Boy, those 1986 Oakland A’s were an exciting team, right?
I mean, sure, they went just 76-86 and finished third in the old American League West, but they were laying the groundwork for something special.
Why, within a couple of season, the A’s would be The A’s, a juggernaut marching toward a dynasty that would have been complete and devastating if not for a couple of less worthy NL West pretenders name the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1990 Cincinnati Reds.
Still … the A’s were mighty, taking the three straight AL pennants from 1988 through 1990 and copping the 1989 World Series.
And, if you were paying attention back in 1986, you could see it all coming together …
There was Jose Canseco and the 33 home runs he hit on the way to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors.
There was old man Dave Kingman and his 35 dingers, who would be gone by the time the A’s were actually good but who helped set the stage for the Bash Brothers to come.
There was Dave Stewart, swinging from the bullpen to the rotation.
And there was half a season of Tony La Russa as manager after Jackie Moore and Jeff Newman were dispatched to the scrapheap.
Heck, there were even three homers in 58 plate appearances by a young Mark McGwire.
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But among all the upstarts and beginnings and transitions, there were other stories. One of those belonged to Bill Mooneyham, a 25-year old righthander who had spent six long years climbing through the minors — first with the California Angels, and then with the A’s.
Heck, Mooneyham had been a known quantity to MLB types since the late 1970s when the Montreal Expos drafted him in the seventh round in 1978. He demurred, though, and enrolled in Merced College in Merced, California.
Three first-round selections followed, by the Cardinals in January 1979, by the Mets in June 1979, and by the Mariners in January 1980.
Finally, when the Angels took him in the first round of the secondary phase of the June 1980 Draft, Mooneyham bit, and he was a professional.
He had some trouble preventing runs in the minors, though, which turns out to be a problem for pitchers, and the Angels released him in March 1985.
The A’s swooped in that April and signed him as a minor league free agent.
A year later, on April 19, 1986, Mooneyham made his MLB debut, striking out two batters in a one-inning relief stint as Jose Rijo downed the Mariners.
Mooneyham stuck in the Bay for the rest of the season, too, marching down the rookie aisle with Canseco all season long. But, while Jose set the world on fire, Mooneyham went 4-5 with a 4.52 ERA, and also turned 26 in August.
All that prompted a demotion to Triple-A, and then a trade to Milwaukee, in 1987.
A year after that, Mooneyham was out of baseball without ever having returned to the Majors.
Ah, but this was the budding Age of the Rookie Card, and all three major card producers bit on Mooneyham in 1987.
And before that trifecta from Topps, Fleer, and Donruss, the latter two got the jump by including Mooneyham in their year-end 1986 sets.
For Fleer, that meant a card in their Update set.
And for Donruss, that meant a Bill Mooneyham card in their landmark debut issue of The Rookies, destined to become a hobby classic.
Wally Joyner … Jose Canseco … Barry Bonds … uh … Bill Mooneyham?
Yep, rookie cards are the great equalizer among baseball talents and hobby dollars.
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