From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
This article is about the baseball team currently active in the American League. For the team that played in the National Association 1871-1875 and in the National League in 1876, see Athletic of Philadelphia. For the team that played in the American Association 1882-1891, see Philadelphia Athletics (American Association).
Based in Oakland since 1968
|Major league affiliations|
|Major league titles|
|World Series titles (9)||1989--1974--1973--1972|
|AL Pennants (15)||1990--1989--1988--1974|
|West Division titles (13) ||2003--2002--2000--1992|
|Wild card berths (1)||2001|
 - In 1994, a players' strike wiped out the last eight weeks of the season and all post-season. Oakland was one game out of first place in the West Division (despite being 12 games under .500) behind Texas when play was stopped. No official titles were awarded in 1994.
|Major league nicknames|
(Referred to as "A's")
|Major league home ballparks|
- Hall of Famer
Jackie Robinson's #42 is retired by Major League Baseball
|• This box contains major league affiliations only; National Association, Western League and other minor league affiliations are not included. • The "Established" date indicates when major league status was gained. • Post-seasons prior to 1903 are not included as they were regarded more as exhibitions. edit infobox|
The Oakland Athletics are a Major League Baseball team based in Oakland, California. They are in the Western Division of the American League. The team is often called the A's.
Origins: The Name, the Emblem, the Elephant Mascot
Origin of the Team Name
The name "Athletic" for Philadelphia's baseball team dates back to 1860 when an amateur team, the Athletic of Philadelphia, was formed. (A famous image from that era, at left, published in Harper's Weekly in 1866, shows the Athletic players dressed in uniforms displaying the familiar Old English "A" on the front.) The team later turned professional and joined the National Association in 1871, winning the first-ever major league pennant that year. The Athletic played in the National Association through 1875, becoming a charter member of the National League in 1876, but were expelled from the N.L. after one season. A later version of the Athletics played in the American Association from 1882-1891.
The team name is typically pronounced "Ath-LET-ics", but their long-time team owner/manager Connie Mack called them by the old-fashioned colloquial pronunciation "Ath-uh-LET-ics". Newspaper writers also often referred to the team as the Mackmen during their Philadelphia days, in honor of their patriarch.
Old English "A" Uniform Emblem
Over the seasons, Athletic uniforms have usually paid homage to their amateur forebears to one extent or another. Until 1954, when the uniforms had "Athletics" spelled out in script across the front, the team's name never appeared on either home or road uniforms. Furthermore, not once did "Philadelphia" appear on the uniform, nor did the letter "P" appear on the cap or the uniform. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only an Old-English "A" on the left front, and likewise the cap usually had the same "A" on it. Though for a time as a Kansas City team, the A's wore "Kansas City" on their road jerseys and an interlocking "KC" on the cap, upon moving to Oakland the "A" cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an "apostrophe-s" was added to the cap and uniform emblem.
Currently, though the team wears home uniforms (and alternate home and road uniforms) with "Athletics" spelled out in script writing and road uniforms with "Oakland" spelled out in script writing, the cap and team logo consists of the traditional Old English "A" with "apostrophe-s."
The A's Elephant Mascot
After New York Giants manager John McGraw told reporters that Philadelphia manufacturer Benjamin Shibe, who owned the controlling interest in the new team, had a "white elephant on his hands," Mack defiantly adopted the white elephant as the team mascot, though over the years the elephant has appeared in several different colors (currently forest green). The A's are sometimes, though infrequently, referred to as the Elephants or White Elephants.
The elephant was retired as team mascot in 1963 by then-owner Charles O. Finley in favor of a Missouri mule. In 1986, the elephant was restored as the symbol of the Athletics and currently adorns the left sleeve of home and road uniforms.
The Philadelphia Years (1901-1954)
The franchise that would become the modern Athletic team originated as the Indianapolis Indians of the Western League in 1893, a minor league with teams concentrated in the Great Lakes states. The Western league was renamed the American League in 1900 by league president Bancroft (Ban) Johnson, in anticipation of becoming the second major league in 1901.
