It was announced this week that Athletics, at last, have reached an agreement with a group of politicians to build a new stadium for the club, which has been stuck in an outdated facility for years.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the same situation, with the same reasoning, has been playing out for over 100 years. The Athletics, a wandering franchise that hailed from Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City, Missouri, and then Oakland, Calif., never seemed content with where it was.
From a stadium limited by prohibitive blue laws in Philadelphia to a hastily rebuilt minor league park in Kansas City to a brutalist concrete palace in Oakland, they’ve always had an eye for something better. They explored Denver, they searched in San Jose and Fremont, they chose several sites in Oakland. But now, in a deal announced by the Governor of Nevada that still faces several hurdles, they want to build a stadium on the Las Vegas Strip that would theoretically be ready for the 2027 season.
It’s a situation that’s sparking optimism in Vegas, heartache in Oakland, and no doubt eye-rolling everywhere else. The A’s, with nine World Series titles and 17 100-loss seasons, have seemingly been on the verge of change for most of their existence.
“There is a possibility that a vote on relocation will take place as early as June,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Thursday when asked about the Las Vegas deal. But given how far the plan has to go and how much it has changed in recent weeks, he cited a previous location for the stadium, rather than the team’s current plan to build on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas. .
The team’s reputation for restlessness is deserved. Athletics are tied with the Braves (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta) and Orioles (Milwaukee, St. Louis and Baltimore) for the most traveled franchises. But in a rather odd quirk, the A’s have only had four stadiums in their 123 playing seasons – less than all but a handful of teams.
Unfortunately for the A’s, none of their four parks would be mistaken for a classic like Boston’s Fenway Park or a modern marvel like Rangers’ Globe Life Field.
A look at these four stadiums makes it clear why the A’s have had a perpetual wandering eye.
1901-1908 | World Series Titles: 0
Best player: Eddie Plank, P, 51 wins above substitution
Built for a new team in a new league that no one knew what to expect, Columbia Park was immediately too small. It had a capacity of 9,500, although more people watched from nearby rooftops. The team cobbled it together, but even at its peak it had fewer than 14,000 fans.
The stadium’s most notable moment, at least in terms of absurdity, came during the 1905 World Series when Connie Mack’s Athletics and John McGraw’s New York Giants conspired to fake rain to avoid playing in front of a crowd. sparse.
As the New York Times recounts, Game 3 was scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, but with a crowd of around 4,000 and paying for clubs being entirely dependent on ticket sales, managers agreed to claim that t a light drizzle earlier in the day had made the course unplayable. Sammy Strang, a utility player for the Giants, helped sell the ruse, with the Times saying: “A typical pantomime was that of Strang, who leapt under the stand and, gazing skyward, stretched out his arms and beckons the moisture to drop.
The bet worked. The teams played Game 3 the following day, with a reported crowd of 10,991 nearly tripling Wednesday’s gate.
The Athletics played another unforgettable three years at Columbia and less than a decade after they left the stadium was demolished and replaced with housing.
1909-1954 | World Series Titles: 5
Best player: Lefty Grove, P, 68.4 WAR
Hoping to capitalize on his team’s popularity, Charles Shibe, the athletics’ principal owner, built baseball’s first steel and concrete stadium, beating Fenway Park by three seasons and Wrigley Field by five. The decision paid off, with The Times reporting that Philadelphia’s first game of the 1909 season was attended by a record 30,162 fans. Athletics has led the AL in attendance for three straight years.
Shibe Park was home to big teams, with the Athletic winning nine pennants and five World Series titles there, but the property regularly cited the state’s restrictive blue laws to limit their ability to play at home on Sundays, putting the club at a disadvantage by relation to others. teams. The team, desperate to raise funds, also alienated fans by blocking the nearby rooftop bleachers with a 34ft wall dubbed Connie Mack’s Spite Fence.
As Shibe Park began to wear thin, the Athletics never recovered from the sale of the 1930 champions. They finished last or second to last 14 times in 20 seasons from 1935 to 1954 , drawing just 304,666 fans in their final season in Philadelphia — fewer than they had in all but one of their seasons at tiny Columbia Park.
A fire broke out in the stadium in 1971, destroying most of it. “Fire engulfed Connie Mack Stadium the other day,” Arthur Daley wrote in The Times, referring to Shibe by the name he used in his later years. “If nothing else, it has lit up some pleasant memories.”
The stadium’s famous corner tower, with Mack’s original office, was demolished in 1976. A church built a shrine on the site.
1955-1967 | World Series Titles: 0
Best player: Ed Charles, third baseman, 14.4 WAR
George E. Muehlebach deserves some credit for predicting that the stadium he built in 1923 for his minor league team, the Kansas City Blues, could one day house a major league team. In fact, it was all the time: the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues were tenants of the stadium. But with his eyes set on a National or American League team, Muehlebach designed the stadium with wide feet to allow for expansion. Unfortunately, when Arnold Johnson bought the athletics and moved the team to Kansas City in 1955, it was found that the soles and almost the entire stadium needed to be rebuilt.
Cost overruns resulted in stadium capacity well below forecast and the park was barely ready when the season started.
The A’s finished sixth in their first season in Missouri and would not reach that level again, ending their 13-season run there with an 829-1,224 record and no playoff appearances. Municipal Stadium attendance was in the bottom three of the AL in all but one of the team’s seasons.
Not everything was bad. Charles O. Finley bought the team in 1960, and amidst various shenanigans, he presided over an incredible accumulation of talent, with Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter starting their careers in Kansas City.
The stadium was demolished in 1976. A garden with a plaque sits on the old site, surrounded by a housing estate.
1968-Present | World Series Titles: 4
MVP: Rickey Henderson, left field, 72.7 WAR
Built in the multi-purpose stadium craze of the 1960s, Oakland Coliseum was original from the start. Its circular design has given the Coliseum by far the most fetid territory in baseball. It was carved into a hill, placing its playing surface 21 feet below sea level. Feral cats, sewage leaks and a possum that lives in one of the television booths would only arrive later.
The A’s enjoyed several eras of dominance in the park, winning three consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s and going to the Series for three straight years from 1988-1990 (winning once), but attendance has varied wildly. , falling as low as 306,763 (3,787 per game) in 1979 and peaking at 2.9 million (35,805 per game) in 1990.
Unpopular changes to the stadium at the behest of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders made a boring stadium incongruous and ugly. The maintenance of the park was becoming unmanageable and the various owners of the team constantly complained about the lack of equipment.
A aggressive sale of promising players over the past few years, combined with the team’s obvious preference for Las Vegas, has resulted in a huge fan reaction. The team averaged just 9,849 fans per game last season, and things are even worse this year, at 8,695. It doesn’t help that the team, at 10-42 through Thursday, was about to record the worst record in the modern era of baseball.
With the Raiders having already left for Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors having moved to San Francisco and the A’s lease expiring after the 2024 season, the Coliseum complex may soon no longer have permanent tenants. It would then most likely be destined for a fate similar to that of the A’s previous three parks, none of which left more than a plaque to remember them by.