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Relocated MLB Teams: The Kansas City Athletics

The Oakland Athletics, who play in the MLB today, were based in Kansas City, Missouri between 1955 and 1967. The franchise had existed for over 50 years in Philadelphia, having been formed in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. The nickname “Athletics” was given because many of those who started the club were workers at various athletics clubs in Philadelphia. In 1954, the Philadelphia Athletics were purchased by Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson and moved them to Kansas City, becoming the Kansas City Athletics. The team was based at the Kansas City Municipal Stadium.

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Success on the pitch was scarce and they are in fact one of the worst teams ever to play in the MLB. They finished with a losing record in each of their thirteen seasons in Kansas City and were perpetually close to the bottom of the league standings. One of the reasons the club floundered so much was they sought of became a feeder club for the New York Yankees, losing talented players to them year in year out. In 1960, real estate businessman Charlie Finley bought a majority stake at the club and set out to change this unenviable reputation. In a symbolic and highly publicized move, Finley bought a bus, pointed it towards New York and set it on fire.

The act was supposed to signify an end to the feeder club relationship the A’s had developed with the Yankees. He also spent 400,000 dollars of his own money to make stadium renovations and burned up the lease signed by former owners that gave the club an escape clause. This was meant as a statement of commitment to staying in KC for the long haul. He also added many promotional activities meant to increase fan turnout. For example he would have baseballs delivered to the umpire by giant electronic rabbits, instruct ground crew to dress in space suits, introducenew uniforms and build a zoo behind the outfield. He also introduced a new mascot named Charlie O which a real live mule. Finley’s controlling attitude was however detrimental, as he involved himself too much in team affairs, firing coaches and other staff at will. His tactics failed to work as the A’s remained rooted to the basement of the American League.

Although Bob Cerv was not the best player to play for the A’s his dedication was amazing. In 1957, Bob played an entire month with a broken jaw. With the jaw wired tight, restricting him from talking or even chewing food, the left fielder played through excruciating pain. Bob had broken his jaw in a collision with Detroit Kings catcher Red Wilson during a Saturday live match on May 17. He played a total of 27 games with the injury, all the while without eating solid food. He even described smiling as a difficult task.

Why were the Athletics Relocated?

With the Athletics unable to pick up their results, fans who had once turned up in record numbers snubbed the team. During the Finley years, attendance dropped below 600,000 a year, whereas they had averaged above a million in previous years. It became clear to Finley that there was no future for the team in Kansas City and he began shopping for a new location despite the emphatic commitment he had made to the city. He even went as far as admitting that the burning of the lease contract on KC Municipal Stadium was just a publicity stunt with no binding terms and that in fact the original lease agreement left behind by Johnson was still in force. An intended move to Oakland in 1964 was shot down 9-1 by league owners, twice. The team endured further mediocre seasons in KC and more of Finley’s ineffective publicity stunts including fielding Satchel Paige, a 60 year old pitcher in 1965. In 1967, the Athletics finished bottom of the league and the team was given the green light to make their coveted move west, changing names to Oakland Athletics. The move was not without controversy though as Stuart Symington, then Missouri Senator threatened antitrust proceedings against the MLB. The league responded by awarding Kansas City an expansion team to begin playing in 1969. The new team would be known as the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City Athletics most Notable Players

Reggie Jackson OF 1967

Enos Slaughter OF 1955-1956

Ed Charles 3B 1962-1967

Dick Green 2B 1963-1967

Lew Krausse RHP 1961, 1964-1967

Hector Lopez 3B 1955-1959

Bob Cerv OF 1957-1960

Jerry Lumpe 2B 1959-1963

Norm Siebern 1B 1960-1963

Bert Campaneris SS 1964-1967

Blue Moon Odom RHP 1964-1967

Bill Tuttle CF 1958-1961

Ned Garver RHP 1957-1960

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