Monday, June 23, 2008

Philadelphia and the A's

At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, did you ever notice that when a local media talking head goes on and on about the Philadelphia sports landscape, that they refer to Philadelphia as "Eagles town"? Well, there was a time where that wasn't true.

Once upon a time, Philadelphia had two baseball teams.

One was incredibly successful, winning World Series championships and constantly challenging the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Yankees for dominance.

The other, was well......not so good. As a matter of fact, they were bad. Real bad. As in, 1 winning season in the interval between 1918 - 1948 bad.

Guess which one of these franchises remains in Philadelphia today?

At one time, the Oakland A's, whom the Phils will be playing starting tonite out in Oaklan, actually made their home in Philadelphia and in the period between 1901 and 1935, they were one of the most successful franchises in baseball. The A's won 9 AL Pennants between 1901 and 1931 and 5 World Championships. They had the most famous manager/part-owner in baseball in Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy.....also known as Connie Mack. Those Philadelphia A's teams from the early 20th century into the early 30's had some of the greatest players to ever play the game. Second baseman Eddie Collins, who played with the A's from 1906-1914 and again in 1927-1930, is always in the conversation of greatest second basemen ever. Jimmie Foxx was one of the premier hitters in baseball during his time with the A's between 1925 and 1935 and finished his career with 534 home runs. Catcher Mickey Cochrane played for the A's between 1925 and 1933 and is considered one of the greatest catchers of all time.Cochrane had the further distinction of being one of the only people in baseball, from whom, noted sociopath Ty Cobb hadn't alienated himself.
The A's teams of the late 20's and early 30's were in direct competition for the AL pennant with the Ruth and Gehrig Yankees pretty much every year from 1925 to 1932. That the A's took a World Series and two additional AL pennants during that time period speaks volumes about the type of talent that the team possessed. Like most business ventures during the Great Depression, however, the Philadelphia A's were not running profitably, and they simply couldn't afford to keep talented players anymore. This put the A's franchise into a tailspin into which they would never really recover.

The A's did have some talented ballplayers in the post WWII era. First baseman Ferris Fain (my dad's favorite player) was a two-time batting champion for the A's in 1951 and 1952 and formed a great doubleplay combination with second baseman Pete Suder and shortstop Eddie Joost. Pitcher Bobby Shantz would go on to win the AL MVP in 1952 going 24 - 7 and an ERA of 2.48.

Even though both the A's and the Phillies were both brutal in their own special way from 1935 through the 40's, the tide turned for the Phillies, as a franchise, with the 1950 Whiz Kids. As a result of the success of the Whiz Kids, the Phils became the most popular team in town, drawing fans away from the American League A's. As a result, the A's ran into further financial difficulties, resulting in the sale of the team to Arnold Johnson, who promptly moved the team to Kansas City.

Some of the details of the old A's I learned from my Dad, who was a big A's fan growing up. Some of the details I learned from wiki pages and the internet. But if you want to learn more about the A's in Philadelphia, I strongly recommend a trip to Hatboro, PA to check out the Philadelphia A's Historical Society. They have all sorts of neat items from DVDs and books on the A's and memorabilia as unique as seats from Connie Mack Stadium.

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