When the American League became a Major League in 1901, Johnson shifted the Indianapolis franchise to Philadelphia to compete with the National League's Philadelphia Phillies, and recruited former player Connie Mack to run the club. Mack in turn persuaded Ben Shibe as well as others to invest in the team, which would again be called the Philadelphia Athletics, one of eight charter members of the American League. The other teams included the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Americans, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Blues, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Washington Senators.
The team's inaugural year saw second baseman Nap Lajoie [la-ZHWAY] lead the league in hitting with a .426 batting average, still a modern Major League record. The new league recruited many of its players---including Lajoie---from the existing National League, persuading them to "jump" to the A.L. in defiance of their N.L. contracts. The Athletics as well as the 7 other A.L. teams received a jolt when, on April 21, 1902, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated Nap Lajoie's contract with the Athletics, and ordered him returned to his former team, the N.L. Philadelphia Phillies. This order, though, was only enforceable in the state of Pennsylvania. Lajoie was traded to the Cleveland Broncos (now the Cleveland Indians) and did not set foot on Pennsylvania soil until the National Agreement was signed between the two leagues in 1903.
The First Dynasty and Aftermath
In the early years, the A's quickly established themselves as one of the dominant teams in the new American League, winning the A.L. pennant six times (1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914), winning the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913. They won over 100 games in 1911 and 1912, and 99 games in 1914. The team was known for its "$100,000 Infield," consisting of John "Stuffy" McInnis (1b), Eddie Collins (2b), Frank "Home Run" Baker (3b) and Jack Barry (ss), as well as pitchers Eddie Plank and Charles "Chief" Bender. Plank holds the club record for career victories, with 284.
After the heavily favored A's lost the 1914 World Series to the underdog Boston Braves in a 4-game sweep, Connie Mack traded, sold or released most of the team's star players. In his book To Every Thing a Season, Bruce Kuklick points out that there were suspicions that the A's had thrown the Series, or at least "laid down", perhaps in protest of Mack's notorious thriftiness. Mack himself alluded to that rumor years later, but also debunked it, asserting that factions within the team along with the allure of the Federal League had distracted the team.
A third major league, the Federal League, had been formed to begin play in 1914. As the A.L. had done 13 years before, the new league raided existing A.L. and N.L. teams for players. Mack refused to match the offers of the F.L. teams, preferring to let the "prima donnas" go and rebuild with younger (and less expensive) players. As a result, the Athletics went from a 99-53 (.651) won-loss record and 1st place finish in 1914, to a record of 43-109 (.283) and 8th (last) place in 1915, and then to a modern major league low winning percentange of 36-117 (.235) in 1916. The team would finish in last place every year after that until 1922, when it finished 7th.
The Second Dynasty, 1927-1933
After that, Mack began to build another winner. In 1927 and 1928, the Athletics finished second to the New York Yankees, then won pennants in 1929, 1930 and 1931, winning the World Series in 1929 and 1930. In each of the three years, the A's won over 100 games. There are those who feel the 1929 A's were the best team in baseball history, even surpassing the 1927 Yankees.
After a second-place finish in 1932 and 3rd in 1933, Mack again sold or traded his best players in order to reduce expenses. The Great Depression was well under way, and declining attendance had drastically reduced the team's revenues. The construction of the "spite fence" at Shibe Park, blocking the view from nearby buildings, only served to irritate potential paying fans.
The Meager Years
The Athletics finished fifth in 1934, then last in 1935. Though he intended to rebuild once more, Mack was already 68 years old when the A's last won the pennant in 1931, and many felt the game was passing him by. Save for a 5th place finish in 1944, the A's finished in last or next-to-last place every year from 1935-1946. By now Mack and his immediate family were the team's controlling stockholders, and he had no intention of firing himself.
The 1950 season would be 88-year-old Mack's 50th and last as A's manager, a Major League record that will surely never be broken. During that year the team wore uniforms trimmed in blue and gold, in honor of the Golden Jubilee of "The Grand Old Man of Baseball."
