The recent Sonny Gray trade between the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics inspired me to look at the history between these two ballclubs. As it seems yet another Oakland star is positioned to help the Yankees make a playoff run in the vein of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rickey Henderson, Scott Brosius, and Jason Giambi.
All those players got their start in the green and gold and found glory in pinstripes. Coincidence? Sure. Oakland found a lot of success in the early 70’s, late 80’s, and early 2000’s, three time periods in baseball that preceded great Yankee dynasties. Oakland always has been, and perhaps always will be, a small market team. When their cost controlled young superstars hit free agency, the Yankees were able to offer a package that no other team in baseball could-the bright lights of New York City, a history light years ahead of any other franchise, and more cash than any other franchise could afford to offer. Logically, it follows that star players would head east to bask in the glory of NYC.
But before all of that, before the Core Four for the Yankees and MoneyBall for the Athletics, before the Bash Brothers and Donnie Baseball, before the A’s won three in a row and then watched those players win two more with the Bronx Zoo, there were the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees.
The A’s, just moved from Philadelphia, a once-proud franchise that saw the bottom completely fall out of their organization because they failed to ever try to develop a farm system, and the New York Yankees of the 1960’s, a dynasty of Hall of Famers with a legacy only matched by the Yankees of 1949-1953.
The Yankees had it all. The A’s had nothing.
And despite continuing to develop good young players, they invariably left Kansas City for greener pastures. One pasture in particular, and it was pinstriped.
The relationship between the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees in the 1950’s and 60’s is one of the baseball’s shadiest stories.
It’s a project, and it requires research. Next week, I hope to have the full thrilling story on Pigskin and Pine Tar. Stay tuned!