“Hotel California”…

… by the Eagles is one of my favorite songs (and one of the best songs in American songwriting history) and what I felt would be a fairly good transition into the troublesome world of the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s, or the Montreal Expos West Coast, just finished one of the semi-annual fire sales.  Chances are, should they still be in Oakland in two to three years, they’ll be holding another one.  Don’t get me wrong, these sales are great for baseball.  It gives other teams a chance to trade prospects for what are usually great young arms and keep one of baseball’s historic (yes, historic) and once proud franchises in the basement.

Lets take a brief look at the past…

The history of the Athletics Major League Baseball franchise spans the period from 1901 to the present day, having begun in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in 1955 and then to its current home in Oakland, California in 1968.

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 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. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only a script “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.  After buying the team in 1960, owner Charles O. Finley introduced new road uniforms with “Kansas City” printed on them, as well as an interlocking “KC” on the cap. Also while in Kansas City, 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.  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 Finley was in the process of officially changing the team’s name to the “A’s.”  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 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.  During their Oakland Athletics updated logodynasty 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 changed its primary color to a more subdued forest green and began a move back to more traditional uniforms.  New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to “Athletics” in 1981, but retained the nickname “A’s” for marketing purposes.

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.

One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniaia, 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, Reggie Jackson, and colorful owner Charlie O. Finley.  Finally, a “Fourth Dynasty” won three consecutive pennants and the 1989 World Series behind the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.

Since the mid 2000s the A’s have been in talks with Oakland and other Northern California cities about building a new baseball-only stadium. The planned stadium, Cisco Field, was originally intended to be built in Fremont, California (a location that has since been abandoned), and there were talks about it remaining in Oakland, and current talks about building it in San Jose.

As of February 26, 2009 the city of San Jose was expected to open negotiations with the team.  Although parcels of land south of Diridon Station are being acquired by the city as a stadium site, the San Francisco Giants’ claim on Santa Clara County as part of their home territory would have to be dealt with before any agreement could be made.  By August 2010, San Jose was “aggressively wooing” A’s owner Lew Wolff.  Wolff referred to San Jose as the team’s “best option”, but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he would wait on a report on whether the team could move to the area because of the Giants conflict.  In September 2010, 75 Silicon Valley CEOs drafted and signed a letter to Bud Selig urging a timely approval of the move to San Jose.  In May 2011 San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed sent a letter to Bud Selig asking the commissioner for a timetable of when he might decide whether the A’s can pursue this new ballpark, but Selig did not respond.  Selig addressed the San Jose issue via an online town hall forum held in July, saying, “Well, the latest is, I have a small committee who has really assessed that whole situation, Oakland, San Francisco, and it is complex. You talk about complex situations; they have done a terrific job. I know there are some people who think it’s taken too long and I understand that. I’m willing to accept that. But you make decisions like this; I’ve always said, you’d better be careful. Better to get it done right than to get it done fast. But we’ll make a decision that’s based on logic and reason at the proper time.”

Well, the proper time is most likely sooner rather than later.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who was recently extended through 2014, has placed the A’s and their pursuit of a new stadium and a move to San Jose on the front burner.  The special committee Selig put together to examine the dilemma has delivered a “comprehensive” report but has yet to be presented to all 30 owners. Still, Selig says they’re “proceeding at a rather quick pace” and seemed to agree to the suggested analogy that if the stadium issue were a baserunner, he’d be on third base.   A’s owner Lew Wolff said he’s “delighted” to hear that Selig is prioritizing the situation and that MLB is moving toward a decision.

The Giants could fight back by supporting an anti-ballpark campaign in San Jose, where a special ballot referendum (partially financed by MLB) would need to pass, or perhaps even by persuading one of their sponsors to sue MLB (the Giants cannot sue MLB themselves). There’s also nothing preventing the Giants from filing a lawsuit against the city of San Jose itself.

The Giants’ territorial claim can be overturned by a 75 percent vote from MLB owners.

So, let’s look at it positively.  Selig cleans up the whole mess, makes the Giants happy and San Jose constructs a stadium.  Yay!  The A’s (who currently have the worst stadium deal in most any major sport) will finally have a much-needed revenue stream to go with all those first round draft picks.

My suggestion… The California Athletics.  Using the original and updated San Jose Sharks logos and looking at one-time Bruins Captain and #1 draft pick over-all Joe Thornton, we get some useful uniform and cap ideas.  The new version of the Sharks jersey uses Deep Pacific teal, black, burnt orange and white.  The Miami Marlins have, except for probably a throwback jersey or two, abandoned the teal shade as their primary color and it could easily transition west.  The burnt orange could be amended to a more golden hue, and kept as a background color, mix well with the darker hues of teal, black and finally white.  Taking cues from the Athletics’ past, they can create a great ‘new’ yet totally retro jersey color scheme for their jerseys and caps.  Something that recalls the history of the Philadelphia Athletics while easily reminding you of the Oakland A’s.   I’d imagine the only team with much of a complaint would be the Royals (The Royals of Kansas City who take their color cues from their predecessor Athletics), but even then, too bad.  Look at how many teams utilize the ever familiar red, while and blue… The Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Nationals.  After all, Baltimore and San Fransisco are practically twins (because when John McGraw left Baltimore for New York and the Giants, he took the familiar colors with him), yet easily separated.

The A’s are a proud and deserving franchise who, if the transition is done right, would definitely thrive in a new venue.  Think of it like an expansion franchise designed to contend pretty quickly.

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