The Last Years in Philadelphia
In late 1950, the controlling interest in the A's was purchased by Mack's eldest sons, Roy and Earle Mack, who bought out their stepmother, stepbrother Connie Mack, Jr., and other minority stockholders. In order to do this, the Mack brothers mortgaged the team to Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. It soon became obvious that the cashflow was insufficient to service the new debt. Roy and Earle Mack began feuding with each other. The team continued to slide, attendance plummeted, and revenues continued to dwindle. The only bright spot during the last seasons in Philadelphia were the A.L. batting championships won by Ferris Fain in 1951 (.344) and 1952 (.327). The latter would be the last year in which an Athletic has led the American League in hitting.
Though last minute offers were put on the table to buy the Athletics to keep them in Philadelphia (including one made by a group which included Chicago insurance executive Charles O. Finley), the American League owners were determined to "solve the Philadelphia problem" by moving the team elsewhere. On October 12, 1954, the owners voted to approve the sale of the Athletics to another Chicago businessman, Arnold Johnson, so that he could move the team to Kansas City for the 1955 season.
Connie Mack once said, "You can't win them all." The Philadelphia A's didn't come close. Though they won 5 World Series and 9 A.L. pennants, their overall record from 1901-1954 was 3,886 games won and 4,239 games lost, for an overall winning percentage of but .478.
The Kansas City Years (1955-1967)
The Johnson Era: A New Venue, but for How Long?
From the start, it was clear that Johnson was motivated solely by profit, not because of any regard for the baseball fans of Kansas City. He had long been a business associate of Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb. He was the owner of Yankee Stadium, though the American league owners forced Johnson to sell the property before acquiring the Athletics. The lease he signed with Municipal Stadium gave Johnson a three-year escape clause if the team failed to draw one million or more customers per season. The subsequent lease signed in 1960 also contained an escape clause if the team failed to draw 850,000 per season.
Rumors abounded that Johnson's real motive was to operate the Athletics in Kansas City for a few years, then move the team to Los Angeles. Whatever Johnson's motives were, the issue soon became moot. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, thereby precluding any move there by the Athletics. Moreover, on March 10, 1960, Arnold Johnson died at the age of 53.
Whatever the concern about the move to Kansas City, fans turned out in record numbers for the era. In 1955, the new Kansas City Athletics drew 1,393,054 to newly renovated and newly renamed Municipal Stadium, a club record easily surpassing the previous record of 945,076 in 1948. (To put this figure in perspective, in 1955 only the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves had higher home attendance than did the A's.) What no one realized at the time was that number would remain the club record for attendance until 1982 -- the Athletics' 15th season in Oakland!
The "Special Relationship" with the Yankees
During the Johnson ownership, any good young players on the Athletics were invariably traded by general manager Parke Carroll to the Yankees for aging veterans and cash. The cash was used to pay the bills, with the veterans perhaps having star appeal that could improve attendance. Though Johnson promised the fans that the trades would soon bring a World Series championship to Kansas City, it didn't work that way. The team remained mired in the second division. Attendance declined, with fans and even other clubs charging that the A's were little more than a minor league farm team for the Yankees, citing Johnson's pre-existing cozy relationship with the Yankees' front office, an obvious conflict of interest that was winked at by the rulers of the game at that time. Johnson once gushed to The Sporting News, "I'd pay a million dollars for Mickey Mantle!" Assuming he had a million to give, that was a safe offer, as there was no chance the Yanks were going to trade their superstar to Kansas City.
The trade no one ever forgot was the one made after the 1959 season, when the A's sent young right fielder Roger Maris to New York for his aging counterpart, Hank Bauer, in a seven-player deal. However, there were others. The Yankees brought up a promising young pitcher, Ralph Terry, in 1956, but were reluctant to use him in critical situations. So, in June, 1957 they traded him to the A's in an eight-player deal. After getting nearly two years of experience facing A.L. batters, Terry apparently was ready to return. In May, 1959 the Yankees sent Jerry Lumpe and two washed-up pitchers to the Athletics for Terry. Once "home," Terry became a 20-game winner for New York. (It is perhaps not a coincidence that the "Old" Yankees became less competitive after new owner Charles O. Finley bought the A's and stopped providing talent to the Yankees.)
The Finley Era Commences: The Savior of Kansas City Baseball?
