Having lost his best left fielder, his best third baseman, his best shortstop, his best relief pitcher, his best designated hitter, his best catcher and his only mule in the last year, Charlie Finley took the only possible action this week. He hired Dick Allen.
Although assorted owners and managers, former teammates and fans about the nation might argue otherwise, this must be in the best interest of baseball. It's been nearly four days now and not even a peep from Bowie Kuhn, who has helped the A's what they are today - bad enough to be en route to Washington.
Baseball gossip has the A's being sold, switching to the National League and opening the '78 season in Washington. But Finley has more immediate problems: attracting more paying customers than gulls to watch the sad remains of a once dominant team. That is why, at age 35, Dick Allen gets one more chance.
When he left the Phillies before the Phillies left the field during their final loss to the Reds in the NL playoffs last season, it was almost universally assumed that the familiar, long-playing Allen album of alibis has ended.
Not, it appears, without oine more refrain. You recall how it always begins: "I anticipate no trouble whatsoever with (fill in the appropriate team), certainly not on my part." Because the tune tends to sour quickly, Allen once managed to average more than 93 runs batted in for three seasons and play with a different team each year.
The last Allen welcome was May 14 1975, in Veterans Stadium in Philadephia, the slugger having been coaxed out of exile by Richie Ashburn and a owner who valued a pennant more than domestic tranquility.
It was an odd evening - and full of promise. A near-sellout crowd, many of whom had helped boo him out of town six years earlier, rewarded almost his every move with a standing ovation.
And on his first at-bat, with no spring training and almost no batting practice that night, Allen singled sharply to center off the Reds' Pat Darcy in his first at-bat. Later, the Allen album began spinning.
"Ten years of carrying a reputation kinda pushed me into a shell, to where it wasn't fun. But I can see now that it can be fun. When I came up (in 1964) baseball was all that was on my mind. That's all I came to do. Things kinda got out a hand. Maybe if there'd have been a conference like we're having now to clear the air things might have been different."
Indeed, things were different in '75, but hardly in the way Allen either had hoped or imagined. Unlike prior years, he was talking but his bat was not. In 416 at-bats, Allen hit 233 - and the Phils finished 6 1/2 games behind the Pirates in the NL East.
The Phillies won the division championship last season, but Allen - after bolting the club twice for "personal reasons" - seemed to know he was gone as soon as the final playoff out was made.
In Cincinnati, he was removed for the final inning, and he was gone from the dressing room by the time the Phils entered after a heartbreaking lose.
Now Allen starts again, and the numbers he brings to Oakland hardly are embarrassing by present Oakland standards. He is coming out of 268 season, the 85 games he played, with 15 home runs and 49 runs batted in.
But that is deceptive. Unlike at Philadelphia, where he had the benefit of batting-order buddies such as Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, Allen will have the full attention of most pitchers this year.
If Finley grabs what all other owners would not touch with a fungo bat, perhaps he is merely warming to the promotional task this season. Why not Elizabeth Ray as third-base coach? Or Fidel Castro to throw out the second ball, Billy Carter already been invited to do the honors opening day.
Or let anyone who buys season tickets manage the club for a few games. Jack McKeon already has been manager long enough - since November.
Finley was bright enough to realize the importance of managers when he dealt his puppet of '76, Chuck Tanner, to the Pirates for a .300, Manny Snaguillen, and $100,000.
"We've got a few holes to fill," McKeon allows. As the team was about to head off for spring training, the new skipper was hard-pressed to name anyone faintly capable to replacing Bert Campaneris at shortstop and no immediate candidate to take Joe Rudi's spot in left.
Also, McKeon said, the A's might well be unable to afford the luxury of two pinch runners in the squad this year. To which Finley said: "We may not have enough runners on base to have two pinch runners."