It was announced this week that the Athletics have finally come to an agreement with a group of politicians to build a new stadium for the club, which has been trapped in an aging building for years.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the same situation, with the same reasoning, has been going on for over 100 years. The Athletics, a vagabond franchise originally from Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City, Mo., and then Oakland, California, never seemed satisfied with where they were.
From a stadium restricted 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 their eye on something better. They explored Denver, they poked San Jose and Fremont, they picked multiple locations in Oakland. But now, in an agreement 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 sparks optimism in Vegas, heartbreak in Oakland, and undoubtedly eye-rolls everywhere else. The A’s, with nine World Series titles and 17 seasons with 100 losses, appear to have been on the verge of a move for most of their existence.
“It is possible that a vote on reinstatement could be held as early as June,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters on Thursday when asked about the Las Vegas deal. But in keeping with how far the plan needs to go and how much it has already changed in recent weeks, he mentioned an earlier 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 well deserved. The Athletics are tied with the Braves (Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta) and the Orioles (Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Baltimore) for the most-traveled franchises. But oddly enough, the A’s have only had four stadiums in their 123 playing seasons – fewer 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 the Rangers’ Globe Life Field.
A look at those four stadiums makes it clear why A’s have had a perpetually wandering eye.
1901-1908 | World Series titles: 0
Top player: Eddie Plank, P, 51 wins over replacement
Built for a new team in a new league where 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 tinkered with it, but even at its peak there were fewer than 14,000 fans.
The stadium’s most notable moment, at least in terms of absurdity, came in the 1905 World Series when Connie Mack’s Athletics and John McGraw’s New York Giants conspired to fake a rainstorm to avoid playing in front of a sparse crowd .
As told in The New York Times, Game 3 was scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, but with an audience of about 4,000 people, and with the clubs relying entirely on ticket sales, the managers agreed to pretend a light drizzle had started earlier in the day. day had made the field unplayable. Sammy Strang, a utility player for the Giants, helped sell the ruse, with The Times saying: “A typical pantomime was that of Strang jumping under the bleachers, looking up at the sky, stretching out his arms and watching the fight to to drop.”
The gamble worked. The teams played Game 3 the next day, with a reported crowd of 10,991 nearly tripling Wednesday’s gate.
The Athletics played three more forgettable years at Columbia, and within a decade of their departure, the stadium was torn down and replaced with housing.
1909-1954 | World Series titles: 5
Top player: Lefty Grove, P, 68.4 WAR
Hoping to capitalize on his team’s popularity, Charles Shibe, primary owner of the Athletics, 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. The Athletics led the AL for three consecutive years.
Shibe Park was home to some great teams, with the Athletics winning nine pennants and five World Series titles there, but the owners routinely cited the state’s restrictive blue laws to limit their ability to play home games on Sundays, which put the club at a disadvantage compared to other teams. The team, desperate to raise money, also alienated fans by blocking the nearby rooftop stands with a 10-foot wall nicknamed Connie Mack’s Spite Fence.
As Shibe Park began to wear down, the Athletics never recovered from the sale of the 1930 champions. They finished in last or penultimate place 14 times in a span of 20 seasons from 1935 to 1954, drawing just 304,666 fans in their final season in Philadelphia – fewer than in all but one season in tiny Columbia Park. .
In 1971, the stadium was set on fire, destroying most of it. “Recently, Connie Mack Stadium was ravaged by fire,” wrote Arthur Daley in The Times, referring to Shibe by the name it used in its later years. “If nothing else, it brought back some pleasant memories.”
The stadium’s famous corner tower, housing Mack’s original office, was demolished in 1976. A church built a shrine on the spot.
1955-1967 | World Series titles: 0
Top Player: Ed Charles, third base, 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 be home to a major league team. In fact, it was always this way: the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues were tenants of the stadium. But with his eyes on a National or American League team, Muehlebach designed the stadium with large foundations to accommodate expansion. Unfortunately, when Arnold Johnson bought the Athletics and moved the team to Kansas City in 1955, it turned out that the foundations and almost the entire stadium had to be rebuilt.
Due to cost overruns, the stadium’s capacity was much lower than expected, and the park was barely finished when the season started.
The A’s finished sixth in their first season in Missouri and would not go that high again, ending their 13-season run there with an 829–1,224 record and no postseason appearances. Attendance at Municipal Stadium was among the AL’s bottom three in all but one of the team’s seasons.
It wasn’t all bad. Charles O. Finley bought the team in 1960 and, amidst various shenanigans, he managed 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. At the old place there is a garden with a plaque, surrounded by a residential area.
1968-present | World Series titles: 4
Top Player: Rickey Henderson, left field, 72.7 WAR
Built in the 1960s multi-purpose stadium craze, Oakland Coliseum was quirky from the start. The circular design gave the Coliseum by far the dirtiest area in baseball. It was dug into a hill, so that the playing surface was 6.5 meters below sea level. Feral cats, leaking sewage and a possum living in one of the television booths wouldn’t show up until later.
The A’s had multiple eras of park dominance, winning three consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s and going to the Series in three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990 (winning once), but attendances varied wildly, falling to only 306,763 (3,787). per game) in 1979 and peaked at 2.9 million (35,805 per game) in 1990.
Unpopular changes to the stadium commissioned by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders made a dull stadium incongruous and ugly. Maintenance of the park became unmanageable and the various owners of the team consistently complained about the lack of amenities.
An aggressive sell-out of promising players in recent years, combined with the team’s clear preference for Las Vegas, resulted in massive fan backlash. The team averaged just 9,849 fans per game last season and this year is even worse: 8,695. It doesn’t help that the team, going 10-42 through Thursday, was on track for the worst record of the modern baseball era.
With the Raiders already moving to Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors moving to San Francisco, and the A’s lease expiring after the 2024 season, the Coliseum complex may soon run out of permanent tenants. It would then most likely suffer the same fate as the A’s three previous parks, none of which left more than a plaque to remember them by.