In the first of the three games, an error by Dodger Catcher Joe Ferguson on a third-inning fumble of a hopper in front of the plate led directly to the A's first two runs. Ferguson made another error in the fourth, missing a throw from center field, after the A's had scored their third run. The irony is that Ferguson had been a defensive hero playing right field in the first two Series games. For their part, the A's choked off Dodger rallies with double plays in the fourth, eighth and ninth, the last one ending the game. Dick Green, the fielding star of the Series, participated in all three, tying a record for second basemen. The Dodgers' runs came on homers by Bill Buckner and Willie Crawford off Starter Jim (Catfish) Hunter and Reliever Rollie Fingers.
The only big inning of the entire Series was set in motion by yet another Dodger miscue. In the sixth inning of the penultimate game Oakland's Bill North led off with a walk. North stole 54 bases during the regular season, so Dodger Pitcher Andy Messersmith, protecting a 2-1 lead, was anxious—too anxious, it developed—to make certain that he did not advance into scoring position through further thievery. After a number of uneventful tosses to First Baseman Steve Garvey, Messersmith finally threw the ball away and North hurried to second. He scored from there when Sal Bando blooped a single to right field. Suddenly the A's were off to a four-run inning and a 5-2 victory. This game also ended with a double play, the result of a sensational diving catch and hasty feed to second by the acrobatic Green.
It was 81� when the fifth and final game of the Series started, but the skies were returning to their traditional blue and the clouds were pinkened by the late-afternoon sun, not browned by impurities. The weather seemed to be on its way home, taking the Dodgers with it.
In the first inning, North, on base after forcing leadoff hitter Bert Campaneris, attempted to steal. Steve Yeager, catching this night for Los Angeles, threw hard to intercept him. The ball sailed untouched into center field and North pressed on to third. He scored from there when Bando, patiently fouling off pitches he could not hit solidly, finally found one he could and sent a long sacrifice fly to left.
In the second inning, Ray Fosse, a .196 hitter in the regular season, stroked a line-drive homer to left for a 2-0 A's lead. But the Dodgers tied the score in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Wynn and a single by Garvey, the noblest Dodger of them all and the leading hitter (.381) among Series regulars. The A's now had to wait for another mistake or two. It was not a long wait.
As Dodger Leftfielder Buckner assumed his position for the bottom of the seventh inning, he became a target for debris-throwing rowdies in the Coliseum's left-field bleachers. Buckner had annoyed Oakland fans earlier in the week by comparing the A's unfavorably with such National League also-rans as the Pirates and the Reds. Now in retaliation, if it can be assumed that Buckner's assailants were sufficiently literate to read his remarks, the fans were pelting him from on high with garbage, Frisbees, even whiskey bottles. The start of the inning was therefore delayed while the field was cleared. Ordinarily when such a delay occurs, a pitcher will continue warming up. But the Dodger pitcher on this occasion was the academician, Mike Marshall, and nothing Marshall does is ordinary. Instead of tossing a few warm-up pitches, Marshall devoted these leisure moments to declaiming on the vulgarity of Oakland spectators to Buckner and the umpires.
Joe Rudi, a thinking man's hitter, observed all this and, reasoning that Marshall's arm would not be warm, concluded that the pitcher would eschew a breaking pitch in the hope of sneaking a fastball past him. Rudi was ready. He belted Marshall's first pitch, a not-so-sneaky fastball, into those riotous bleachers, and the 1974 baseball season was, for all practical purposes, over.
Buckner was an even more direct participant in the final Dodger boo-boo of the year. Leading off the eighth he singled to center and when the ball skipped past the lunging North for an error, he tried to advance all the way to third. It proved a foolish gamble as Reggie Jackson, backing up North, threw to Green, who relayed the ball perfectly to Bando for the out. Instead of a man on second with nobody out and sluggers Wynn, Garvey and Ferguson coming up, the Dodgers now had no one on with one out. That finished them. They are a young, relatively inexperienced but powerful and aggressive team, and they will be back. But in this Series they played directly into the hands of the opportunistic A's.
"We wait for the door to open," said Jackson in the clubhouse afterward. "And when it does, we go through."
Any of a number of A's could have been named the Most Valuable Player, but the honor finally fell to the industrious Fingers, who pitched in all four Oakland victories and saved the final one for winning Pitcher John (Blue Moon) Odom, his opponent in a clubhouse scrap only six days before.