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Barry Zito and the Oakland Athletics Turn Back the Clock

Two stars from the Oakland Athletics’ past — Barry Zito and Ramon Hernandez — were on hand to help the A’s turn back the clock on Saturday. Both also got to glimpse into the future with Paul Blackburn making a strong major league debut.

Barry Zito / Oakland Athletics
Barry Zito pitched for eight seasons with the Oakland A's. / Photo courtesy Oakland Athletics

Barry Zito had some great years with the Oakland Athletics, particularly from his rookie season in 2000 to the playoff run in 2006–the only year the A’s have advanced past the ALDS in the Billy Beane era. In eight seasons with the A’s, Zito won 102 games and posted a 3.58 ERA. On Saturday, Zito returned to the site of many of his greatest pitching performances, the Oakland Coliseum.

Zito was on hand for the “Turn Back the Clock” day at the Coliseum on Saturday to witness his old team wearing their black jerseys from the early 2000s.

Zito, who wore the black jerseys during his rookie season, told a great story about the black on green uni, which he deemed the best uniforms in baseball.

“I actually never wore 75 on the black (he wore 53 in his rookie season) because that was my first year and then they canned it,” Zito said. “I remember Kevin Appier was very adamant about how he didn’t want to pitch in the black jerseys because he thought they [the hitters] could see the ball better. Then we went to Toronto, it was like my third start. We beat David Wells. We beat him up pretty good. We had the blacks on and I pitched well. We won like 10-0 or something and I came in the clubhouse as a very young rookie and was like ‘Well boys, looks like these jerseys are fine, huh?’ Cause I didn’t want them to go away.”

“But I love that we have the black jerseys. I looooove these. These with the black hats with the green A’s, yeah, that’s the coolest uniform in baseball.”

A’s reliever Sean Doolittle said of the throwback day, “What’s weird is that this is considered a ‘throwback’ and it’s only from the early 2000s, so it makes me feel really old. And I’m not that old.”

Zito also had a great story to tell about former A’s catcher Ramon Hernandez, who was also in town for the festivities. Hernandez played with the A’s from 1999-2003.

“I remember we got in a little tiff when I was with the Giants because we thought he was stealing signs from [Giants reliever Sergio] Romo and the whole deal. I remember I came up to the plate and he was catching and he’s like ‘why you guys so mad at me right now?’ and I was like ‘stop stealing signs, dude!'” Zito said.

Zito went on to say that it’s so good to see Hernandez, calling it an “unexpected treat”. He spoke about the chemistry that the two of them had as a battery, noting that he never had to shake Hernandez off.

Brentwood native Paul Blackburn made his major league debut in those same black jerseys that Zito deemed fine all those years ago. Like Zito did in Toronto, Blackburn made the jerseys look good. Blackburn threw six strong innings in the A’s 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. He allowed just one unearned run on three hits and one walk. Blackburn struck-out four.

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