On December 19, 1960, Chicago insurance executive Charles O. Finley purchased a controlling interest in the team from Johnson's estate. He bought out the minority owners a year later. Finley promised the fans a new day. In a highly publicized move, he purchased a bus, pointed it in the direction of New York City, and had it burned, to symbolize the end of the "special relationship" with the Yankees. He called another press conference to burn the existing lease at Municipal Stadium which included the despised "escape clause." He spent over $400,000 of his own money in stadium improvements (though in 1962 the city reimbursed $300,000 of this). He introduced new uniforms which---significantly---had "Kansas City" on the road uniforms and an interlocking "KC" on the cap. He told the fans, "My intentions are to keep the A's permanently in Kansas City and build a winning ballclub. I have no intention of ever moving the franchise." The fans, in turn, regarded Finley as the savior of Major League Baseball in Kansas City.
Finley immediately hired Frank Lane, a man with a reputation as a prolific trader, as general manager. Lane began engineering trades with several other teams, including the Yankees, the bus-burning stunt notwithstanding. Lane lasted less than one year, being fired during the 1961 season. He was replaced by Pat Friday, whose sole qualification for the job was that he managed one of Finley's insurance offices. On paper, Friday remained general manager until 1965, when he was replaced by Hank Peters, who held the post for less than a year, after which the team had no formal general manager. In fact, Friday was merely a figurehead. With the firing of Lane in 1961, Finley became his own general manager (in fact if not in name), and would remain so for the duration of his ownership.
Finley made further changes to the team's uniforms. In 1963, he changed the team's colors to "Kelly Green, Fort Knox Gold and Wedding Gown White" and replaced the traditional elephant mascot with a Missouri mule --- not just a cartoon logo, but a real mule, which he named after himself: "Charlie O, the Mule." In 1967, he replaced the team's traditional black cleats with white ones. In 1970 (after the move to Oakland) he added an "apostrophe-s" to the traditional "A" logo, and began phasing out the team name "Athletics" in favor of, simply, "A's."
Finley poured resources into the minor league system for the first time in the history of the franchise. He was assisted in this endeavor by the creation of the baseball draft in 1965, which forced young prospects to sign with the team that drafted them -- at the price offered by the team -- if they wanted to play professional baseball. Thus, Finley was spared from having to compete with wealthier teams for top talent. The Athletics, owners of the worst record in the American League in 1964, had the first pick in the first draft, selecting Rick Monday on June 8, 1965. Under the Mack and Johnson ownerships, the A's minor league system was almost non-existent. By 1966, it was one of the best.
Finley Looks for a Way Out
But, while laying the groundwork for a future championship team, Finley began shopping the Athletics to other cities, despite his promises that the A's would remain in Kansas City. Soon after the lease-burning stunt, it was discovered that what actually burned was a blank boilerplate commercial lease available at any stationery store. The actual lease was still in force---including the escape clause. Finley later admitted he had no intention of re-writing the lease, that the whole thing was a publicity stunt.
On September 18, 1962, after less than two full years of ownership, Finley asked the A.L. owners for permission to move the Athletics to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His request was denied by a 9-1 vote. In January, 1964, he signed an agreement to move the A's to Louisville, Kentucky (and hinted the team's name would change to "Louisville Sluggers"). By another 9-1 vote his request was denied. Six weeks later, by the same 9-1 margin, the A.L. owners denied Finley's request to move the team to Oakland.
These requests came as no surprise, as rumors of impending moves to these cities, as well as to Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle---all of which Finley had considered as new homes for the Athletics---had long been afloat. He also threatened to move the A's to a "cow pasture" outside of town, complete with temporary grandstands. Finally, American League President Joe Cronin persuaded Finley to sign a four-year lease with Municipal Stadium. According to some reports, he promised Finley that he could move the team after the 1967 season as an incentive to sign the lease.
Finally, on October 18, 1967, A.L. owners gave Finley permission to move the Athletics to Oakland for the 1968 season. Then-U.S. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri blasted Finley on the floor of the Senate, calling him "one of the most disreputable characters ever to enter the American sports scene," and said Oakland was "the luckiest city since Hiroshima." In 1969, Kansas City was awarded an American League expansion team, the Kansas City Royals.
