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The Oakland Athletics are a Major League Baseball team based in Oakland, California. The Athletics are a member of the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League. From 1968 to the present, the Athletics have played in the Oakland Coliseum.
The "Athletics" name originates from the late 19th century "athletic clubs", specifically the Philadelphia Athletics baseball club. They are most prominently nicknamed "the A's", in reference to the Gothic script "A", a trademark of the team and the old Athletics of Philadelphia. This has gained very prominent use, and in some circles is used more frequently than the full "Athletics" name.
They are also known as "the White Elephants" or simply "the Elephants", in reference to then New York Giants' manager John McGraw's calling the team a "white elephant". This was embraced by the team, who then made a white elephant the team's mascot, and often incorporated it into the logo or sleeve patches. During the team's 1970s heyday, management often referred to the team as The Swingin' A's, referencing both their prodigious power and to connect the team with the growing disco culture.
One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. The team had some prominent success in Philadelphia, winning three of four World Series from 1910 to 1914 (the "First Dynasty") and two in a row in 1929 and 1930 (the "Second Dynasty"). The team's owner and manager for its first 50 years was Connie Mack, and its Hall-of-Fame players included Chief Bender, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.
After two decades of decline, however, the team left Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics. After 13 mostly uneventful seasons in the Midwest, the team moved to Oakland in 1968. There a "Third Dynasty" soon emerged, with three World Championships in a row from 1972 to 1974 led by players including Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, and colorful owner Charlie O. Finley. Finally, a "Fourth Dynasty" won three consecutive pennants and the 1989 World Series behind Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley.
In more recent years, the A's have often been playoff contenders but have not returned to the World Series since 1990. They have become known for the efforts of general manager Billy Beane to get maximum value out of limited financial resources, as described in the widely-read book "Moneyball".
Origin of the team name
The Athletics' name originated in the term "Athletic Club" for local gentlemen's clubs—dates to 1860 when an amateur team, the Athletic (Club) of Philadelphia, was formed. (A famous image from that era, published in Harper's Weekly in 1866, shows the Athletic players dressed in uniforms displaying the familiar blackletter "A" on the front). The team later turned professional through 1875, becoming a charter member of the National League in 1876, but were expelled from the N.L. after one season. A later version of the Athletics played in the American Association from 1882–1891.
The team name is typically pronounced "Ath-LET-ics", but their longtime team owner/manager Connie Mack called them by the old-fashioned colloquial Irish pronunciation "Ath-uh-LET-ics". Newspaper writers also often referred to the team as the Mackmen during their Philadelphia days, in honor of their patriarch.
Through the seasons, the Athletics' uniforms have usually paid homage to their amateur forebears to some extent. Until 1954, when the uniforms had "Athletics" spelled out in script across the front, the team's name never appeared on either home or road uniforms. Furthermore, not once did "Philadelphia" appear on the uniform, nor did the letter "P" appear on the cap or the uniform. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only an "A" on the left front, and likewise the cap usually had the same "A" on it. In the early days of the American League, the standings listed the club as "Athletic" rather than "Philadelphia", in keeping with the old tradition. Eventually, the city name came to be used for the team, as with the other major league clubs.
Though for a time as a Kansas City team, the "A"s wore "Kansas City" on their road jerseys and an interlocking "KC" on the cap, upon moving to Oakland the "A" cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an "apostrophe-s" was added to the cap and uniform emblem to reflect the fact that then-team owner Charles O. Finley was in the process of officially changing the team's name to the "A's."
Also while in Kansas City, owner Charles O. Finley changed the team's colors from their traditional red, white and blue to what he termed "Kelly Green, Wedding Gown White and Fort Knox Gold." It was also here that he began experimenting with dramatic uniforms to match these bright colors, such as gold sleeveless tops with green undershirts and gold pants. The innovative uniforms only increased after the team's move to Oakland, which also came at the time of the introduction of polyester pullover uniforms. During their dynasty years in the 1970s, the A's had dozens of uniform combinations with jerseys and pants in all three team colors, and in fact did not wear the traditional gray on the road, instead wearing green or gold, which helped to contribute to their nickname of "The Swingin' A's." After the team's sale to the Haas family, the team began a move back to more traditional uniforms.
Currently, the team wears home uniforms with "Athletics" spelled out in script writing and road uniforms with "Oakland" spelled out in script writing, with the cap logo consisting of the traditional "A" with "apostrophe-s." The home cap is green with a gold bill and white lettering, while the road cap is all green with gold lettering.
The nickname "A's" has long been used interchangeably with "Athletics," dating to the team's early days when headline writers wanted a way to shorten the name. From 1972 through 1980, the team nickname was officially "Oakland A's," although, during that time, the Commissioner's Trophy, given out annually to the winner of baseball's world series, still listed the team's name as the "Oakland Athletics" on the gold-plated pennant representing the Oakland franchise.
According to Bill Libby's book, "Charlie O and the Angry A's", owner Charlie O. Finley banned the word "Athletics" from the club's name because he felt that name was too closely associated with former Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack, and he wanted the name "Oakland A's" to become just as closely associated with himself. The name also vaguely suggested the name of the old minor league Oakland Oaks, which were alternatively called the "Acorns." New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to "Athletics" in 1981, but retained the nickname "A's" for marketing purposes. At first, the word "Athletics" was restored only to the club's logo, underneath the much larger stylized-"A" that had come to represent the team since the early days. By 1987, however, the word returned, in script lettering, to the front of the team's jerseys.
The A's are the only MLB team to wear white cleats, both at home and on the road, another tradition dating back to the Finley ownership.
After New York Giants' manager John McGraw told reporters that Philadelphia manufacturer Benjamin Shibe, who owned the controlling interest in the new team, had a "white elephant on his hands," Mack defiantly adopted the white elephant as the team mascot, and presented McGraw with a stuffed toy elephant at the start of the 1905 World Series. McGraw and Mack had known each other for years, and McGraw accepted it graciously. By 1909, the A's were wearing an elephant logo on their sweaters, and in 1918 it turned up on the regular uniform jersey for the first time. Over the years the elephant has appeared in several different colors. It is currently forest green. The A’s are still sometimes, though infrequently, referred to as the "Elephants" or "White Elephants."
The elephant was retired as team mascot in 1963 by then-owner Charles O. Finley in favor of a Missouri mule (it was also rumored to have been done by Finley in order to attract fans from the then heavily Democratic constituents of Missouri by replacing the traditional Republican mascot to one associated with Democrats). In 1988, the elephant was restored as the symbol of the Athletics and currently adorns the left sleeve of home and road uniforms. The Elephant Mascot returned briefly in the mid-'80s, under the name Harry Elephante. In 1997, the elephant returned, taking its current form: Stomper.
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