Interest is up in Oakland, too, where the A's are already 81,000 ahead of last year's attendance. It took the Oakland Coliseum 42 dates in 1979 to draw the gate it has had in 18 games this year. One Saturday home game that wasn't blacked out locally drew only 7,062 fans, but that was the day Martin pulled a triple steal and two steals of home. The next day 18,217 people came to see him try it again.
It could happen to a nicer guy than owner Charles O. Finley, who has mercifully remained out of the picture. Well, almost out of the picture. Last Friday night, on Martin's 52nd birthday, the scoreboard in the Ex flashed a message: BILLY MARTIN, YOUR GIFT IS ON THE WAY, CHARLEY O. To which Martin replied, "I hope he sent some runs."
Martin is clearly enjoying himself, although he would've been a lot happier last week if he hadn't lost three one-run games in a row. He doffs his cap to the fans when they boo, he jokes with spectators in the box seats, he's even taken to coming to the ball park early to hit fun-goes. How long he remains the charmer, or how long the A's and Jays stay up there, doesn't really matter. Right now the two teams feel like champs.
"All we wanted to do this year was not lose 100 games for the first time," says Toronto President Peter Bavasi. "Let's enjoy this high altitude for however many hours it lasts."