During the Johnson years, the Athletics' home attendance averaged just under one million per season, respectable numbers for the era, especially in light of the team's won-loss record. In contrast, during the years of Finley's ownership, the team averaged under 680,000 per year in Kansas City. During their 13-year existence, the Kansas City Athletics were arguably one of the worst teams ever in baseball, finishing in last or next to last place in 10 of those years. Their overall record was 829-1,224, for a winning percentage of .404.
The Oakland Years (1968 to present)
The Third Dynasty, 1972-1975
The Athletics arrived in Oakland just as the team was beginning to gel. Managed by Bob Kennedy, the Oakland Athletics finished the 1968 season with an 82-80 record -- their best record since 1952. With expansion to 12 teams in 1969, the American League was divided into two 6-team divisions. During that year, the Athletics finished second in the A.L. West Division behind the Minnesota Twins -- their highest finish in 37 years! After another second-place finish in 1970, the A's won the A.L. West title in 1971, only to lose to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series.
Finley had built himself a winner. The Athletics won World Series championships in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Unlike earlier Athletic championship teams, which thoroughly dominated their opposition, the A's teams of the 1970s played well enough to win their division, then defeated teams that had won more games during the regular season, with good pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting. Finley termed this team the "Swingin' A's." The players, in turn, often said they played so well as a team due to their universal dislike for their employer. Players such as Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Vida Blue formed the nucleus of these teams.
The A's teams of the 1970s were also known for their sartorial and tonsorial appearance. Beginning in 1972, the Athletics began wearing jerseys of solid green or solid gold color, with contrasting white pants, at a time when most other teams wore all-white uniforms at home and all-grey ones on the road. Furthermore, in conjunction with a Moustache Day promotion, Finley offered $500 to any player who grew a moustache, at a time when every other team forbade facial hair. The 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds was termed "The Hairs vs. the Squares," as Cincinnati wore traditional uniforms and forbade facial hair on its players. A contemporaneous book about the team was called Moustache Gang. The A's seven-game victory over the heavily-favored Reds gave the team its first World Series Championship since 1930!
The Athletics' victory over the New York Mets in the 1973 World Series was marred by owner Finley's antics. Finley forced player Mike Andrews to sign a false affadavit saying he was injured after the reserve infielder committed two consecutive errors in the 12th inning of the A's Game Two loss to the Mets. When other team members, manager Dick Williams, and virtually the entire sports-viewing public rallied to Andrews' defense, Finley was forced to back down, and Andrews was reinstated. As it was, the incident allowed the Mets, a team that went but 82-79 during the regular season, to go seven games before losing to a superior team.
After the Athletics' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1974 World Series, pitcher Catfish Hunter filed a grievance, claiming that the team had violated its contract with Hunter by failing to make timely payment on an insurance policy during the 1974 season as called for. On December 13, 1974, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in Hunter's favor. As a result, Hunter became a free agent, and signed a contract with the New York Yankees for the 1975 season. Despite the loss of Hunter, the A's repeated as West Division champions in 1975, but lost the ALCS to Boston in a 3-game sweep.
Free Agency, the Dismantling of the A's, and the End of the Finley Years
As the 1976 season got underway, the basic rules of player contracts were changing. Arbitrator Seitz had ruled that baseball's reserve clause only bound players for one season after their contract expired. Thus, all players not signed to multi-year contracts would be eligible for free agency at the end of the 1976 season. The balance of power had shifted from the owners to the players for the first time since the days of the Federal League. Like his predecessor Connie Mack had done twice before, Charles Finley reacted by trading star players and attempting to sell others. On June 15, 1976, Finley sold left fielder Rudi and relief pitcher Fingers to Boston for $1 million apiece, and pitcher Blue to the New York Yankees for $1.5 million. Three days later, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the transactions in the "best interests of baseball."
