The Fabulously One-Dimensional Larry Lintz and the 1976 Oakland A’s

Larry Lintz

 

 

This is not so much a bio of Larry Lintz, seeing his career is very unspectacular, short and one-dimensional. Rather, this is a look into one of the most statistically unusual seasons by a player and a look at the team that inspired this statistical anomaly. Usually a middle infielder or replacement outfielder, Larry Lintz created a position for himself on Chuck Tanner’s 1976 Oakland A’s — his year as a designated runner. The 1976 Oakland Athletics were coming off five consecutive AL West Championships. During this run they won three consecutive World Championships. The aging A’s put up a solid season in 1976 going 87-74 and finishing 2.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals in a quest for a 6th straight AL West pennant. In a very average American League where only one team won more than 90 games and only 2 lost more than 90 the A’s seemed to be a competitive team and appeared very well balanced statistically. One outstanding stat is they stole 341 bases as a team! This is 123 more than the second best stealing team. The A’s had 8 players with 20 or more steals. Tanner even squeezed 52 steals from Don Baylor. Despite the steals the A’s sported the oldest offensive team in the AL at 29.5 years. If the A’s were going to run their way into the playoffs they had to work around incredibly weak hitting and slow footed catcher Larry Haney .226/.280./237. Hall of Famer Billy Williams played his last season as the DH to the tune of .211/.320/.339. Don Baylor split time between DH, first base and outfield. Gene Tenace split time between first and catcher. There was no steady DH or first basemen on the club as Ken McMullen also had significant playing time in these positions as well as the hot corner. Enter Larry Lintz – in his career that spanned 6 seasons he batted .227/.336/.252 had only 140 hits but scored 138 runs and stole 120 bases. He was used as a pinch runner in over 30% of all games he got into.

 

The ’76 Oakland team with its daily lineup changes had no room for Larry to get in as a regular or even as a normal bench player. He was on the 25 man-roster for the complete season in which he stole 31 bases, scored 21 runs, had 2 put-outs and 2 assists defensively and had a batting line of .000/.667/.000. Larry never started a game and only had one official at bat for the season! The designated runner if there ever was one. Lintz would often come in only to run, usually for Williams. Also, the A’s fielding flexibility would allow him to come in as a PR as early as the 6th inning. He could come in for Haney and Tenace could move from first to behind the plate and McMullen could play first. There were many types of combinations that Chuck Tanner could pull off to use Lintz’s base running abilities to win games with a one-dimensional player. His only official at-bat (he did walk twice) came May 7 in a 14-4 loss to the Yankees. He was late inning defensive replacement and came to the plate with 2 outs in the top of the 9th with a runner on first and grounded into a FC to the shortstop. The next night he had another plate appearance in which, he was walked by Doc Ellis (article to follow) stole second and moved to third when Thurman Munson’s throw went wild. He then scored on a Bert Campaneris single. While Lintz’s 1976 season was out of the ordinary, Chuck Tanner kept another designated runner in the lineup. Matt Alexander, who started 8 games in the outfield; but again, he was used primarily as a pinch runner. In 30 at-bats Alexander had a line of .033/.033/.033. Still, he managed to rack up 16 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.

 

The A’s were managed by veteran skipper Chuck Tanner who would stay in the East Bay Area only one year before moving on to better things in Pittsburgh – where he would run an old Pirate (avg. age 29.5yrs) team to a World Championship in 1979. In this bizarre season, the A’s owner Charlie Finley made more waves in the off-season by trading his manager to Pittsburgh for Manny Sanguillen and Mitchell Page. The 1977 Oakland A’s dropped to 7th in the AL West going 63-98 and finishing behind expansion Seattle and 38.5 games behind the Royals. The A’s had cleaned house. Gone were the slugging veterans of the A’s championship teams. Tenace, Rudi, North, Campy, Sal Bando and Baylor were all gone. Lintz and Alexander were still on board but the team lead by Jack McKeon dropped the average age by almost 2 years and they were not used as much or in the roles that had almost got the A’s in the playoffs the year before. Oakland still led the 1977 AL in team stolen bases. Mitchell Page, who was duped out of the 1977 ROY award stole 42 bases and batted .307/.405/.521 and led the A’s in most offensive categories. The 1976 Oakland A’s and their base running antics make them one of the most statistically odd teams in modern history. The changes and rearrangements that Chuck Tanner made allowed for two “all feet, no bat, no glove” players to stay on the roster all season. Larry Lintz, had the most one-dimensional season ever, almost ran the 1976 A’s into the playoffs.

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  • Can this happen again? I don’t see why not, but with today’s “wait for the dinger” philosiphy it probably won’t. Didn’t the Jays tinker around with this idea with Ben Johnson or was that just a publicity stunt?

  • Early

    The A’s did use US sprinter Herb Washington in 1974 as a true DR – he never played the field or had an at-bat but this was a gimmick and. His rdcordo n the basepaths is nothing to be coveted but he was in the top 10 in AL steals one year. Lintz was a ballplayer and had played in the majors for a few years before becoming a DR.