Oakland Athletics are a major league baseball team based in Oakland, California and are one of the teams which make up the Western Division of America’s baseball league. The team’s name originates from the 19th century athletics clubs, made up of American gentlemen who played baseball on an amateur basis.
Today, Oakland Athletics are owned by Los Angeles businessman Lewis Wolff and are managed by former major league catcher Bob Green. The team plays and trains at the McAffee Coliseum, which has been their home since the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968.
Founded as a professional baseball team in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901, the Athletics moved to Kansas to become Kansas City Athletics in 1955 before finally moving to Oakland in 1968. The Athletics, commonly nicknamed the A’s, were formed as part of America’s new baseball league and for the first fifty years played under the direction of manager Connie Mack.
In 1902, legendary player Rube Waddell joined the team and that same year the A’s won the American League pennant for the first time. They took the pennant again just three years later.
In 1910, Connie Mack put together a demon combination of Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, Stuffy McInnis and Frank Baker whose fearsome performance on the pitch led the A’s to World Series victory in 1910, 1911 and 1913.
In 1911, Frank Baker led the American League in home runs, gaining two of them in the World Series and being known simply as ‘Home Run’ thereafter. 1914 saw the end of the A’s early winning streak when they won the League pennant, but lost the World Series 0-4 to the Miracle Braves.
However, the following year was the beginning of a somewhat bleak period for the Philadelphia A’s, who failed to win any more league titles until their comeback in 1929.
By 1929, the A’s had come through their bad patch and Connie Mack had shaped them up to become what is now regarded of as one of the greatest teams in baseball history. The Philadelphia A’s dominated the American League, beating the White Sox 5-0 for the legendary pennant.
They then met the Chicago Club in the World Series, defeating the Chicago champions by five games. The following year, the A’s repeated their success and in 1931 they won the pennant for the second time running, although this time they failed to win the World Series.
Following the glory days of 1929, the A’s descended into mediocrity and they struggled to stay afloat during their last years in Philadelphia due to escalating financial problems. Eventually it was decided that the team would be moved elsewhere and the A’s were sold to Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson, who sent the team to Kansas where they became the Kansas City Athletics.
The Kansas City A’s played their opening game in Kansas in 1955, beating the Tigers 6-2 in front of a crowd of over 30,000 fans. The A’s stayed at Kansas for just over a decade but they failed to win the league during that time and spent most of their thirteen years bottom or close to bottom of the table.
After a period of unrest, during which time team owner Charles Finley attempted to move the A’s to various locations around America, he finally got permission to uproot the team to Oakland in 1968, where their fortunes began to change.
The Oakland A’s debut game was a poor one though, ending in a 4-1 defeat by Baltimore but over the next few years the team knitted together better than they ever had in Kansas and, under the guidance of new manager Bob Kennedy, they went from strength to strength.
One of the team’s rising stars at that time was Catfish Hunter who, in 1968, pitched a perfect game, striking out 11 and driving in all 3 of the A’s runs in a triumphant match against the Minnesota Twins.
In 1972, after winning the West Division the previous year, Oakland Athletic returned to the top spot of the league for the first time in over forty years. They won the pennant and went on to win the World Series in a seven game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The following year, the A’s repeated their winning performance, this time defeating the mighty New York Yankees 4-3 in the World Series. Then, in 1974, Oakland made a pennant/World Series hat trick, a triumph that would have seemed unbelievable to fans watching the A’s in Kansas just a few years earlier.
In 1976, with a change in player trading rules, the Oakland A’s traded two of their star players – Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman – to the Orioles. That same year, the U.S Supreme Court voided further attempted player sales by team owner Charlie Finley.
Following the loss of key players, the A’s struggled over the next few years, marked in 1979 when only 653 fans went to watch the team play in a home match against the Mariners. Despite their struggles, however, the A’s did manage to win the West Division of the league, including a particularly memorable game when they beat Seattle 16-1.
During the 1980s, a number of talented players joined the Athletics, including Dave Kingdom, who had his fifth 3-homer game in a 9-6 win over the Mariners in 1984. The following year he hit his 400th home run, only the 21st player in baseball history ever to make the 400 mark.
In 1986, another A’s player, Jose Rijo set a club record when he made 16 strikeouts in 8 innings in a 7-2 win against Seattle.
1988 marked a turnaround for the club when they had their longest winning streak for a decade, going undefeated for fourteen consecutive games. Their performance led them to West Division triumph and they found themselves at the top of the American League for the first time since 1974.
The following year, Oakland beat Toronto 4-3 to win the league pennant and advance to the World Series. Unfortunately, just before the third game of the series, a major earthquake hit Candlestick Park where the series was being held and devastated large parts of the area. The series was postponed for twelve days but when it was resumed the A’s were triumphant, earning their last World Series title to date.
In 1990, the Oakland A’s won the pennant for the third year running and that same year Ricky Henderson stole his 893rd career base to become the American League’s all-time leader. Henderson continued to shine following his victory and in 1993 he stole his 1,066th career base, beating Japanese player Yutaka Fukumo’s total, to set the career base world record.
After winning the West Division in 1992, the A’s failed to win any further league titles during the nineties but, on an individual level, the team had a highly successful decade. In 1997, Mark McGwire hit his 22nd home run of the season in a winning game against Detroit, which, impressively, was his 10th home run in 19 games.
The following year, Ben Grieve joined the team as a rookie, making his mark when he scored 4 runs in an 11-4 win over Cleveland. The nineties was a decade for both the young and the old, however, and in 1999 Tony Phillips hit a winning home run against the Baltimore Orieles on the day of his 40th birthday, becoming only the 5th player ever to have scored a home run at the age of 40 or over.
A New Millennium
In 2000 the A’s succeeded in pulling out a West Division triumph, despite only winning the division by half a game. They went on to win the West again in 2002 and in 2003. The following year, Oakland won an impressive 91 games but, despite their success, they failed to win the West Division.
Although it was a disappointing season, the A’s still had something to be proud of, given that third baseman Eric Chavez and the team’s star right-hander both missed a significant number of games due to injury. At the end of that year, the A’s new rookie Bobby Crosby won all three of the major American League rookie awards, a reflection of the team’s achievement during the season.
2005 was a difficult year for the A’s as they traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, two of the most reliable players in the team. That said, the team improved throughout the season and, by the end of the year, they only just missed the pennant, finishing second in the league behind the Angels.
The following year, the Oakland A’s triumphed in the West division winning the title by four games. They went on to play in the league play-offs for the first time since 1992 but, despite beating Minnesota, they were ultimately defeated by the Tigers and missed the pennant once again.
- World Series – Winners (1989, 1974, 1973, 1972, 1930, 1929, 1913, 1911, 1910)
- AL Pennants – Winners (1990, 1989, 1988, 1974, 1973, 1972, 1931, 1930, 1929, 1914, 1913, 1911, 1910, 1905, 1902)
- West Division – Winners (2006, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1992, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1981, 1975, 1974, 1973, 1972, 1971)