Recently, while looking up something about Vida Blue and then finding all kinds of other baseball-related stuff I wanted to look up, I learned that the American League team record for most stolen bases in a season belongs to the 1976 Oakland Athletics. This surprised me because the A’s were on the decline in 1976 from the team that had dominated baseball in the first part of the decade, and would go on to lose close to 100 games in 1977. They did finish 2 games out in the loss column to the Kansas City Royals, who were beginning their run, but the A’s were already feeling the effects of owner Charlie Finley’s attempt to avoid the inevitable onset of free agency that would come with the end of the reserve clause. Reggie, Blue Moon Odom, Ken Holtzman and others were gone, while players nearing the end of their career like Nate Colbert and even Willie McCovey were acquired.
The A’s locked up the A.L. west from 1971-1975, winning every division title and three straight pennants and world series in the middle of that run. In ’72 they beat the Tigers, the last gasp of the 1968 World Series team, to win the pennant and then defeated the fledgling Big Red Machine. The next year they beat the Orioles team which they had lost to in 1971 and were taken to 7 games by a Mets team that finished 82-79. In 1974 they again beat the O’s and had an easy time with a Dodgers team that would lose a few more World Series by the end of the decade. 1975 saw things come to an end when the Red Sox swept them in the ALCS. They were competitive in 1976, but that was the end of enjoyable baseball in Oakland until the Billy Ball era.
So, the 1976 team…while they didn’t win the division, they did swipe an astonishing 341 bases, an A.L. record which still stands. Billy North had 75, Bert Campaneris stole 54, Don Baylor, acquired for Reggie, was right behind Campy with 52, Claudell Washington had 37, Phil Garner stole 35, Larry Lintz had 31, and Matt Alexander and Sal Bando both had 20 steals. They may no longer have been “The Swinging A’s”, but they were definitely The Running A’s. More here.