Tony La Russa honors unsung heroes who helped A's win 1989 World Series

Tony La Russa honors unsung heroes who helped A's win 1989 World Series

Programming Note: Watch Games 1 through 4 of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and A's this week at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports California and streaming here, beginning Monday and wrapping up Thursday.

Former A’s manager Tony La Russa had a really good team in 1988.

The A's won 104 games, but lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Midway through an injury-riddled 1989 season that saw stars like Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley missing dozens of games, the acquistion of Rickey Henderson in June was an instant game-changer.

“Rickey put us over the hump, far as going from really good, to great,” La Russa told NBC Sports California on Friday via FaceTime.

Including Henderson, the A’s were known for high-profile talent on that 1989 roster, including staff ace Dave Stewart and slugger Mark McGwire.

But there were also plenty of unsung heroes to deliver Oakland’s last World Series title.

“You’ve got to start with Carney Lansford right away,” La Russa said. “Carney is the hardest, most intense guy I’ve ever been around. And the players just admired him. He never had a bad day, energized about playing the game and being part of a team.”

There were more.

“A guy like Dave Henderson got a lot of attention for always having a smile, and care-free attitude,” La Russa said. “But when the game was on the line he was really paying attention, and was the quarterback of the outfield.”

And still, more.

“Dave Parker was a great influence on young guys like Jose [Canseco] and Mark [McGwire] because he had already done it,” La Russa said. “He was already a true superstar. He really was a great mentor for these guys.” 

[RELATED: LaRussa believes 1989 A's are Bay's best ever]

The A’s swept the 1989 World Series, yet were never fully recognized for their accomplishment, which came less than two weeks after devastating Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17.

“As we got close to Game 4, there was a decision that we would really respectfully celebrate and not go the whole route,” La Russa recalled. “We didn’t have a parade because we didn’t think it was appropriate.

“Compared to what was happening in the Bay Area, the loss of life, the injuries and property damage, and emotional scars on the community both sides of the Bay … putting that into perspective and making sure that we struck the right balance.”

A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

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A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

A's bench coach Ryan Christenson said he "unintentionally" gave a Nazi salute during Oakland's celebratory handshake line after Thursday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement released by the team. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of [COVID-19] I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable, and I deeply apologize."

The NBC Sports California broadcast showed Christenson raising his right arm with his palm facing down while A's closer Liam Hendriks approached.  Hendriks quickly grabbed Christenson's arm, bending it at the elbow for the coach's "elbow bump" celebration, which he said is done due to MLB's coronavirus safety protocols. Christenson then turned around and repeated the initial gesture.

"No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow," Christenson said Hendriks told him in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, referring to the coach's usual celebration.

"Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " Christenson said after he turned, in his and Hendriks' recounting to Slusser.

The salute, typically followed by exclamations of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil," was a compulsory tribute to Adolf Hitler within the Nazi Party and, later, all of Germany under the Nazis' rule from 1933 through 1945. Still used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists long after the end of World War II, the Anti-Defamation League says the salute is "the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world."

The A's said in a statement that they were "deeply sorry this happened on our playing field."

"We do not support or condone this gesture, or the racist sentiment behind it," the A's said in a statement. "This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a [club] and many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country."

Before the A's released the pair of statements, Christenson told Slusser that he "wasn't doing that intentionally" and that "I just blacked out, my mind wasn't there and I spaced out."

"I'm cringing inside picturing myself," Christenson told Slusser. "Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

Whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

Khris Davis proved his recent adjustment at the plate is paying dividends, as he tallied his second multi-hit game of the season during the A’s 6-4 sweep over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Davis said the coaching staff and teammates are to thank for the recent surge -- particularly hitting coach Darren Bush, who first suggested an alteration with Davis' hands.

“Yeah, I just put my hands back and further up a little and it’s been helping me be more accurate to the ball,” Davis said after the game. “I’m finding less swings and misses and a little better contact.”

“It’s all pretty comfortable right away, usually when you have to make an adjustment and you feel it click, you just run with that and don’t look back so it’s brought some comfort in the box so I’m going to keep working with it,” Davis said.

Davis went 2-for-3 on Thursday, driving in two runs in the 4th inning to break the game open.

“I think it’s a positioning thing, just having them further back -- less room to go,” he added. “They’re just already ready to fire and it’s been working.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Davis wants to be the everyday designated hitter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case with his lack of production. Mark Canha has been taking over the DH spot in some of the outings, but it’s something Davis is ready to earn back.

“It is what it is,” Davis said. “And, I just have to capitalize on my opportunities that I do get. It’s s--tty, but I’ve been here before, I’ve lost my job before a couple times and I’ve had to battle back and this is nothing new to me.”

It turns out the oblique injury Davis suffered last season when he ran into the wall in May ended up leaving a bigger mark than just on his skin. 

"I think when I got hurt, I had been getting set up in a different way,” Davis said. “My body just wasn’t adjusting to that injury and just when I put my hands further back it just freed things up.”

[RELATED: Luzardo's outing shows A's have something special]

Oh, and his teammates are helping him a lot too.  

“A lot of good teammates, they know what it’s like to go through a struggle and they just kept reminding me that I could hit all around, I don’t have to hit a home run or whatever, but they constantly say that I’m a good hitter, I’m [not just] a power hitter.”