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Relocated MLB Teams: The Philadelphia Athletics

The Philadelphia Athletics were an American baseball team that played in the MLB from 1901 to 1954. They are the same franchise which is today known as the Oakland Athletics. The team was formed in 1901 as a charter franchise for the newly formed American League. The team’s very first owners were Ben Shibe who also owned a minority stake in the Philadelphia Phillies, Connie Mack who also served as the team’s first general manager and sportswriters Frank Hough and Sam Jones. The “Athletics” nickname was picked in honor of a former baseball team by the same name which had been formed and folded in the 1870s by fans who worked at various athletics clubs. The A’s played their home games at the Columbia Park from 1901 to 1908 and Shibe Park from 1909 to 1954. Like many teams in the new league, the Athletics build their player ranks by encouraging National League players to defy their contracts. One such player was Nap Lajoie who jumped from crosstown rivals Philadelphia Phillies. Lajoie would go on to win the AL’s first batting title with a record .426 batting average.

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The Athletics were a very successful team, amassing five world Championships from eight World Series appearances. They also won the 1902 league pennant. Their last World Series appearance came in 1931 after which they went into a lull. The team peaked during the early 1910s as they won the league pennant four years in five between 1910 and 1914. In each of the 1910and 1911 pennant winning seasons, they won over 100 games ,inspired largely by a formidable infield which earned the nickname”$100,000 infield.” This consisted of players like Stuffy McLnnis, jacky barry, Frank baker and Eddie Collins.

Connie Mack is remembered by Athletics fans as both a hero and a villain. He coached the A’s for an incredible 50 years and brought immense success to the team during the first three decades. As the 1930s progressed however, the Athletics deteriorated into mediocrity, consistently finishing near last. Mack refused to retire despite showing clear signs of mental deterioration. He made questionable team selection and when he was not sleeping in the dugout during games, he would fly into fits of rage towards players. In 1948 as the team showed a sign of resurgence, having just come off the first winning season in 14 years, Mack threw pitcher Nels Potter out of the team for a string of mistakes during a game. After Potter, who was credited with holding the fort was dismissed, the Athletics fell to fourth despite having spent 49 days at the summit of the league. Connie eventually stepped aside in 1950 after failing to revitalize the team.

Why were the Philadelphia Athletics Relocated?

Following Connie Mack’s retirement as manager in 1950, a power struggle emerged between his three sons. While Connie Jr, the youngest son wanted to modernize and improve the team, Roy and Earle were comfortable with matters staying the way they were. In order to coerce his older brothers into accepting reforms, Connie Jr. teamed up with the Shibe family and threatened to sell the team. Roy and Earle however insisted that they had first priority if the team was to be sold. Connie Jr. challenged them to buy the team convinced they would not raise the $1.74 million needed for his stake. However Roy and Earle called his bluff and took out a mortgage, using the team and Shibe Park as collateral. They bought out their brother’s and the Shibes’ shares leaving them as the only shareholders. The mortgage deal was done more out of passion than rationl business sense however and the team was saddled with debt of over $200,000. This deprived the team of much needed funds for reinforcement and repairs for the ballpark. Meanwhile the team’s performances remained mediocre, culminating in a 51-103 record in 1954, the worst record ever in a baseball season. Compounded by the ever rising popularity of the Phillies, fans stayed away from Shibe Park, essentially denying the Athletics a future in Philadelphia. With the club sliding towards bankruptcy, the only option left was to sell. Pressured by league owners, the Macks sold the team to Arnold Johnson, who moved the team to Kansas City, renaming it the Kansas City Athletics.

Philadelphia Athletics most Notable Players

Frank “HR” Baker 3B 1908-1914
Chief Bender RHP 1903-1914
Eddie Collins 2B 1906-14, 1927-30
Mickey Cocherane C 1925-1933
Jimmie Foxx 1B 1925-1935
Lefty Grove LHP 1925-1933
Al Simmons OF 1924-32, 1940-1941, 1944
Rube Waddell LHP 1902-1907
Danny Murphy 2B 1902-1913
Jack Coombs RHB 1906-1914
Harry Davis 1B 1901-1911, 1913-1917
Rube Oldring RHP 1905-1916, 1918
Amos Strunk CF 1908-17, 1919-20, 1924
Jimmy Dykes 3B 1918-1932
Cy Perkins C 1915-1930
Rube Walberg LHP 1923-1933
Frankie Hayes C 1935-1942, 1944-1945
Sam Chapman CF 1938-1951
Sam Chapman CF 1938-1951

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