The A in A's may stand for a lot of things
(officially, it's the Athletics), but Average is not one of them.
Throughout their 97-year history they've either been very, very good
or very, very bad In fact, when the A's moved to the Bay Area in 1968,
a disgusted Kansas Senator Stuart Symington called Oakland "the
luckiest city since Hiroshima."
wit: the Athletics franchise has won 15 American League championships,
which ranks second place in league history behind the New York Yankees'
34. Their three straight World Championships (197273-74) also ranks
second on the all-time list.
On the other hand their 25 last-place league finishes is a major-league
So in a way, it's somehow fitting that as they gradually moved their
way from the East Coast to the West during the 20th Century, their
three permanent residences - with a fourth one seemingly always rumored
to be in the works - have been in two notoriously maligned cities
(Philadelphia and Oakland) and one the butt of jokes to Midwestemers
In Philadelphia they were managed for 50 straight seasons by Connie
Mack, a major-league record that will never be surpassed. Hall of
Famers Nap Lajoie, Home Run Baker, Elmer Flick, Eddie Collins, Mickey
Cochrane, Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Lefty Grove, Al
Simmons, and the great Jimmy Folot wese among those who played for
Mack. Even Ty Cobb, Zack Wheat, Tris Speaker and Enos Slaugtrter wore
A's uniforms, if only briefly. Considering they placed first or second
16 times during the Philly years, imagine how bad the rest of the
teams and players were to account for the 22 seventh- and eighth place
Sagging attendance and in-town competition - somewfiat of a recurring
theme throughout their history - drove them out of Philadelphia and
toward Missouri after the 1954 season. It was in Kansas City (1955-67)
that the A's endured the ignominious reputation of beimg no more than
a farm club for the great New York Yankees; Roger Maris was among
many A's stars shipped from ICC. to N.Y. During 13 seasons in Kansas
City, the A's went through 10 managers, finished under.400 seven times,
and placed last five times. The best they ever did for a season was
nine games under .500.
Enter Charlie Finley
Then the franchise really got interesting. Chicago insurance magnate
Charlie Finley bought the team, moved it to Oakland and, as an absentee
owner, proceeded to a) build the strongest teams ever assembled and
b) make a mockery of the institution of baseball.
To achieve point a), Finley brought eventual Hall of Famers Reggie
Jackson, Rollie Fingers, and Catfish Hunter to town along with such
other stars as Joe Rudi, Ken Holtrman, Vida Blue, Campy Campaneris,
Gene Tenace, and Sal Bando. From 1971-75, the A's won every American
League West divisional title, sandwiching their three straight World
In accomplishing dubious point b), Finley fired a player (Mike Andrews)
for making an error in the 1973 World Series, reacted to free agency
by completely dismantling his team, operated the franchise without
a front of office save for his cousin and a receptionist, and hired
15-year-old Stanley Burrell (who grew up to be pop star MC Hammer)
to serve as team vice-presidet. Never mind his ill-fated hiring of
a non-baseball playing track star Herb Washington) as a "designated
runner", or trying to introduce orange baseballs for night games.
Then again, one of his last acts was to hire star-crossed Billy Martin
Finley finally sold the team to the San Francisco based Haas family,
which slowly retumed the team to power. Under Martin's "Billyball",
the A's were briefly competitive in the early 1980s. But Martin's
brief success turned into turmoil and he was replaced in quick succession
by three managers before the hiring of Tony La Russa in the middle
of the 1986 season. Bolstered by La Russa and the addition of such
stars as Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch,
Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Dave Henderson, Camey Lansford, and
Terry Steinbach, the A's went to the World Series three straight times
between 1988-90, winning once, and won the divisional title in 1992.
The Haases, faced with astronomically rising costs, sold the team
to Bay Area industrialist Steve Schott and developer Ken Hoffmann
after the 1995 season. Another austerity movement set in, triggering
the departures of La Russa, Eckersley, Henderson, Steinbach, Todd
Stottlemyre, and others.
Once again the A's found themselves struggling to stay out of the
cellar, once again they were rumored to be on their way out of town.
(If anyone knows who to credit for this,
please let me know.)