Dec 11, 2009

"The Panamanian Express"- 1970's Oakland A's: Alan Lewis

In the late sixties A’s owned Charlie Finley was putting together a team that would win three straight World Series titles and five straight divisions. He believed in anything that would lead to wins, and speed was a big part of the game. In 1967 he brought in the first of his full time pinch runners, his name was Alan Lewis “the Panamanian Express”.

Alan Sydney Lewis was born on December 12, 1941 in Panama. He had success in the minors, batting .300 and stealing 116 bases in 1966. He was brought up to the A’s in 1967 appearing in 34 games, coming to bat only six times getting one hit. He was primarily used as pinch runner, stealing 14 bases while scoring 7 runs. He played for six years with Oakland, appearing in 156 games, batting a lowly .206 (6 hits in only 29 at bats). He stole an average of seven to eight bases a year after his rookie season, scoring 47 runs, an average of eight runs scored per season. In his last season of 1973, he never came to bat at all, but was still successful on the bases. He appeared in 35 games stealing seven bases and scoring a career high sixteen runs.

Finley’s theory was that a designated runner could win up to five extra games during the season, which could mean the difference in the standings or a short post season series.

The Panamanian Express was activated for the 1972 World Series when Reggie Jackson pulled a hamstring in the ALCS and was placed on the DL. Lewis appeared in six of the seven games, getting thrown out twice by Johnny Bench attempting to steal. In Game #4 at Oakland, he came in to pinch run in the 9th inning down by a run. He scored the tying run after two consecutive singles; as the A’s went on to win it 3-2. In Game #7 he ran for Gene Tenace in the 6th inning, with the score tied 2-2. Sal Bando hit a fly ball to left field and when Bobby Tolan fell down, Lewis scored what would be the Series’ winning run.

In 1973 he was activated for the ALCS against Baltimore and scored a run appearing in two games. In the World Series against the Mets he first appeared in Game #2 pinch running in the 9th inning and scoring on a Reggie Jackson single. He appeared in Game #3 at Shea pinch running in the 9th inning and getting stranded at second. He game into run in the 7th inning of Game #5, but was stranded when Tug McGaw retired the side. He didn’t attempt any stolen bases on Jerry Grote and finished out his career winning another World Series.

His A’s team mates never welcomed Lewis, believing the roster spot should have gone to an all around position player. He only received a 1/10 share of the Series earnings. In 1974 he was replaced by official designated runner, Herb Washington. After baseball Lewis went on to be a successful scout.

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