Remembering the Oakland Athletics' first season in 1968

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- When the A's play the White Sox on Tuesday evening, it will mark 50 years since the team moved to Oakland from Kansas City.

The A's opened the season on the road that year, so they played their first game at the Coliseum on April 17, 1968.

Many fans who attended that game will be at the Coliseum to commemorate the anniversary.

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But only one A's employee has been with the team since that first season in Oakland.

Steve Vucinich was a food vendor at the start of the season when some of his friends told him about a job on the team as a ball boy.

Vucinich approached the equipment manager about the job when a baseball legend overheard the conversation and chimed in.

"I said I would like the job and Joe DiMaggio, who was a coach then, said, 'Hey kid, what school do you go to?' and I said, 'I go to St. Joe's in Alameda,' so he said, 'Hey Al, he's a Catholic, you better hire him.'"

Vucinich was a ball and bat boy that season.

Just after getting that job, he witnessed a historic moment at the Coliseum.

Oakland A's starter Jim "Catfish' Hunter threw a perfect game, the first one in the American League since 1922.

Vucinich says the other players were just as excited about Hunter getting three hits in the game and driving in three runs.

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The team finished with a winning record that year but still drew less than a million fans.

"You could tell we had the nucleus of a good club with Reggie Jackson, Rick Monday, Joe Rudi, Catfish Hunter and Blue Moon Odom," said Vucinich.

There were four future Hall of Fame players on that team (Rollie Fingers, Hunter and Jackson), including future manager Tony La Russa.

Those players formed the core of the 1972 A's team that won the first of three consecutive World Series titles.

By 1969, Vucinich was promoted to assist the equipment manager. He was eventually named visiting clubhouse manager and for the past 25 years he has been equipment manager.

Only former player, manager and owner Connie Mack, with 54 years, was associated with the Athletics franchise for a longer period.

Vucinich will likely break that record since he has no plans of retiring.

"When you have a job as equipment manager that is one of only 30, I think you get to appreciate it. Why would I leave," said Vucinich with a smile.

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