Buying, and Moving, The Philadelphia Athletics
In December 1953, Johnson entered baseball through a real estate transaction by purchasing the top two playing venues of the perennial champion New York Yankees — Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and Blues Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Yanks' top farm club, the Kansas City Blues. Concurrently, struggling major league baseball teams—especially "second" teams in two-team cities—were abandoning their old homes. Spurred by Kansas City officials, Johnson decided to bring a major league team to town, and found a target in the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Athletics of Connie Mack had once been one of the pillars of the American League, with nine pennants and five World Series wins to their credit; however, the team's chronic failures on the field since the early 1930s and its lack of resources undermined it. In the 1940s, two fatal blows were struck.
First, in 1942, the Phillies of the National League were bought by lumber baron William D. Cox. The Phillies had long been the definition of baseball futility (they had only one winning season from 1918 to 1948), in part because their owners either did not or could not spend the money it took to build a winner. They had played at Shibe Park as tenants of the A's since 1938. When Cox bought the Phillies, he proceeded to spend lavishly on young players, while the A's had no farm system. Cox was forced out after one year for betting on his own team, but ultimately sold the team to DuPont heir Bob Carpenter, Jr., who also spent lavishly on young prospects. Many of these young players helped the once-moribund Phillies win their second-ever National League pennant in 1950. For most of the first half of the 20th century, Philadelphia had been an "A's town," even though the A's had fielded teams as bad or worse than the Phillies for a decade. However, the Phillies soon began outdrawing the A's.
Second, a power struggle between two branches of the Mack family—essentially, Roy and Earle, Mack's two sons from his first marriage, were ranged against Connie's second wife and their son from that union, Connie Jr.--resulted in a dangerous depletion of capital. Roy and Earle eventually won the struggle. They mortgaged the team to Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (now part of CIGNA). As the A's languished at the bottom of the standings, attendance dwindled, depriving the team of badly needed revenue that could have serviced the debt. Connie Sr., 87, retired as manager in the autumn of 1950, reportedly under pressure from Roy and Earle, remaining team president.
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—Anne Sexton (19281974)