Oakland Athletics

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Previously known as Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954), Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967)

Franchise Record:

  • (1901-2023) 9,260-9,766-87 (.487)
  • (1968-2023) 4,545-4,294-1 (.514)

Post Season Record:

  • (1905-2020) 85-82 (.509)
  • (1968-2020) 61-63 (.492)

World Series Titles: 9 (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989)

American League Pennants: 15 (1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1988, 1989, 1990)

Postseasons: 29 (1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020)

Ballparks: Oakland Coliseum (April 17, 1968-) (48,219)

Franchise Players: Eddie Collins, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Home Run Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Sal Bando, Vida Blue, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Stewart, Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez

Retired Numbers: 9 - Reggie Jackson; 24 - Rickey Henderson; 27 - Catfish Hunter; 34 Rollie Fingers and Dave Stewart; 42 - Jackie Robinson (retired throughout Major League Baseball); 43 - Dennis Eckersley

Oakland Athletics logo

Team History[edit]

The Oakland Athletics are the third incarnation of the American League franchise that started in 1900 as the Philadelphia Athletics before the AL had attained major league status. After winning numerous titles in its first four decades, the franchise fell on hard times during the Great depression and never really recovered. They lost the battle with the Philadelphia Phillies for supremacy in the City of Brotherly Love and in 1954 relocated to Kansas City, MO. They never had a winning season during their stint as the Kansas City Athletics and their final few years were dominated by stories of where mercurial owner Charles O. Finley would move the team next, after antagonizing just about everyone in Missouri and Kansas in less than a decade. Their next destination was Oakland, CA, where they settled down in 1968.

In Oakland, the Athletics, who were generally called the A's in their first few seasons, found a measure of stability as the Bay Area was growing fast, they had a new ballpark, the Oakland Coliseum, to call their own, and their rivals across the bay, the San Francisco Giants, were far from a model franchise. The Athletics quickly shed the losing image they had obtained in Kansas City by winning a first division title in 1971, and then by winning three consecutive World Series titles from 1972 to 1974. They were the coolest team in the majors at that time, wearing colorful uniforms that alternated the team's three primary colors - green, yellow and white - encouraging their players to wear mustaches and take on colorful nicknames, and sporting a number of genuine superstars in their rank such as Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson, and all-around stars like Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace, Ken Holtzman and Bill North. They also did unusual things like always carrying one or two dedicated pinch-runners on the roster, and changing managers every couple of years - even while they were winning. And if it had only been up to Finley, there would have been more innovation, as he was an early proponent of the designated hitter, wanted to introduce a pitch clock, and experimented with using colored baseballs before being stopped by the league.

This heyday came to a crashing end when Finley's penurious ways came to the fore, as he refused to pay his star players what they were worth. He lost Hunter to free agency when he failed to pay a performance bonus that had been included in his contract, and then lost a slew of other players before the 1977 season because he refused to pay them properly. He tried to get around this by trading some players, including Reggie Jackson and Vida Blue, before their contracts expired, and by selling others, the latter move being blocked by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. He almost moved the team to Denver, CO but was stopped by other AL owners, after which he sulked, running the team on a shoestring budget in 1979, causing a major embarrassment to MLB as attendance was almost non-existent and the team's broadcasting deal was with a low-powered college station that could barely be heard even in Oakland itself.

The agony ended when Finley sold the team to local businessman Walter Haas in 1980, a year that corresponded to a rebirth of sort as the A's suddenly became competitive again under the guidance of manager Billy Martin and his version of "Billy Ball". They won a division title in the strike-shortened 1981 season, but their success was largely based on running starting pitchers Mike Norris, Rick Langford, Matt Keough and Steve McCatty into the ground, and it all came crashing down within a couple of years. They re-emerged as a power at the end of the 1980s during the days of the "Bash Brothers", Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, winning three straight AL pennants under manager Tony LaRussa from 1988 to 1990. All three times, they were overwhelming favorites to win the World Series, but were upset twice, by the Los Angeles Dodgers and a limping Kirk Gibson in 1988 and by a Cincinnati Reds team that came out of nowhere (and soon returned there) in 1990. They did win a championship in 1989, defeating their cross-Bay rivals the Giants in a World series marred by the Loma Prieta Earthquake which forced a ten-day pause and made the four-game sweep anticlimactic. In addition to Canseco and McGwire, other stars on that team included Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley as well as a number of strong supporting players like Walt Weiss, Mike Moore, Rick Honeycutt, Carney Lansford, Dave Henderson and Terry Steinbach. A division title in 1992 marked the last hurrah of that team.

