MLB postseason: The ten best playoff MVPs

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports /
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Gene Tenace (right) with Rollie Fingers during an A’s reunion. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
Gene Tenace (right) with Rollie Fingers during an A’s reunion. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /

9. Gene Tenace, 1.066, 1972 World Series

Tenace’s accomplishments for Oakland against the National League champion Cincinnati Reds have long become the stuff of legend.

The first thing to understand about Tenace was that he was a most unlikely hero. A .225 hitter during that season, Tenace wasn’t even a regular. In 258 plate appearances for manager Dick Williams, he hit just five home runs.

So imagine the baseball world’s surprise when Tenace got the Game 1 starting nod behind the plate, ahead of regular Dave Duncan, and imagine the greater surprise when he hit a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to put the Athletics on top. In the fifth inning, Tenace took Reds starter Gary Nolan deep a second time,  breaking a 2-2 tie. His home run proved to be the game-winner.

The A’s led two games to one when Tenace came to bat against Don Gullet in the fifth inning of a scoreless Game 4. He homered a third time. But the Reds scored twice in the eighth inning to carry a 2-1 advantage into the bottom of the ninth. With one on and one out, Tenace singled against bullpen ace Clay Carroll. Two singles later, he crossed home plate with the walk-off winner that moved Oakland within one win of the world championship.

In the second inning of the fifth game, Tenace homered a fourth time, this one coming with two runners on base. It gave Oakland a 3-0 lead although the Reds came back to win 5-4.

Cincinnati also won the sixth game. But in the decisive seventh, Tenace’s first inning base hit with Angel Mangual on third gave the Athletics an early lead. Then with the game tied 1-1 with two out and Bert Campaneris on third base in the sixth inning, Tenace delivered the killer: a double down the left field line that gave Oakland the lead it would not relinquish. The next batter, Sal Bando, also doubled scoring Tenace with an insurance run.

The series victory was the first of three straight world titles for the A’s. In the nearly half century since then, no team has matched Oakland’s feat.