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Philadelphia Athletics

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Ballparks: Jefferson Street Grounds (May 15, 1871-September 16, 1876), Fairview Park, Dover, DE (June 24, 1875), Oakdale Park (May 2-September 21, 1882), Jefferson Street Grounds (May 10, 1883-October 11, 1890), Gloucester Point Grounds, Gloucester City, NJ (August 5, 1888-October 12, 1890), Forepaugh Park (April 8-October 5, 1891) (17,182), Columbia Park (April 26, 1901-October 3, 1908) (9,500), Shibe Park (April 12, 1909-September 19, 1954) (33,166)

World Series Titles: 5 - 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930

American League Pennants: 9 - 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930 and 1931

American Association Pennant: 1 - 1883

The first Philadelphia Athletics team was originally known as the Athletic Base Ball Club was formed back in 1860. This was later changed to Athletic of Philadelphia. The Athletics were originally members of the National Association of Base Ball Players, as well as founding members of the National Association from 1871 - 1875. BR Team Page and the National League. BR Team Page.

The second Philadelphia Athletics team was a founding franchise of the American Association. The team was expelled following the 1890 season. Shortly thereafter the owners of the Philadelphia Quakers purchased the team and merged the two teams together. A minor league team known as the Philadelphia Athletics then played in the Atlantic League between 1896 and 1900.

The Philadelphia Athletics we know best is the modern franchise which began play in 1901 in the first season of the American League, relocated in 1955 to Kansas City, and then relocated again to Oakland in 1968.

That edition of the Athletics was dominated by the figure of owner and manager Connie Mack, who managed the team from its inception until 1950. These Athletics were one of the powers of Major League Baseball in the 1900s and 1910s, and again around 1930, but fell on hard times between those two periods, and afterwards. In fact, after reaching the World Series in four of five years from 1910 to 1914 (and winning the whole shabang in 1910, 1911 and 1913 before being swept by the "Miracle" Boston Braves in the 1914 World Series, that team was dismantled overnight, when Mack decided to cut his expenses instead of meeting the challenges posed by the new Federal League head-on. Two of his top pitchers, Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, were allowed to defect to the new circuit, while he sold half of his vaunted "$100,000 infield, 2B Eddie Collins to the Chicago White Sox and SS Jack Barry to the Boston Red Sox. With 3B Frank Baker sitting out the season because Mack would not meet his salary demands, the Athletics fell to last place, and would stay there for seven consecutive years, from 1915 to 1921 as Mack completed his fire sale.

The Athletics began a slow climb back to respectability when they finished 7th in 1922, and by 1929, they were again a powerhouse team, winning three consecutive pennants with P Lefty Grove, C Mickey Cochrane, 1B Jimmie Foxx and OF Al Simmons leading the way. They won the 1929 and 1930 World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals respectively, then lost the 1931 Fall Classic to the Cardinals. This was the period when the New York Yankees had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at the height of their career hitting in the middle of their line-up, so this peak was not achieved against weak competition. However, economics intervened again, this time the Great Depression, and again Mack decided to get rid of his expensive stars in order to keep his team. The Athletics thus wallowed in the bottom of the American League standings for the rest of the 1930s after a last-place finish in 1935, staying in last place almost without interruption until 1946.

By the end of the 1940s, the Athletics had fallen well behind the Philadelphia Phillies in terms of popularity in Philadelphia, and Connie Mack's outdated leadership was not helping. Mack was grooming his sons Earle and Roy to succeed him as manager and team president, respectively, much to the dismay of his third son, Connie Mack Jr. and his second wife Katherine. Connie Mack Jr. orchestrated a boardroom coup in 1950, in collaboration with the heirs of Ben Shibe, co-founder of the team with his father, and managed to oust the elder Mack as manager and push aside Earle. Roy reacted by buying out his younger half-brother, but to do this he had to mortgage the team's ballpark, Shibe Park, to the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. The mortgage payments proved to be very costly, and by 1954 the team's finances were in dismal shape, with its on-field performance no better. Roy tried unsuccessfully to attract new investors within a structure still dominated by his family, and failing that agreed to sell the team to a syndicate of local businessmen. The deal was brought to the American League owners for their consideration, but was not approved. Roy decided to vote against, as he had in the meantime heard the siren call of Arnold Johnson, a Chicago businessman who was willing to buy the team at a higher price, keep Roy in a senior executive position, but would move the team to Kansas City. Roy persuaded his father and older brother to accept the deal, and with strong backing from New York Yankees President Dan Topping, a majority of other AL owners were persuaded to allow the historic franchise to leave the city of brotherly love for the Midwest.

Hall of Famers associated with the team include Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, Rube Waddell, Frank Baker, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Richard Hershberger: "Did New York Steal the Championship of 1867 from Philadelphia?", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 22-27.
  • David M. Jordan: The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants, 1901-1954, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 1999. ISBN 978-0-7864-0620-3
  • David M. Jordan: The A's: A Baseball History, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7781-4
  • William C. Kashatus: The Philadelphia Athletics, Arcadia Books, Charleston, SC, 2002.
  • Norman L. Macht: Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2007.
  • John G. Robertson and Andy Saunders: A’s Bad as It Gets: Connie Mack’s Pathetic Athletics of 1916, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7818-7
  • Bryan Soderholm-Difatte: "Connie Mack's Second Great Athletics Team: Eclipsed by the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees, But Even Better", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 178-184.
  • Mark Stang: Athletics Album: A Photo History of the Philadelphia Athletics, Orange Frazer Press, Wilmington, OH, 2006. ISBN 1-933197-24-2
  • Robert D. Warrington: "Departure Without Dignity: The Athletics Leave Philadelphia", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 39, Number 2 (Fall 2010), pp. 95-115.
  • Rich Westcott: Philadelphia's Top 50 Baseball Players, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8032-4340-8

Sources:

  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
  • Marshall Wright : The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2000.
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