Baseball History: Bert Campaneris

bert campaneris 1965One pitch, one swing, one homer.

That was the debut of Bert Campaneris of the Kansas City Athletics on July 23, 1964.

Campaneris hit a home run on the first pitch that he ever saw in the major leagues off of Jim Kaat of the Minnesota Twins. “Campy” hit another homer later in the game as the A’s won 4-3.

With those two swings, Campaneris became just the second player in the Modern Era to hit a pair of homers in his first game. Bob Nieman of the St. Louis Browns was the first to do it in 1951.

Since Campaneris, three others have joined the group. Mark Quinn of the Kansas City Royals (1999), J.P. Arencibia (2010) of the Toronto Blue Jays and Yasmani Grandal of the San Diego Padres (2012) each blasted two long balls in their initial big league contests. Grandal’s effort is unique in that is the first player to ever hit homers from both sides of the plate.

The two homers marked the beginning of a 19-year career for Campaneris. The shortstop was a six-time all-star, who also led the American League in stolen bases on six occasions. He finished with 2,249 hits and 649 stolen bases, which is currently 14th on that all-time list.

In 1964, Campaneris was selected to the Topps Rookie All-Star Team after appearing in 67 games with four homers, 22 RBI and 10 steals.

A year later, Campaneris made history when he became the first to play all nine positions in a game on Sept. 8. The A’s lost that night to the California Angels 5-3 in 13 innings. Campaneris had a walk in four plate appearances and scored a run with a stolen base.

In the field, he made an error in right field that led to a run. In the eighth inning, Campaneris went to the mound and gave up a hit and a run. The first hitter he faced was his cousin, Jose Cardenal.

By the end of that season, he won his first of four straight stolen base titles by swiping 51 to break a nine-year run by Luis Aparicio, who is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

By the 1970s, the A’s had moved to Oakland and had a run of five straight AL West Division crowns and three world championships from 1972-1974.

In 1972, Campaneris was suspended after game two of the AL playoffs for the rest of the championship series. He was hit by a pitch from Lerrin LaGrow and he threw his bat at the Detroit Tigers hurler. He was allowed to play in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

After the 1976 season, Campaneris moved on to the Texas Rangers and made his final all-star squad in 1977. He was traded to California in 1979 as the Angels won the AL West. He left the Angels in 1981 and finished his career with the New York Yankees in 1983.

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