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Arnold M. Johnson

[edit] Biographical Information

Arnold Johnson purchased the Philadelphia Athletics from Connie Mack's family in 1954 and moved them to Kansas City the following season. Arnold and his brother, Earl Johnson, were co-owners of the A's from 1954 to 1961, when they sold the team to Charlie Finley.

Johnson was a rich businessman from Chicago who, among other interests, was the owner of Yankee Stadium and of Kansas City's Blues Stadium where the New York Yankees' top farm team, the Kansas City Blues, played their games. He also partly owned the Chicago Black Hawks of the National Hockey League. His bid for the Athletics nearly failed. Roy Mack, acting on behalf of his father, had accepted a deal to sell the team to a group of local Philadelphia businessmen. Johnson stepped in by offering more money and promising Roy a senior executive position with his team. Roy decided to vote against the sale to the Philadelphia interests when the deal was presented to American League owners nominally on his behalf, and when the AL owners failed to approve the sale, worked out a deal with Johnson. This time the AL owners approved the sale, encouraged by Yankee president Dan Topping, who was very happy to see a close associate of his team become a co-owner. The sale was approved, Roy was given a vice-president position with no power, Connie Mack himself became an equally meaningless honorary president, and the Athletics were free to move to the Midwest.

Johnson's ownership of the Athletics was no renaissance; far from it. He had been forced to relinquish his interests in Yankee Stadium, but seemed more bent in operating his new team as a major league farm team of the Yankees than as an American League rival. The Yankees didn't ask for concessions in return from losing their Kansas City Blues farm club, but what they received instead was Johnson's unfailing cooperation in various one-sided trades in which the Yankees dumped unwanted washed-up veterans on the Athletics in return for top prospects. In some cases, the A's signed amateur players to large bonuses, kept them on their major league roster for the mandatory period imposed by the bonus rule and then handed them over to the Yanks when they were ready to contribute (third baseman Clete Boyer was the most famous case). The A's finished nowhere near .500 ball in any of their seasons in Kansas City (1955-67), and were just as awful as they had been during the Macks' last years in Philadelphia. Johnson suddenly died while attending spring training in 1960, and his heirs sold the team to Charlie Finley shortly afterward.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Robert D. Warrington: "Departure Without Dignity: The Athletics Leave Philadelphia", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 39, Number 2 (Fall 2010), pp. 95-115.

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