Hatteberg's homer still historic
AL-record 20th consecutive win came courtesy of walk-off tater
Not since the 1935 Chicago Cubs had any Major League team won 20 games in a row, but that was until the 2002 season rolled around in Oakland.
The A's extended their streak to 19 games on Sept. 2, 2002, when Miguel Tejada singled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth to top the Royals 7-6, tying the AL's longest winning streak set in 1906 by the Chicago White Sox.
The A's had some more dramatics saved up for their next game on Sept. 4, against the Royals.
The A's jumped out to an 11-0 lead after three innings and an AL record 20th straight victory seemed inevitable.
But Kansas City struck for five runs in the fourth, five more in the eighth and then one in the top of the ninth to take the breath out of more than 55,000 at the Coliseum in Oakland.
Scott Hatteberg then provided resuscitation for each and every one of them with what ranks as the most memorable homer in A's history. As the baseball world celebrates Barry Bonds eclipsing the all-time homers record, Hatteberg's streak-extending shot is one that A's fans will remember for years to come.
Jermaine Dye flew out to right to start the ninth inning against Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley, and Hatteberg followed as a pinch-hitter for Eric Byrnes.
"We jumped out to the lead and looked great, and they came back and it looked like it was going to slip away," said Hatteberg, who is now a member of the Cincinatti Reds. "There was a lot of anticipation. [The fans] had this big banner they were going to drop, No. 20 and all, and so it was slipping away."
Hatteberg made sure it didn't slip away, blasting a pitch from Grimsley into the bleachers in right field.
"He threw really hard and had a really good sinker," Hatteberg said. "The last thing on my mind was hitting a home run. Just because it's hard not to beat the ball into the ground with him, and I was thinking of just trying to get something where I could get to second base and get into scoring position, and I just squared it up.
"It was such a huge build up from 16 to 17 and on. To win it like that was pretty dramatic, but the whole thing was pretty dramatic, so that it kind of multiplied."
Anticipation had not only built up with the fans, but among the players as well, as they were taking measures of superstition if necessary.
"I wasn't even in the dugout when it happened," A's third baseman Eric Chavez said. "Whenever we're losing [late in the game] and I'm not up that inning, I go up to the clubhouse and sit in my lucky spot with Brian [Davis, clubhouse assistant]. So, that's where I was when Hatty hit it. I went nuts like everyone else, but I was the last one to get to the dog pile because I had to run all the way down there."
The A's next game came on Sept. 6, and they had the 1935 Cubs in their sights. Some say that is the true MLB record for winning streaks, considering the New York Giants of 1916 had a tie in the middle of their 26-game winning streak. The Giants won 14 straight, tied a game in which the stats were counted, then went on to win 12 more.
Surpassing the Cubs record quickly became a moot point as Twins right hander Brad Radke pitched a complete-game shutout and beat the A's, 6-0, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
It is something that Hatteberg is reminded of, something he still thinks about and he looks back on very fondly.
"It still comes up," Hatteberg said. "Fans still mention it. It was such a great thing because it was a bonding kind of thing. It was such a team effort and that made it even more special.
"It was definitely a high point in my career."
Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.