OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – A year after his election to the Hall of Fame, pitcher Dennis Eckersley had his number retired by the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.

“This is the topper,” Eckersley said before Oakland’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “This is a feeling unmatched because this is my hometown. It’s as special as anything that has happened to me.”

Eckersley wore No. 43 with Oakland, and became the fourth A’s player to have his number retired. The others are Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers.

Surrounded by former teammates who helped Oakland to three consecutive World Series appearances from 1988-90, Eckersley recounted the worst and best moments of his career.

Kirk Gibson, in his only plate appearance of the 88 World Series, hit a two-run homer off Eckersley to end Game 1 in Los Angeles.

“It’s one of my worst memories,” Eckersley said. “I never knew it would come to this; a commercial with a guy crawling to the plate. I’ve seen the real deal a thousand times. At the time it was devastating but now it’s easy to look back and realize it was a great moment. I just got the raw end of the deal.

“Meanwhile, Kirk Gibson is a coach with Detroit and I’m in the Hall of Fame.”

The best moment occurred a year later in an earthquake-delayed World Series in San Francisco.

“I was lucky enough to have the ball in my hand after the last out,” Eckersley said. “That’s the most incredible moment of my career.”

A 20-game winner with the Cleveland Indians in 1978, Eckersley was converted to a reliever – reluctantly – when he arrived in Oakland in 1987. He recorded 320 of his 390 career saves with the Athletics. He also has 197 victories, despite spending 12 years in the bullpen.

A sellout crowd of more than 41,000 stood and cheered for more than three minutes when he was introduced to the strands of his signature song, “Bad to the Bone.”

“Our theory was, get Eck in the game,” former Oakland outfielder Rickey Henderson said. “You knew the game was over.”


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