The Philadelphia Athletics

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The Philadelphia Athletics were a professional baseball team that played in the American League between 1901 and 1954. The team was based at the Columbia Park between 1901 and 1908 before moving to the Shibe Park from 1909 to 1954. It is the predecessor franchise to the MLB team that is today known as the Oakland Athletics.

How did the Philadelphia Athletics Start up?

In 1900, following the renaming of the Western League to the American League, Philadelphia was awarded a franchise to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies’ minority owner Ben Shibe collaborated with former catcher Connie Mack to finance the startup team, each co-owning 25% stake alongside other investors. The new team was named the Philadelphia Athletics and Mack was to be the club’s first coach. The new team recruited new players from the National League -albeit controversially- as well as from defunct teams from the former Western league.

The Philadelphia Athletics in Competition

The Athletics were a very successful team, winning the American League pennant six times, the World series five times and the AL championship once. During the first season, the Athletics finished fourth with a 72-62 record. Amid continued acrimony with NL teams, the A’s lifted the AL pennant with an 83-53 record, inspired by Rube Waddell, one of the players controversially signed from the National League. They won the Pennant again in 1905 with a 92-56 record and made it to the newly formed World Series. They lost the series 4-1 to NL outfit New York Giants. They missed the 1907 pennant by a game and a half before then sipping to 6th place in 1908. In 1909, having relocated to the newly built Shibe Park they finished with a 95-58 record for second place.

They won the league in 1910 and met the Chicago Cubs in the World Series whom they beat to claim their first ever world Championship. They won the pennant again in 1911 and in the World Series met the New York Giants. They revenged the 1905 World Series by winning the series 4-1. They slipped a bit in 1913, finishing third but were back to the World Series in 1914 against the New York giants. The A’s prevailed 4-1 again to lift their third world championship in four years. The good times continued as they again made it to the 1914 World Series to face the Boston Braves. The A’s succumbed 4-0 leaving fans and coach alike to question the players’ commitment.

After that loss, Connie Mack dismantled the team after which they endured a miserable patch, finishing last seven years in a row. They had to wait until 1925 for a winning season (88-64) to finish second. Results began to look up again, signaling the start of another era of success for the A’s. They were back to the World Series in 1929 for the first time in 15 years. They met the Cubs, whom they dispatched 4-1. They repeated the feat the next year, this time beating the Cardinals 4-2. In 1931 they made it to their third successive World Series but were beaten by the cardinals 4-2.

After that, the A’s began slipping down the ranks again as the Great depression bit hard, forcing Mack to sell his star players in order to keep the team afloat. Between 1934 and 1946, they endured a string of 12 straight losing seasons in which time they finished last 10 times. They would then feign revival by winning three straight seasons but were rock bottom in 1950 culminating in the retirement of long serving manager and President Connie Mack at the age of 88. The team would only play another four seasons in Philadelphia however and went out with a whimper finishing in last place in 1954, their penultimate season, with a 51-103 record.

The Athletics’ most Notable Moments

During the slump of the 40s it was a general consensus that Connie Mack who had clung on as coach since 1901 was past his prime as a coach. On June 13, 1948 with the A’s surprisingly contending for the Pennant, Pitcher Nels Potter lost a three-run lead in the first game of a two game series against the St. Louis Browns. Mack became enraged and ordered him off the team, shocking the entre clubhouse. From then, the team slid down the ranks and it is often said that Potter’s dismissal cost the team the Pennant.

The controversial signing of National League players during at the outset of the A’s opened a bitter rivalry between Mack and John McGraw who had just started managing the NY Giants. This set the stage for three bitterly contested World Series tussles between the two teams with the two men at the helm. After the Giants won the first series 4-1, the A’s would come back to win twice with the same margin in subsequent series which was sweat revenge for Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Athletics most Notable Players

First baseman Jimmie Foxx stayed with the A’s from 1925 to 1935 helping them to three world series appearances, two of which they won. His best season for the A’s was 1933 in which he won the Triple Crown by batting .356, 163 RBIs and 48 homeruns.

Eddie Collins played second baseman for the team from 1906 to 1914 and 1927-1930 helping them win 4 World Series titles. In 1910 he recorded a career high 81 steals en route to winning the world championship with the A’s.

Franklin “Home Run” Baker played for the Athletics from 1908 to 1914 and was instrumental in the 1910, 1911 and 1913 World Series wins during which time he led the league in home runs. In 1910 he had a league best 11 homeruns and a .344 batting average. In 1911 he again led the league with 130 RBI and in the 1913 5-game World Series he batted .450 and seven RBI.

What Happened to the Philadelphia Athletics?

When Connie Mack who had been manager for 50 years and now majority owner retired in 1950, the team was already in disarray as NL rival Philadelphia Phillies were coincidentally on the ascendancy. Match attendance dwindled as fans became disillusioned and changed allegiance to the rival league’s franchise. Mack, unlike other owners in the league had no other source of income and subsisted on selling star players.

When he passed ownership of the club to his three sons, conflict began and two of his older sons sold the club to Arnold Johnson who had the intention of moving the team to Kansas City. The new owner had no trouble relocating the club as the city had a more popular franchise in the Phillies. The new team became Kansas City Athletics.