Since the A's moved to Oakland in 1968, the franchise has won four World Series titles and produced plenty of flair and drama. From Charlie O. Finley to Rickey Henderson, from Billyball to Moneyball, from Reggie Jackson to the Bash Brothers, Oakland has been a rich part of baseball history. As veteran beat writer Susan Slusser chronicles in 100 Things A's Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, this includes strange-but-true stories of how the team helped launch MC Hammer's music career and the Mrs. Fields Cookies empire.
Over the years, the A's have had a notable supporting cast -- including a 13-year-old discovered in the Coliseum parking lot during the early ’70s who went on to become a team vice president ... and who later emerged as rap star MC Hammer.
Owner Charlie Finley spotted young Stanley Burrell dancing with his friends outside the stadium one day and, impressed with Burrell's splits, he called him over and asked the youth if anyone had ever told him he looked like Hank Aaron, aka, "Hammerin' Hank."
Burrell responded, "No sir, but thank you."
Finley invited Burrell, henceforth known as "Hammer," to watch the game with him, handed him a job as a clubhouse attendant, and Burrell found positions for his brothers, too. By the time he was 16, Burrell had been named vice president of a team that, at that point, had just six front-office employees.
Burrell often served as a go-between for Finley, who lived in Chicago, and team personnel, and he would provide Finley with play-by-play over the phone during games. They called his "broadcasts" KCOF: K-Charles O. Finley.
Finley then suggested that Hammer try the airwaves for real. Giants CEO Larry Baer, then broadcasting A's games for college station KALX, said, "Charlie called us once and said, 'I want you to put Hammer on a couple of innings.' We were 20 years old -- what are we going to say? No, he doesn’t have any experience?
“He broadcast an inning or two. I remember he came on a game in Seattle at the Kingdome and Mitchell Page was up. Hammer yelled, 'Here's the pitch to Mitchell Page, it's popped up ... deep!’ It was a home run."
When Hammer turned to music, he put out a CD that was financed in part by A's players Dwayne Murphy and Mike Davis.
"And then he became one of the biggest stars of the decade," Mike Norris said with a laugh. “He was right there with Michael Jackson and Prince. I was thinking, ‘Wow ... here I am remembering him on his knees in the clubhouse picking up underwear.'"
Hammer attended an '80s event at the Coliseum in 2011 and he was asked if Finley, who died in 1996, belongs in the Hall of Fame.
"Absolutely," Hammer said of his mentor. "And not as anyone's favor. Just on the facts. Just what he earned."
Hammer also said that even though everyone always credits Finley for his moniker, it was really Reggie Jackson who coined the name that eventually became part of his stage name.
Along with MC Hammer, another famous name worked for the A's in the ’70s: Debbi Sivyer, who at the age of 15 became one of the team's first ballgirls.
"They announced they were looking for ballgirls in the Oakland Tribune and that experience wasn't required," said Debbi -- now better known as Mrs. Fields, of Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc. "My sister worked in the A’s offices as a secretary and that helped because there were hordes and hordes of candidates.
"The fans who sat behind me were like my adoptive parents, they always worried if I was cold. It was a real community. The players, some of them were talkative and some of them weren't, but they were all nice to me; the ones I got to know were mostly the ones who sat in the bullpen, and Sal Bando, because third base was on my side. He was always very kind."
Her glovework wasn't memorable. ("I never made any spectacular plays," she said. "I tried, but those balls were coming way too fast. If anything, I was dodging them.") Her culinary skills were much more appreciated, and she wound up with her first clientele.
"I would bring my cookies and share them with the fans," Fields said. "Charlie Finley said, 'Why don't we have a milk-and-cookie break during the game?' So I would bring cookies and milk to the umpires. The umpires were older gentlemen and they were always very happy to have a cookie and milk during their break."
The ballgirl position funded Debbi Sivyer's first foray into first-class baking. Her previous efforts weren't that special.
"When I started making cookies, I used what we could afford: margarine, ordinary chocolate, imitation vanilla," she said. "With my first check from the A's, I purchased real butter, good chocolate and real vanilla, and whipped up the cookies using real ingredients. I was awestruck how much better they were. It really made a big difference. I decided from then on I would always use the best ingredients."
With her savings from working the lines at the Coliseum, Debbi bought her first car, her transportation when she opened her original cookie shop in Palo Alto.
She never forgot the man who gave her her first job.
"Charlie Finley was bigger than life," Fields said in 2006. "I called him about 12 years ago to thank him for giving me the opportunity -- he was getting older and his health was failing but he still remembered me. He said he was so proud of giving me a job, and MC Hammer. I told him my being part of the Oakland A's was so wonderful for me moving forward."
Another celeb who worked at the Coliseum as a teen: Skyline High School's Tom Hanks, who was a popcorn and peanut vender before going onto Hollywood stardom -- and eventually a baseball role, as a manager in A League of Their Own.
-- Excerpted by permission from 100 Things A's Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Susan Slusser. Copyright (c) 2015. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Susan Slusser on Twitter @susanslusser.