The Oakland Public Library celebrates 50 years of Oakland A's Magic

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Oakland Athletics.

Before the arrival of the Oakland A's, baseball in the town had withered to Little League and play on school yards. The Oakland Oaks franchise had outgrown its ball park in Emeryville by 1957. The team was dismantled and relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, and rebranded the Vancouver Mounties.

Charles O. Finley, a Chicago-based businessman, who had bought the Kansas City Athletics in 1960, was eager to leave Kansas City after a few short years because he felt the community did not offer the financial support or promotion he thought the team deserved. Major League Baseball officials denied Finley's efforts to relocate the team to a better market and forced him to sign a three-year lease, then a four-year lease. He also had a contentious relationship with the Kansas City press and with fans. 

In 1967 when his lease expired Finley moved the team to Oakland. He listed four reasons for choosing Oakland:

  • The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum sports complex provides the finest facilities
  • The Bay Area climate is ideal for baseball
  • The population growth is the fastest of any major league area in either league;
  • Enthusiasm for sports in the area

On April 17, 1968, the Oakland A's made their debut in front of a capacity crowd of 50,000. (Unfortunately, they lost 4-1 to Baltimore.)

Finley was an unabashed showman who loved seeing his name in the papers. As owner and general manager of the Oakland A's, Finley clashed with Oakland players over contracts, with the baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn over dismantling the team after three World Series wins, and with sports reporters. By the late 1970s, Finley was rarely in Oakland, dictating decisions long distance from his base in Chicago. He promoted former A's batboy Stanley Burrell (later known as rapper MC Hammer) to "vice president" while he was still a teenager and charged him with providing Finley with play-by-play commentary after each game by phone!

This is just one of the fascinating tales of the Oakland A's and their winning ways found in the Oakland History Room's exhibit, "The Oakland A's: Celebrating 50 Years." The exhibit will run from August 1 to November 3, 2018.