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Bert Campaneris




Bert Campaneris was one of the unsung heroes of the Oakland A's dynasty of the 1970s. Not only did he vacuum batted balls at an incredible rate as the team's shortstop, but he had a natural talent for stealing bases, leading the American League in that category six times in his career. But what he emulated even more was the pure joy of playing the game.


Early Life


Dagoberto "Bert" Campaneris was born on March 9, 1942 in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba. While his father worked hard as a factory mechanic, young Bert found a true passion for the game of baseball. Gifted with a natural speed and elusiveness, he soon drew the attention of Little League teams all over Cuba, ultimately playing for and working as a groundskeeper for a local semi-pro team. After attracting the attention of Kansas City A's scout Felix Delgado in the 1961 PanAm Games, Bert snatched up their offer and soon moved to America where the possibilities were endless.



Kansas City


Bert Campaneris could not have picked a better time to leave his home as he was one of the last players to leave Cuba before Fidel Castro took over, making immigration virtually impossible for years. As he rocketed through the minor leagues, Bert was eager to play any and every position. The ambidextrous player even found time to pitch with both hands in a two-inning relief effort for Daytona Beach in 1962.


After hitting .325 for Double-A Birmingham and after shortstop Wayne Causey was felled by an injured elbow, Bert Campaneris was called up to the Kansas City Athletics late in 1964. In 67 games, Campaneris hit four home runs while batting .257. He proved to be a quick study the following year as he led the league with 12 triples and 51 stolen bases. He would continue to lead the league in stolen bases the next two years as well, even leading both the National and American Leagues with 55 in 1967.


Oakland



Seeking a new opportunity, the A's moved to Oakland in 1968. It was within the vast confines of the Oakland Coliseum that Bert would truly find his stride as the premier base stealer of the day. Although he didn't lead the league, Campaneris stole 62 bases in 1969 while being caught just eight times.


Statistically, 1970 was his best year as he stole 42 bases while batting .279 and bashing a career high 22 home runs. Other than that year, he never hit more than eight home runs. By 1972, the A's were ready to make a run for the ages. Like star-crossed lovers, the excellence of Bert Campaneris and the Oakland Athletics intertwined to make a devastating combo for all of the major leagues.


In 1972, as the A's bulldozed their way to their first World Series in the city of Oakland, Bert Camapaneris earned his first All-Star invitation while leading the A.L. with 52 stolen bases. While he only batted .179 in the World Series, his five hits and one run helped his team defeat the powerful Cincinnati Reds in seven games.


He was markedly better in the 1973 World Series against the Mets, hitting .290, registering nine hits, six runs, three rbi and three stolen bases. The following year, Campeneris helped the A's beat the Dodgers to claim the World Series for the third year in a row. Personally, it was an unremarkable series, as Campaneris stole just a single base in five games. But baseball is a team game, one that Bert had always embraced with a childlike enthusiasm and he could not have been more thrilled for his teammates knowing that all of their hard work had paid off.


He enjoyed one last All-Star year as an Athletic in 1975, hitting four homers, batting .265 and making 199 putouts. Surely he would have traded that accolade for another shot at the World Series but it was not to be as the A's began the descent into mediocrity as players were traded off to other clubs. After 1976, Bert Campaneris would follow many of his teammates and left Oakland.


In 1977, he joined the Texas Rangers where he enjoyed on last All-Star season, batting .254 and stealing 27 bases. From there his career petered down as he joined the Angels (1979-1981) before ending his career with the Yankees in 1983. Bert Campaneris is currently ranked 14th in history with 649 stolen bases.





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