In 1968 a new professional sports team moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. No, it wasn’t the San Francisco Giants – they moved to the West Coast in 1956 — it was a group of young players from Kansas City that went by the name the Athletics. And thus the Oakland Athletics were born.
That group was comprised of some names that would one day become those of legend, including Sal Bando, Bert “Campy” Campanaris, future Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter, the first ever pick of the first ever MLB draft Rick Monday and the second overall pick of the second ever draft another future Hall of Famer by the name of Reggie Jackson.
It’s been 49 years since that team came to the East side of the bay, more specifically to a place affectionately known as “The Town” — they came to Oakland to play in the new, two-year-old Oakland Coliseum alongside the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders.
So much has occurred over the past 49 years since the Athletics first came to The Town. They became, a sometimes forgotten, dynasty in the 1970’s becoming the only Major League Baseball team besides the New York Yankees to ever win three consecutive World Series which they did between 1972 through 1974.
They A’s were different with their crazy Kelly green and bright gold uniforms and their white shoes, their crazy owner and his pet mule both sharing the name Charlie O. Time flew by without much success after the 1970’s with managers like the colorful Billy Martin and eventually, the great, future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa taking the helm in 1986.
Under the tutelage of La Russa the A’s almost built a new dynasty, in fact it could be considered one. The Athletics won the American League Pennant in 1988, 1989 and 1990. After famously losing the 1988 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, annihilating the Giants with a sweeping win in four games in 1989 and being swept by the Cincinnati Reds in 1990, the team finished fourth in the AL West in 1991 but went back to the ALCS in 1992, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.
But that time wasn’t all about team accomplishments. The A’s had arguably the greatest lead-off hitter of all time in Rickey Henderson, who on May 1, 1991 made history by stealing his 939th base and eclipsing Lou Brock‘s all-time steals record. Throughout the remainder of his career, most of which was spent as an Oakland Athletic. The Oakland native stole 1, 406 bases in his career which is nearly 500 more than the next closest competitor. It’s a record that may never be broken.
After a rough patch in the mid-90’s the A’s once again rose to prominence with the emergence of stars like Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and the “Big Three” pitching machine in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. In 2002, the A’s played almost an entire month of baseball and won every game – setting an American League record for consecutive wins with 20. It’s a record that may never be broken.
The team made the postseason in each year from 2000-2003, always losing in the first round of the playoffs. After that the team was somewhat dismantled but the A’s remained in contention, sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 ALDS but then were swept by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.
The Tigers ended up being the A’s postseason nemesis.
A few years passed (but not to be lefty out – in 2010 Dallas Braden pitched his famous and historic 19th perfect game in MLB history on Mother’s Day 2010) and the 2012 Athletics miraculously came back from a terrible start to take sole possession of first place in the American League West for the first time on the season’s final day, defeating the Texas Rangers at home to steal the AL West Crown from them.
Yet despite their best efforts they lost in the ALDS, completely baffled by the pitching of Justin Verlander. After he shut them out in Game 5 of the ALDS, however, there was an insanely touching moment in which – despite the loss – the fans gave the Athletics a five minute long standing ovation chanting “Let’s Go Oakland!” to let the players know how much they appreciated that season. Many, myself included, think of 2012 as their favorite season ever – at least for those of us who weren’t yet around in the early 70’s!
The same result (without the ovation this time around unfortunately) came when the A’s won the West again in 2013 – a Game 5 Verlander shutout. In 2014 the A’s made the playoffs again but lost to the Kansas City Royals in the Wild Card Playoff. The season was such a disaster and I’ve written about it so many times, I just can’t repeat it here. However that playoff appearance did make the A’s one of four teams to go to the postseason eight times in the first 16 seasons of the new century. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool!
But I seem to have lost myself in baseball history land. Today the A’s are headed toward their third straight 90-loss season. Really though, it’s just been a waiting period that appears may be ending soon. Prospects like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Jaycob Brugman, Bruce Maxwell, Chad Pinder and Franklin Barreto have come up through the minor leagues together. They’ve won championships at each level — Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A — they believe in each other, have played together, won together and have the talent to propel the club forward into its next 50 seasons in Oakland.
So, to make a very long story even longer, the A’s will celebrate their 50th year in Oakland in 2018. According to team president Dave Kaval it will be a season long celebration with details to be announced shortly.
The 50th anniversary logo will be worn as a patch on the players uniforms throughout the season and it will look somewhat like this:
It has been quite accurately described on MLB.com on it’s connection to The Town that loves its team:
The logo emphasizes the team’s connection to Oakland through the use of the Oakland tree and city skyline. The logo’s shape is inspired by the iconic Oakland Fox Theater’s marquee. The color used in the number 50, Oakland tree, roof tops of the federal buildings, and logo border is a special 50th anniversary gold.