Second base aside, however, it is significant that the various transactions have involved second-line players. Williams' eight starters and his pitchers all have reasonable job security, and aside from switching Bando and Epstein in the batting order when a lefthander pitches, he rarely tampers with his starting lineup at all, which reads Bert Campaneris, Rudi, Jackson, Epstein, Mangual, Bando, Duncan and the second baseman, whoever he may be.
One of the happiest starters, usually, is that combative non-All Star, Dave Duncan. Duncan is an attention-getter on the field and off. He has the sloe-eyed baby face and the pageboy hairdo of a rock diety. "I just can't imagine a better situation than the one we've got here on the A's," Duncan said over coffee in Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel. "Nobody dislikes anybody. We do what we want off the field with whoever we want. There is no bed check, no rules on clothes or hair. And Williams makes every man on the team think he's the most important. Ask anybody and he'll tell you the team couldn't win without him. I don't think we have a team leader as such. Oh, when Catfish pitches, we expect him to win. And we expect Reggie to hit home runs. But we're all really leaders. I honestly think I'm part of something unique."
Oakland's biggest assets are probably more spiritual than technical. Even with a blue Blue, the team is as close to being unified as a game like baseball, with its individual skills, will allow.
And that, too, manifested itself on Oakland's road trip last week. On Wednesday Marty Martinez played his last game as an A before being sent downriver to last-place Texas.
Martinez, a Cuban, has a long, sad face. It was longer and sadder as he boarded the team bus after the game. At first he sat alone. The usual raillery with the driver was underway.... "Back up a little farther, Bussy, and you'll be sure to hit him...."
Martinez was not a part of it. Finally he was joined by Relief Pitcher Bob Locker. "I don't know what I can say to make it easier for you," Locker began. "These things happen."
Martinez said something in Spanish, and then offered his own translation: "Life goes on."
He had known about the trade, but he had played—his very best. On this last night with Oakland, Marty Martinez, the .057 hitter, had gotten three hits and the A's had won the game.
A triumph, perhaps, of spirit over flesh.
Never mind that the Red Sox took four of their six. Knowles won in relief on Saturday and Holtzman Sunday, so neither had a kick coming. The A's lead was still 6� games. At 5:30 Sunday they trooped aboard their bus, headed for Boston's Logan Airport. A team on the move.