Oakland Athletics Information
The Athletics name 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.
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In 1901, Johnson shifted the Indianapolis franchise to Philadelphia to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies, and recruited former catcher Connie Mack to manage the club. Mack in turn persuaded Phillies minority owner 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. He himself bought a 25 percent interest. The other teams included the Baltimore Orioles (now the New York Yankees), Boston Americans (now Red Sox), Chicago White Stockings (now White Sox), Cleveland Blues (now Indians), Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers (now the Baltimore Orioles), and Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins).
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In the early years, the A’s quickly established themselves as one of the dominant teams in the new 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. In 1909, the A's moved into the majors' first concrete-and-steel ballpark, Shibe Park. Later in the decade, Mack bought another 25 percent of the team's stock to become a full partner with Shibe. Shibe ceded Mack full control over the baseball side while retaining control over the business side.
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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. Several of his best players, including Bender, had already decided to jump before the World Series. 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. The result was a swift and near-total collapse. The Athletics went from a 99–53 (.651) record and a pennant in 1914 to a record of 43–109 (.283) and 8th (last) place in 1915, and then to 36–117 (.235, still a modern major-league low) in 1916. The team would finish in last place every year after that until 1922 and would not contend again until 1925. Shibe died in 1922, and his sons took over the business side, leaving the baseball side to Mack. It was also at this time that Mack assumed his famous image of the tall, gaunt and well-dressed man (he never wore a uniform during his managerial career, preferring a business suit, tie and fedora) waving his players into position with a scorecard).
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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. Indeed, he had never invested in a farm system, and he continued to make all player personnel decisions. Save for a 5th place finish in 1944, the A’s finished in last or next-to-last place every year from 1935–1946. In 1936, Shibe's last son died, and Mack became the Athletics' sole owner. Even as bad as the A's got during this time (some believe that many of his teams were major-league in name only), he had no intention of firing himself. To the surprise of most people in baseball, Mack managed not only to get out of the cellar in 1947, but actually finished with a winning record for the first time in 14 years. They contended for much of 1948 and 1949, only to collapse back to last again in 1950.
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In the late 1940s, Mack split day-to-day control over the team between Roy, Earle and his son from his second marriage, Connie Mack, Jr. After pushing their father out as manager, Roy and Earle assumed control of the team though their father remained nominal owner and team president. In order to do this, the Mack brothers mortgaged the team to Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (now part of CIGNA). However, the team continued to slide (the A's finished with a winning record only once from 1951 to 1954), attendance plummeted, and revenues continued to dwindle. It soon became obvious that the team's cash flow was insufficient to service the new debt. Roy and Earle Mack began feuding with each other. 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 (.32). The latter would be the last year in which an Athletic has led the American League in hitting. Meanwhile, the Phillies, who had been second-fiddle to the A's for most of the last half-century (in fact, they had been the A's tenants in Shibe Park since 1938), made it to the World Series in 1950 and quickly passed the A's as Philadelphia's number one team.
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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 had bought Yankee Stadium in 1953, though the league owners forced Johnson to sell the property before acquiring the Athletics. He'd also bought Blues Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Yankees' top farm team, the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. After Johnson got permission to move the A's to Kansas City, he sold Blues Stadium to the city, who renamed it Kansas City Municipal Stadium and leased it back to Johnson. The lease 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.
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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 that baseball spectators enjoyed 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 six-game homestand at 9,300-seat Cashman Field in Las Vegas.
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On December 21, 2005, the Athletics announced that seats in the Coliseum's third deck would not be sold for the 2006 season, but would instead be covered with a tarp, and that tickets would no longer be sold in Mount Davis under any circumstances. That effectively reduces capacity to 34,077, making McAfee Coliseum the smallest stadium in Major League Baseball.