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How Philadelphia lost the Athletics

Feb 20, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT

Image (3) 408px-Connie_Mack3.jpg for post 5422

Great, long story from Warren Corbett at The Hardball Times today about the waning days of the Philadelphia Athletics.

Connie Mack was in his 90s and his race was all but run. His kids were feuding. The team was hemorrhaging money and no one could figure out what to do. As the Macks tried to hold on to the team — or sell it, depending on which Mack you asked — the other American League owners all had their own agendas on what should happen to the A’s. Some wanted them to stay in Philly. Some wanted them to move to Kansas City. Some wanted them to move to Los Angeles before the National League moved west. Meanwhile Bill Veeck, who had just been drummed out of ownership in St. Louis, was literally hanging around outside the board room trying to get involved.

Just a fascinating look at how the Lords of Baseball dealt with one of the AL’s charter franchises in 1954. How they got to Kansas City and, eventually, Oakland. And how the machinations which are keeping the A’s out of San Jose — or anywhere else — today seem like child’s play compared to the plight of the Philadelphia Athletics.

  1. halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    I know this story very well from all sides. The bottom line why the A’s left Philly was that the city at that point in history could not economically support (2) MLB franchises anymore because the population at this time was expanding rapidly to the “New” suburbs, further away from the city and thus less connected with travel. Remember, in the early 50’s, transportation was still in it’s infancy. The economic factor is the reason the A’s left Philly, ultimately.

    • AlmostForty - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      Horsehockey. It was Amaro’s fault.

      • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        Hahahahaha!

      • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        LOL! Amaro is the cause of all that is evil. Hahahahahahaha!

      • deathmonkey41 - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:25 PM

        Oh please, Connie Mack was 90. If Amaro were involved, he would have tried to sign him to the roster.

    • gothapotamus90210 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      As a Phillies fan and PA native, I often wonder how the fanbase would have been divided if the A’s had stuck around. Since the Phils didn’t get The Vet until 1971, it really wouldn’t have been plausible for the Phils and A’s to share CM and territory for another 16 years.

      But to your suburbs point, one of the teams would’ve likely been displaced to the western suburbs. Given the infrastructure today, Plymouth Meeting would’ve been plausible given its proximity to 276, 476 and the R6 line. Who knows if any team would’ve occupied South Philly, perhaps Cherry Hill would’ve been a more likely destination to get more defined fanbases.

      • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        You raise quality points. I don’t know. My guess is that MLB would have never relocated the A’s to any other destination in the state of PA. It was the 50’s and they clearly were in expansion mode to other parts of the country.

      • deepstblu - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        The Carpenter family owned a sizeable tract of land near Route 70 and Cuthbert Boulevard in Cherry Hill, and apparently it was viewed as a potential ballpark site for the Phillies in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The city built the Vet instead, and most of the Cherry Hill parcel was developed as offices by the mid-70s.

    • mmeyer3387 - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      I ‘m in total agreement with your statement. Clearly, economics was the the chief factor that required the team to move. Furthermore, this was the start of the era in history to were people started to move out of major cities, which was a caused a reduction in revenue for the athletics.

  2. tysonpunchinguterus - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    His eyes and eyebrows in that picture are creeping me out. He looks like someone you’d see in a horror movie set on a farm.

  3. bronco58lb - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Even 60 years after they left, the Athletics remain the greatest baseball franchise in Philadelphia history.

    • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Yep. But the Phillies will always be the most beloved baseball franchise in Philadelphia history.

  4. bronco58lb - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Halladaysbiceps

    Luckily the Phillies were riding the wave of The Whiz Kids’ pennant and trending up while the Athletics had been decline under Mack’s siblings so their past glory was no longer fresh in the minds of Philly fans. The Phils had taken over the town by ’54.

    • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      The Phillies were always the dominant organization in Philadelphia. Regardless of the A’s success, they were still the “Junior League Team” and also the A’s were youngsters compared to the Phillies (1883 for the Phillies, 1901 for the A’s). The Phillies always ruled in the city of Philadelphia. No historian that you would find would disagree with this statement.

      • johnnysoda - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        Really? Check out 1930:
        Philadelphia Athletics: 102-52, World Series champions
        Philadelphia Phillies: 52-102, last place by 40 games in the NL.

        You really mean to tell me that the Phillies were still the favorite franchise of the city even in years like that?

        Actually, we could just ask the fans:
        Athletics attendance: 721,663
        Phillies attendance: 299,007

      • adventuresinfresno - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        This isn’t historically accurate. It’s just not true, sorry.

      • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        Johnnysoda,

        Yeah. I know the stats you just put up. Of course the A’s outdrew the Phillies for several years out of the 1930’s. They were great and the Phillies sucked, quite frankly. My point is that there was a baseball fanbase that grew up 18 years with Phillies baseball prior to the A’s and the National League ruled all of baseball. The AL was looked upon for decades as an inferior league. It’s not my opinion. I wasn’t alive. This is what baseball historians have written. Take it for what it is.

      • kellyb9 - Feb 21, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        You’re fighting a losing battle here. By all measurable standards, the wrong team left Philadelphia… and I’m a Phillies fan.

  5. natstowngreg - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    As a young fan, I thought the 1950s franchise moves were evil. With time and reflection, I recognize them, for the most part, as necessary. Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis couldn’t support two MLB teams each. I say “for the most part” because it’s not clear New York needed to lose both NL teams.

    [The 1960s and 1970s moves from Washington were evil.]

    • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      You make good points. Yeah, the moves by baseball of these franchises may have been necessary evils.

    • simon94022 - Feb 20, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      The franchise moves were a mixed bag:

      The A’s move to KC made little sense in the long run, and the move to Oakland made even less. Philadelphia was the fourth largest city in the country, and even today it’s a top 5 media market. So it was and is capable of supporting both the A’s and the Phillies.

      The two moves out of Washington in 1960 and 1971 were evil and gratuitous; the first one engineered by an ignorant racist owner, the second by an egotistical crook.

      The move of the Giants and Dodgers to California was tragic. But both teams desperately needed new ballparks, and Robert Moses’ dominance of New York City made that almost impossible.

      Braves to Milwaukee was a sensible move, hugely successful and made them the first team in history to draw 2 million in a season. Braves to Atlanta barely a decade later was one of the dumbest, most self-destructive moves in history. Atlanta was an economic embarrassment to the game for the next 25 years.

      Browns to Baltimore: solid move, since St Louis had been famously too small for two teams as far back as World War I.

  6. penale52 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    From 1901 to 1954, the Athletics not only had a better winning percentage than the Phillies (.487 to .473) but had more fans come to see their games (25,969,393 for the A’s, 20,373,798 for the Phillies). The A’s outdrew the Phillies as recently as 1948. I feel that if Connie Mack had sold his shares a few years earlier to a Philadelphia based owner and not let his son’s rip the family apart, the Phillies might have been the one booted from the city eventually.

    • halladaysbiceps - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      You bring up salient points. However, it would have never happened. The Phillies were the NL team and thus had more sway. The commissioner of baseball at the time, Ford Frick, who was a NL proponent, would HAVE NEVER allowed the Phillies to be moved. Never. Once again, don’t believe me, look up the historical information.

      • moogro - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:55 PM

        Lame. It’s OK to not speak authoritatively if you’re not going to cite sources. “I think” “probably” “my guess is” “based on quotes” etc. are all OK to use. People will like you better.

      • simon94022 - Feb 20, 2014 at 8:39 PM

        Commissioners in those days had no role in franchise relocation decisions. They were strictly up to a majority of the 8 team owners in the league. Which is why most of the moves in the 1953-1971 era were based on the short term interest of a few individuals rather than what was best in the long term for the game as a whole.

      • rallenrader - Feb 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        I’m not an argumentative person, so I don’t mean for this to argumentative… but the claims you are making conflict with what I have read. However, I admit that I could be wrong. Can you provide some of your sources? If what I have believed about the the two teams and the relocation of the A’s is incorrect, I’d like to see the sources of information for myself.

    • professor59 - Feb 20, 2014 at 8:54 PM

      1901 thru 1954 was the entire history of the A’s. But after 1933, they didn’t win much of anything, never finishing higher than 4th, including 5 or 6 100 loss seasons.
      The only reason the Phillies weren’t blowing them out in attendance/popularity from 1934-1950 was that they weren’t trying to win, either. Not until they started spending money in the late 40s did the Phillies even try to do anything to get out of last place. But by the time the As left town, Phillies Phever was high and the As had long been an afterthought.

      Sure, you can lump all of the Phila A’s history together, but it wasn’t all the same history. There were two strong periods followed by 15+ years of garbage.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 20, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    If we are all so lucky maybe the Phillies will follow suit and leave, that city flat out doesn’t deserve any franchises for sports.

  8. sawxalicious - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    If the A’s get moved again, they will officially be the unwanted foster kids of baseball.

  9. missionofcomplex - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    There’s a bit more to the Yankee-Johnson connection than stated above. See my book, The Kansas City A’s and The Wrong Half of the Yankees. As to the trades, at times the A’s got the better of the deal – temporarily. The problem was, take Ralph Terry for instance, the A’s reversed their good fortune in returning him to the Yankees. It’s not a simple matter of WAR.

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