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Young A's have fun while winning


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000

NEW YORK -- The A's season may not end in a celebration, but they've certainly enjoyed the party thus far.

The A's are young (eight players 25 and under) and fun-loving, and say manager Art Howe is a big reason for the success they've had. They say his gentle handling of the group and minimal rules helped them develop a family, if not a fraternal, atmosphere.

"I know he's scared to death sometimes of walking into the clubhouse and seeing what's going on in there," Jason Giambi said. "Every now and then it's like a frat party in there. Most guys are 24 years old and stuff like that. ... He's a great man. He's the perfect person for the job, the task at hand, taking a young team and really molding them into a familylike atmosphere."

Howe said the A's rank among the loosest teams he has been associated with, but that can be a good thing. "Every team you play on, there's a few sick puppies," Howe said. "Sometimes as a manager you have to look the other way."

CATCH THIS: How far down the Yankees' depth chart is Jose Canseco? He caught Saturday's ceremonial first pitch from Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner.

NATIVE SON: Oakland reserve infielder Frankie Menechino, a native of Staten Island, is trying to enjoy his homecoming. It's just that so many people have been calling he had to take his hotel phone off the hook. "I've got people I was in kindergarten with calling me for tickets," he said.

CALL THEM MATURE: The Yankees have what might be one of the most experienced middle relief corps in history with displaced starters David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Denny Neagle, who have 483 career wins.

They weren't needed during the first three games, however. "We're all ready," Cone said. "People talk about our weakness being middle relief, but there is 500 career wins in middle relief. That's rare. We all have post-season experience and are ready to go. We're all looking for a spot to pick up the team. This is not three untested rookies down there."

GOING DEEP: The A's don't have much use for "small-ball" tactics such as bunts, and they're not ashamed to admit it. "I think it's kind of against our religion," Howe said. "We don't really think about playing small ball. We're an American League club. We like to knock the ball around a little bit. We'll work on bunting maybe more next spring."

ON TAP TONIGHT: After all-night cross-country flights, the teams will meet in the deciding game in Oakland. The A's will start Game 1 winner Gil Heredia against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who was dazzling in Game 2. "We're going to have everybody and his brother ready to pitch," Howe said. Both pitchers left their teams to fly to Oakland a day early.

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