After 1976 the season, most of the Athletics' veteran players did become eligible for free agency, and predictably almost all left. Three thousand miles and several decades later, one of baseball's most storied franchises suffered yet another dismemberment of a dynasty team. The 1977 version of the A's finished in last place, behind even the expansion Seattle Mariners, who entered the American League that year. In 1979, only 306,763 paying customers showed up to watch the A's, the team's worst attendance since leaving Philadelphia.
After three dismal seasons on the field and at the gate, the team started to gel again. In a masterstroke, Finley hired Billy Martin to manage the young team. Martin made believers of his young charges, "Billyball" was used to market the team, and the Athletics finished second in 1980.
But, the Finley era was coming to a close. The man who brought American League baseball to the San Francisco Bay Area was being sued for a divorce. As his estranged wife would not accept part of a baseball team in a property settlement, the team had to be sold. Though Finley found a buyer who would have moved the Athletics to Denver, the tentative deal was voided when the Oakland Coliseum refused to let the team out of its lease. He then looked to local buyers, selling the Athletics to San Francisco clothing manufacturer Walter A. Haas, Jr. (then president of Levi Strauss & Co.) prior to the 1981 season.
Local Ownership for the Athletics: the Haas Era
Despite winning three World Series Championships and two other A.L. West Division titles, the A's on-field success did not translate into success at the box office during the Finley Era in Oakland. Average home attendance from 1968-1980 was 777,000 per season, with 1,075,518 in 1975 being the highest attendance for a Finley-owned team. In marked contrast, during the first year of Haas ownership, the Athletics drew 1,304,052---in a season shortened by a player strike. Were it not for the strike, the A's were on a pace to draw over 2.2 million in 1981!
During the 15 years of Haas ownership, the Athletics became one of baseball's most successful teams at the gate, drawing 2,900,217 in 1990, still the club record for single season attendance, as well as on the field. Average annual home attendance during those years (excluding the strike years of 1981 and 1994) was over 1.9 million. Haas restored the team's official name of "Athletics" in 1981. While the team colors remained green, gold, and white, the garish Kelly green was replaced with a more subdued forest green. And, after a 23-year hiatus, the elephant was restored as the club mascot in 1986.
Under the Haas ownership, the minor league system was rebuilt, which bore fruition later that decade as Athletics José Canseco (1986), Mark McGwire (1987) and Walt Weiss (1988) were chosen as A.L. Rookies of the Year. During the 1986 season, Tony La Russa was hired as the Athletics' manager, a post he held until the end of 1995. In 1987, La Russa's first full year as manager, the team finished at 81-81, its best record in 7 seasons. Beginning in 1988, the Athletics won the A.L. pennant three years in a row. Reminiscent of their Philadelphia predecessors, this A's team finished with the best record of any team in the major leagues during all 3 years, winning 104 (1988), 99 (1989), and 103 (1990) games, featuring such stars as McGwire, Canseco, Weiss, Carney Lansford, Dave Stewart, and Dennis Eckersley.
Regular season dominance did not translate into post-season success, however. The Athletics lost the World Series in 1988 and 1990, losing the latter to the underdog Cincinnati Reds in a shocking 4-game sweep reminiscent of the A's loss to the Braves 76 years earlier. The A's lone victory was a 4-game sweep of their cross-bay rivals, the San Francisco Giants, in the 1989 World Series. The team began a steady decline, winning the A.L. West championship in 1992 (but losing to Toronto in the ALCS), then finishing last in 1993.
The Schott-Hofmann Years: Continuous Rebuilding and Playoff Frustration
Walter Haas died in 1995, and the team was sold to San Francisco Bay Area real estate developers Stephen Schott (no relation to one-time Cincinnati Reds' owner Marge Schott) and Kenneth Hofmann, prior to the 1996 season. Once again, the Athletics' star players were traded or sold, as the new owners' goal was to cut payroll drastically. Many landed with the St. Louis Cardinals, including McGwire, Eckersley, and manager La Russa. In a turn of events eerily reminiscent of the A's Roger Maris trade 28 years before, Mark McGwire celebrated his first full season with the Cardinals by setting a new major league home run record! In fact, McGwire came close to the record in 1997, when he split 58 homers between the A's and the Cards.