A period of doldrums followed as the A's teams in the late 1990s were uninspiring and the Coliseum began to decay, with the only improvements made by the City of Oakland, which owned the facility, being done to suit the NFL's Oakland Raiders, and those ended up defacing what had previously been a pleasant-enough venue. While the Bay Area was booming in those years, thanks to the development of Silicon Valley, Oakland itself was left behind. As a result, the Giants became a big draw after leaving Candlestick Park for what was originally called Pacific Bell Park in 2000. The A's were jealous of their neighbor's beautiful new digs and began to decry their own inadequate facilities. They would have liked to move to nearby San Jose, CA, which was booming economically, but it was in the Giants' protected territory, and options to find a site appropriate for a ballpark in the east Bay area all proved futile. As a result, making a virtue out of necessity, the A's operated on a small budget, and developed Moneyball under the guidance of innovative General Manager Billy Beane, finding undervalued players to build a winning team. They targeted players who were not overly athletic (belying their name) but who could hit for power and had strong on-base percentages. The approach was controversial, but it worked for a while - at least in terms of getting the team into the postseason - but once there, the magic seemed to evaporate, as they lost a number of postseason series to the New York Yankees, who were not hampered by the need to clip coupons and spend wisely. Iconic players in that era were Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada and a group of staring pitchers collectively known as the "Big Three" - Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson - who did not fit the "take and rake" Moneyball narrative. A lot of the team's methods, such as the use of analytics, were adopted by other teams, and their lack of postseason success also put a taint on their methods, so that by the end of the 2000s, they were no longer viewed as a model organization.

But the A's managed to remain competitive for some periods, including at the end of the 2010s, even if they were still operating on a small budget and their ballpark situation was growing worse every year, with every ambitious plan to use the construction of a new ballpark as an opportunity to revive some part of downtown Oakland being turned down for one reason or another, with plans to settle down at Laney College or Jack London Square all coming to naught. The A's made the postseason a few times in that period, but would invariably make a quick exit, except for the anomalous COVID-19 season of 2020, when they did manage to win a first series before falling to the Houston Astros in the Division Series. There were some good players on those teams, including Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, but both were traded away for package of prospects when they became too expensive and by 2023, the team was in last place, playing terribly, and drawing flies at the Coliseum. That's when ownership threw in the towel, announcing a plan to move the team to Las Vegas, NV. After a last-place finish, the proposed move received unanimous approval from MLB owners on November 16th that year, with the target date for relocation being 2028. Complicating matters was the issue of a stadium. The A's lease in Oakland was set to expire at the end of the 2024 season. Athletics officials toured ballparks in Sacramento, CA and Salt Lake City, UT in mid-January 2024 preparing for a temporary bridge location from 2025 to 2027 [1]. Using Las Vegas' AAA ballpark was also among the options considered, since staying two more years in Oakland as a lame-duck team seemed unlikely.

Awards[edit]

Famous Feats[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mike Axisa: "A's stadium proposal moves forward with City Council vote, but team's future in Oakland remains uncertain", cbssports.com, July 20, 2021. [2]
  • Mark Feinsand: "Owners' vote approves A's relocation to Las Vegas for 2028", mlb.com, November 16, 2023. [3]
  • Nancy Finley: Finley Ball: How two outsiders turned the Oakland A's into a dynasty and changed the game forever, Regnery History, Washington, DC, 2016. ISBN 978-1-62157-477-4
  • Martín Gallegos: "A's to explore relocation amid stadium push", mlb.com, May 11, 2021. [4]
  • Martín Gallegos: "A's ballpark plan takes 'giant leap forward' after city council vote", mlb.com, February 18, 2022. [5]
  • Martín Gallegos: "A’s purchase land in Las Vegas for new ballpark", mlb.com, April 20, 2023. [6]
  • Chip Greene, ed.: Mustaches and Mayhem, Charlie O's Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics 1972-74, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015. ISBN 978-1-943816-07-1
  • David M. Jordan: The A's: A Baseball History, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7781-4
  • Jane Lee: "A's plan to build ballpark at Howard Terminal", mlb.com, November 28, 2018. [7]
  • Michael Lewis: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, 2003. ISBN 978-0393057652
  • Bruce Markusen: Baseball's Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Oakland A's, Masters Press, Dallas, TX, 1998.
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "How the Raiders' L.A. limbo impacts the Oakland Athletics", USA Today Sports, January 13, 2016. [8]
  • Liz Roscher: "Oakland A's agree to purchase land for $1.5B Las Vegas ballpark", Yahoo! Sports, April 20, 2023. [9]* Dale Tafoya: Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's, Lyons Press, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2020. ISBN 978-1493043620
  • Jason Turbow: Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA, 2017. ISBN 9780544303171

Sources:


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