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Motley Crew
Steve Rushin
September 06, 1999
The world champion 1974 A's—a rainbow coalition of brawlers, boozers and malcontents—were truly America's team, although most of us were too square to realize it
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September 06, 1999

Motley Crew

The world champion 1974 A's—a rainbow coalition of brawlers, boozers and malcontents—were truly America's team, although most of us were too square to realize it

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Though flying is difficult for ALS sufferers, Hunter flew to Oakland in June for Catfish Hunter Day. Many of his '74 teammates were there. A current A, a young reliever named T.J. Matthews, introduced himself before the game, but his name meant nothing to Hunter. "My father," said T.J., "is Nelson Matthews."

"Nelly Matthews," replied Hunter. "Centerfielder. Did he ever tell you about the time in Cleveland?"

"I thought he made that up," said T.J.

"Oh, no," said Hunter, who then told a story. On an idle afternoon in Cleveland, Cat and Nelly decided to kill a few hours at the train station. The pair had their portraits taken from the front and side in one of those four-a-sheet photo booths. Then Hunter, wearing a trench coat and flashing a plastic badge, asked an old lady if she had seen this man in the photo, this unspeakable monster, this Nelson Matthews. She shrieked and pointed to the felon, standing nearby, and Hunter began chasing Matthews around the depot. "God, we were laughing," says Hunter, laughing all over again at the recollection. "Just runnin' around that train station while the lady screamed...."

If there's one photograph of Hunter and his A's to keep forever in your attic, to conjure to life at your leisure, it's this image: Catfish, running through a train station in a trench coat, flashing a plastic badge, chasing a teammate, and laughing like a little boy.

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