The Schott-Hofmann ownership allocated resources to building and maintaining a strong minor league system while almost always refusing to pay the going rate to keep star players on the team once they become free agents. Perhaps as a result, the A's at the turn of the 21st century were a team that usually finished at or near the top of the A.L. West Division, but could not advance beyond the first round of playoffs. The Athletics made the post season playoffs for four straight years, 2000-2003, but lost the first round (best 3-out-of-5) in each case, 3 games to 2. In two of those years (2001 against New York and 2003 against Boston), the Athletics won the first two games of the series, only to lose the next three straight and hence the playoffs. In 2004, the A's missed the playoffs altogether, losing the final series of the season—and the divisional title—to the Anaheim Angels.
In recent years, the Athletics were best known for starting pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, collectively referred to as "The Big Three," as well as infielders Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi, and Miguel Tejada. After becoming free agents, Giambi left for the New York Yankees after the 2001 season, while Tejada departed for the Baltimore Orioles after the 2003 season.
The general manager of the Athletics, Billy Beane, has become notable in recent years for his novel approach to business decisions and scouting. The Athletics organization began redefining the way that major league baseball teams evaluate player talent. They began filling their system with players who did not possess typical baseball "tools" - throwing, fielding, hitting, hitting for power and running. Instead, they drafted for unconventional statistical prowess - on base percentage for hitters (rather than power) and strikeout/walk ratios for pitchers (rather than velocity). These undervalued stats came cheap. With the the sixth lowest payroll in baseball in 2002, the Oakland Athletics won an American League best 103 games. They spent $41M that season, while the Yankees, who also won 103 games, spent $132M. The Athletics have continually succeeded winning, and defying market economics, keeping their payroll near the bottom of the league. For example, after the 2004 season, in which the A's placed second in their division, Beane shocked many by breaking up the Big Three, trading Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals. To many, the trades appeared bizarre, in that the two pitchers were seen to be at or near the top of their game; however, the decision was perfectly in line with Beane's business model as outlined in Moneyball.
The Wolff Era Begins
On March 30, 2005, the Athletics were sold to a group headed by Los Angeles real estate developer Lewis Wolff. Rumors speculate that he wishes to move the team to San Jose, but those plans are complicated by the claims of the cross-bay San Francisco Giants that they own the territorial rights to San Jose and Santa Clara County. While not ruling out relocating the A's elsewhere in the Bay Area, Wolff has stated his primary focus is finding a site in Oakland for a new baseball-only stadium.
In 2005, many pundits picked the Athletics to finish last as a result of Beane's dismanting of the Big Three. At first, the experts appeared vindicated, as the A's were mired in last place on May 31st with a 19-32 (.373) won-loss record. After that, the team began to gel, playing at a .622 clip for the remainder of the season, eventually finishing 88-74 (.543), seven games behind the newly-renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and for many weeks seriously contending for the AL West crown.
The Stadium Issue
Team owners have been faced for several years with a problematic issue, that of the venue where the team plays. The Oakland Coliseum, though built as a multi-purpose facility, was considered by many to be one of the better ballparks in the major leagues. After the Oakland Raiders football team moved to Los Angeles in 1982, many improvements were made to what had become a baseball-only facility.
Then, in 1994, a deal was struck whereby the Los Angeles Raiders would move back to Oakland for the 1995 season. The agreement called for the expansion of the Coliseum to more than 63,000 seats. The bucolic view of the Oakland foothills enjoyed by baseball spectators was replaced with a jarring view of an outfield grandstand contemptuously referred to as "Mount Davis" after Raiders' owner Al Davis. The final insult was that construction was not finished by the start of the 1996 season. The Athletics were forced to play their first homestand elsewhere. They chose 9,300-seat Cashman Field in Las Vegas, playing six "home" games there.
Ever since that time, ownership has stated that a new baseball-only facility is necessary to ensure the economic viability of the Athletics. In 2005, new owner Wolff made public his plans to build a 35,000-seat baseball-only stadium not far from the present facility, as part of a larger commercial and residential development.
