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Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.
Like baseball fans in Oakland, who are indignantly accepting the fact of the team’s pending move to Las Vegas, Philly knows what it’s like to have the Athletics franchise yanked away.
Though the A’s had an incredible run in their original city, by the time they left Philly they were similarly lackluster. Manager Connie Mack — who managed the Athletics since their inception in 1901, and is still the longest-tenured skipper with one team in baseball history — was starting to wilt, eroded by time and illness.
Mack’s American League squad had been sharing the city with the National League’s Phillies, a team that had pinched pennies through the 1920s, was squeezed even harder in the 1930s, and bumbled their way through the 1940s, when their franchise was at one point handed over to a lumber baron who was permanently banned from baseball for gambling on his own team. They finally notched a World Series appearance in 1950, with a young team dubbed “The Whiz Kids” — but they lost, and wouldn’t go back to the championships for 30 years.
But at least there had been the A’s, whom Mack had steered to five 100-win seasons, nine pennants, and five World Series titles. They changed the name of Shibe Park to Connie Mack Stadium to honor his many feats.
But he watched his empire crumble, and seemed to fade personally as well. Perhaps, the city hoped, the Athletics would rally in his 50th year with them and put together a season to remember. These hopes were dashed immediately and repeatedly. In 1950, the Athletics finished with just 52 wins.
Four years later, the A’s played their last game in Philadelphia. Mack’s family had sold the team to Arnold Johnson, who knew he wanted to relocate the franchise before the sale had even been completed. By opening day 1955, they were the Kansas City Athletics.
“It had taken 54 years, but the National League finally won the battle for Philadelphia’s baseball fans,” wrote Michael L. Leblanc in his book, “Hot Dogs, Heroes, and Hooligans” (1994).
Finally alone, the people of Philadelphia and the Phillies looked at each other warily. Now, in 1955, it was *their* time. No longer would they share a stadium and a city with another club. They had full ownership of this sports town — and they seized the opportunity to engage with its people by losing more games than any other professional sports team in North America.
We’re not in any immediate danger of losing the Phillies to another city, which, considering the start of this season, might feel like kind of a bummer.
But A’s fans experienced the cold, cruel business of baseball this week when it was announced that they would once again be on the move.
The franchise took off from Kansas City in 1967 and landed in Oakland, where a loyal base has watched Dave Stewart, Vida Blue, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, and other superstars. They won the World Series for three straight years from 1972-74 and took ownership of the Bay Area with a championship over the Giants in 1989. They sat through the “Moneyball” era, throwing themselves against the wall that is the New York Yankees, and even in A’s seasons long forgotten for those outside of their fan base, they helped baseball fans in the East Bay forge lifelong memories in the Oakland Coliseum, a stadium now best known for occasional ankle-deep floods of raw sewage.
A lot goes into a team choosing to move to another city. In this case, it’s clear that owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval believe they can make more money in Las Vegas. Their decision to blame the fans for not showing up to watch the pathetic rosters they’ve barely put effort into building is craven and transparent.
And now, A’s fans will have to live with a ticking clock until 2027, the target date for the first pitch as MLB’s Las Vegas franchise.
It’s a story that could make a cynic out of the most fervent baseball fan. At the end of the day, in an age in which even the Cincinnati Reds, the league’s oldest franchise, have openly threatened to leave their city, you never know whose favorite team could be on the move.
Here in Philadelphia, the Phillies don’t seem to be going anywhere.
They don’t seem to have any plans to relocate, either.