Jackson hit two-run home runs in the third inning off Jon Matlack—the only two home runs Oakland would hit the entire series. The A's took a 4–0 lead and went on to win the game and repeat as world champions; Campaneris caught Wayne Garrett's pop-up for the final out of the Series. In 1974 he broke Jimmy Dykes' franchise mark for career at bats (6,023), and in 1976 he broke Dykes' mark for games played (1,702), as well as Al Simmons' Athletics record of 1,827 career hits.

After the 1976 season, Campaneris signed with the Texas Rangers, but he saw his playing time reduced in 1978. In May 1979 he was traded to the California Angels, and he split time at shortstop over the next two seasons with Jim Anderson and Freddie Patek before playing as a reserve third baseman in 1981. After spending 1982 in the Mexican League, Campaneris returned to the majors for a last hurrah in 1983 with Billy Martin's New York Yankees. He batted a career-high .322 in 60 games at second and third base before retiring.

In his 19-year career Campaneris batted .259 with 79 home runs, 646 RBI, 1,181 runs, 2,249 hits, 313 doubles, and 86 triples in 2,328 games. His 649 stolen bases placed him 7th in major league history, and behind only Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins in the AL. His Athletics record of 566 steals was broken by Rickey Henderson in 1990; Henderson also surpassed his Oakland records for career triples and at bats. Campaneris retains the Athletics franchise records for career games (1,702), putouts (2,932), assists (5,021) and double plays (934) at shortstop.

On September 8, 1965, as part of a special promotion featuring the popular young player, Campaneris became the first player to play every position in a Major League game. On the mound, he pitched ambidextrously, throwing lefty to left-handers, and switched against right-handers. Since then, three other players have joined the list of nine-position players in a Major League game.

Post-baseball career

Campaneris coached for the 1987 and 1988 Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League. Both teams won the Japan Series.

Campaneris lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and often participates in Old-Timers' games around the country. He also conducts baseball camps and is an active participant in the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, often playing in charity golf tournaments.

Campaneris was inducted into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame on May 29, 2013 at the 2013 Rickwood Classic.

References

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