- See also: Bay Bridge Series (Athletics-Giants Rivalry), City Series (defunct Athletics-Phillies Rivalry)
The Athletics are without a rivalry on the order of Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants, or Cubs-Cardinals. This is partly due to the team having been a cellar-dweller (or close to it) for their last two decades in Philadelphia and their entire time in Kansas City, and partly due to the two moves over the years. While the A's have been a member of the American League since 1901, their divisional rivals are of a more recent vintage. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim date from 1961, as do the Texas Rangers (but only since 1972 as a Dallas-Fort Worth team). The Seattle Mariners were organized in 1977.
During the 1970s, the A's established a strong rivalry with the Kansas City Royals (then an A.L. West team), fueled by the Kansas City fans' resentment of the A's move to Oakland in 1968, and by the rivalry of the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs football teams. Arguably, the Athletics' biggest American League rivals in recent years have been the teams that were their old traditional rivals from decades ago in Philadelphia---the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox---if only because of the hard-fought playoff games between the teams.
The A's have also established a strong geographic rivalry with the San Francisco Giants. The teams faced each other in the 1989 World Series (won by the Athletics in a four-game sweep). But also, with both teams having long and storied histories, they have faced each other three times in the World Series prior to their respective moves west, with the Athletics winning two and the Giants one of those Series.
Events and Records of Note
- 20-Game Win Streak: The Oakland Athletics won an American League record 20 games in a row, from August 13 to September 4, 2002. The last three games were won in dramatic fashion, each victory coming in the bottom of the ninth inning. The streak was finally snapped in Minnesota. The Major League record for consecutive wins is 26, set by the NL's New York Giants in 1916. There was a tied game embedded in that winning streak (ties were not uncommon in the days before stadium lights) and the record for consecutive wins with no ties is 21, held by the Chicago Cubs on their way to the NL pennant in 1935.
- City Series Renewed: The Athletics played their former co-occupants of Shibe Park, the Philadelphia Phillies, for the first time in a championship season in June of 2003. Previously they had only played each other in exhibition games, dubbed "The City Series", which was played annually. However, since the teams never faced each other in the World Series, they never played each other in games that counted; interleague play made the recent matchup possible. Ceremonies were held for the first game of the 3 game series at Veterans Stadium, as former Philadelphia A's players were honored on the field. The Phillies took the series against the A's, 2-1. They played each other again in June of 2005 in Oakland, this time the White Elephants defeating their former rivals two games to one.
- Founded: 1893, as the Indianapolis franchise in the minor Western League, which became the American League in 1900. Moved to Philadelphia in 1901 when the A.L. became a Major League. Moved to Kansas City in 1955 and to Oakland in 1968.
- Current Uniform colors: Green, Gold and White: 1963-Present
- Previous Uniform colors: Blue and White: 1901-04, 1909-49, 1951-53, 1961; Blue, Red and White: 1905-08, 1954-60, 1962; Blue, Gold and White: 1950,
- Logo design: An Old English "A's". The team also uses an elephant logo.
- Playoff appearances (22): 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
See also: Bay Bridge Series (Athletics-Giants), City Series (Athletics-Phillies)
Athletics in the Hall of Fame
Other Hall of Famers Who Spent Part of Their Careers with the Athletics
Minor league affiliations
- Bergman, Ron. Mustache Gang: The Swaggering Tale of Oakland's A's. Dell Publishing Co., New York, 1973.
- Dickey, Glenn. Champions: The Story of the First Two Oakland A's Dynasties--and the Building of the Third. Triumph Books, Chicago, 2002. ISBN 1-57242-421-X
- Jordan, David M. The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants, 1901-1954. McFarland & Co., Jefferson NC, 1999. ISBN 0-7864-0620-8.
- Kuklich, Bruce. To Everything a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia 1909-1976. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1991. ISBN 0-691-04788-X.
- Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., New York, 2003. ISBN 0-393-05765-8.
- Markusen, Bruce. Baseball's Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Oakland A's. Master Press, Indianapolis, 1998.
- Peterson, John E. The Kansas City Athletics: A Baseball History 1954-1967. McFarland & Co., Jefferson NC, 1999. ISBN 0-7864-1610-6.
- 2005 Oakland Athletics Media Guide.
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