Bert Campaneris - Campy Plays All Nine

Bert Campaneris was one of the most versatile players in MLB history.  Fifty-Two years ago today, he became the first player in major league history to play all nine positions in one game.

Campaneris played shortstop for four American League teams over 19 major league seasons.  One of the mainstays of the Swingin’ A’s dynasty that won five consecutive division titles and three straight World Series championships in the early 1970s, “Campy” holds franchise records for career games played and hits.  He is also the A’s all-time leader in putouts, assists and double plays.  A six-time All-Star, he led the AL in stolen bases six times, putouts three times, and retired seventh on the all-time steals list.  A superb all-around player, Campaneris led the AL in hits [177] and steals [62] in 1968.

Born in Pueblo Nova, Cuba, March 9, 1942, Dagoberto Campaneris Blanco was signed by the Athletics at 20.  Within two years, he was in the big leagues.

In his major league debut in July 1964, Campaneris hit two home runs, the first coming on the first pitch thrown to him by Jim Kaat.  Campy is one of five players in MLB history to hit two homers in his first game.  An avid bunter, he led the AL in sac-bunts three times. Campy hit three triples in one game in 1969 and stole five bases in a single game in 1976.  In 1970, he set a league record for double plays, recording a record six in one game that year.

A charter member of the American League in 1901, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955.  Five years later, the Athletics were purchased by Charles O. Finley, an insurance magnate from La Porte, Indiana.  The flamboyant Finley was a promoter, replacing the Athletics’ traditional elephant mascot with a live mule named “Charlie O.”  He changed the team’s colors to Kelly Green, gold and white, replaced their black cleats with white, and phased out the name “Athletics” in favor of “A’s.”

The A’s were on their way to a 103-loss season in 1965 when Finley decided on a promotional gimmick to boost attendance.  Hoping to leverage the popularity and versatility of his star shortstop, Finley hosted “Campy Campaneris Night” at Municipal Stadium.  Advertisements touted the game as “the most exciting and enjoyable evening of the 1965 season” as “Campy will play every position for one inning including pitching and catching.” Charlie Finley took out four insurance policies on his young Cuban star, comparing the situation to movie companies insuring the legs of starlets like Marlene Dietrich and Ginger Rogers.  Baseball history was made on this date in 1965, when 21,576 fans showed up to witness Campaneris becoming the first major leaguer to play all nine positions in one game.

Kansas City was mired in last place with a 51-87 record when they squared off against the 64-77 California Angels on a Wednesday night.  Playing in just his second big league season, Campaneris started at his usual shortstop position.  He led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, and scored on a double to give the A’s an early lead.  Campy moved to second base in the second inning, then third base for the third.  He played left field in the fourth inning, where he caught a fly ball off the bat of his cousin, Jose Cardinal.  Campaneris moved to center for the fifth, right field in the sixth inning, and manned first base for the seventh.  In the eighth inning, the young Cuban took the mound.  A natural right-hander, Campaneris pitched ambidextrously, throwing lefty to left-handers and switched against righties.  The first batter he faced was Cardinal, who popped out.  Campy walked the next two batters, then gave up an RBI single to Joe Adcock.  He then struck out Bobby Knopp as Jim Fregosi was caught stealing for an inning-ending double play.

Campaneris allowed one run in a single inning of work –the only time he pitched in 19 years in the majors — and posted a lifetime ERA of 9.00.  Slightly built at 5’10”, 160 pounds, Campy played catcher in the ninth inning, where he collided with Angels catcher Ed Kirkpatrick on a play at the plate.  Campaneris held onto the ball for the out, but injured his neck and shoulder and had to leave the game.  Bert Campaneris had done what no other ballplayer had done – he played every position in one game.  Campy went 0-3 at the plate with a strikeout, walk and a run scored.  He made putouts in left field, center field, first base, second base and at catcher.  The 23 year-old also had an assist at second base, made an error in right field, and stole his 49th base of the season.

Kansas City lost the game, 5-3, in 13 innings.  The next day, 1,271 turned out for the Athletics – Angels game, while in Los Angeles, Sandy Koufax tossed a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.  In 1965, Campaneris led Kansas City in batting with a .270 average, and his 12 triples and 51 stolen bases led the American League.

Bert Campaneris played 13 seasons with the Athletics: four in Kansas City and nine in Oakland.  He was an All-Star with the Texas Rangers in 1977 and played for the Angels and New York Yankees before retiring in 1983.  Campy played in 2,328 games, scored 1,181 runs, and collected 2,249 hits in 19 big league seasons.  At the time of his retirement, he held Athletics franchise records for most hits, stolen bases, and triples.  They were later broken by Rickey Henderson.

Today is the 52nd anniversary of Campy Campaneris Night in Kansas City.  Since that historic evening, three other players have joined the “9 in 9 Club,” including Cesar Tovar, Scott Sheldon and Shane Halter.  In March 2015, actor Will Ferrell played in five Cactus League spring training games at all nine positions to honor the great Bert Campaneris.