20 Years Ago Today: Hatteberg’s Walk-off Gives A’s 20th Straight Win
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Those words from the 2011 Academy Award-nominated film ‘Moneyball’ are hard to disagree with. The quote from Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) is even harder to disagree with when you reflect on the magical night of September 4, 2002.
20 years ago today, the A’s were in the midst of an incredible run.
The team had won 19-straight games, with the most recent wins coming from walk-off heroics in the ninth inning on back-to-back days.
Oakland needed one more win to eclipse the American League record for consecutive wins set by the 1906 Chicago White Sox and the 1947 New York Yankees.
Cy Young Award candidate Tim Hudson took the mound for the A’s against the Kansas City Royals, but it appeared that the offense would lead the way for Oakland after an 11-0 onslaught through the first three innings.
An 11-0 laugher quickly turned into a tense situation after the Royals put five runs on the board in the fourth inning and then another five-spot in the top of the eighth inning to cut the A’s lead to 11-10.
Hudson struggled, allowing 11 hits and five earned runs over 6.2 innings before turning the game over to the bullpen.
With the Royals down to their last out, Oakland closer Billy Koch surrendered a game-tying single to Kansas City shortstop Luis Alicea to tie things up at 11-11.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, A’s manager Art Howe opted to pinch-hit for outfielder Eric Byrnes with first-baseman Scott Hatteberg.
Hatteberg took a second-pitch breaking ball from Royals reliever Jason Grimsley, sending the ball deep into the night and well into the right-field seats to send the Coliseum into pandemonium.
It was history for the Oakland Athletics. It was history for Major League Baseball.
The A’s mobbed Hatteberg at home plate as a giant banner dropped down from Mt. Davis in center-field: “20”, the banner read.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics were one of the most exciting teams in baseball history, winning 103 games and breaking the American League record for 20 wins in-a-row.
Barry Zito won the American League Cy Young Award in 2002, while shortstop Miguel Tejada secured the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
While the team might have lost its next game to end the streak at 20, the ‘Moneyball’ A’s will live on forever in baseball history. A team with no money, no big star talent, no big and fancy stadium.
None of that mattered.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?