The discussion of greatest MLB franchises almost always starts with the New York Yankees, as it should with their 27 World Series titles. However, when that discussion moves past the Yankees, rarely is the Athletics franchise brought up despite the franchise’s rich 114 year history that includes nine World Series titles and 26 post-season appearances.
Perhaps the A’s are forgotten because of their nomadic existence. Unlike their West Coast brethren, the Dodgers and the Giants, the A’s didn’t make a beeline path from the East Coast to the West, instead stopping off in the Midwest for a short time. The Athletics have famously treated their three homes (Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland) like a flipper treats an under-market property. They never seem settled where they are, always with a jealous eye on the next hot home market.
That nomadic history is, of course, a big part of what makes the Athletics franchise so interesting, even if it has served to lower the franchise’s profile to a national audience. The Athletics have always been about big personalities, both on and off the field. From Rube Waddell to Connie Mack to Charlie Finley to Reggie Jackson to Rickey Henderson to Sandy Alderson to the Bash Brothers to Billy Beane, the Athletics have never been boring, which is saying something given baseball’s tendency to favor conformist personalities historically. A’s fans are anything but boring, as well, and Susan Slusser beautifully captures all of the uniqueness of the Athletics franchise and its fans in her new book, 100 Things A’s Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
Despite the morbid name, Ms. Slusser’s book is a joy to read. Each of the 100 “chapters” is a separate square on the quilt that is the Athletics franchise. The topics jump back-and-forth from modern day to early franchise history (and everything in between). Topics range from profiling a particular important figure in A’s history (such as Miguel Tejada or Roy Steele) to diving into a particular moment in time (like last year’s Wild Card game) to suggestions of fun activities (such as riding a skateboard to the Coliseum) for A’s fans to try. In an era of sportswriting that has often devolved into a race to be “first” to report a fact, Ms. Slusser revitalizes the art of storytelling in her book. Each chapter can stand on its own as a separate story and all are worth the time to read.
I have been “green and gold” obsessed since I first learned about baseball in the early 1980s. My knowledge of the franchise’s history is fairly deep and there isn’t much about the team I haven’t read over the years. Yet Ms. Slusser’s book sheds light on parts of Athletics’ history I wasn’t even aware of, and also managed to enlighten me on topics I thought I already knew about. It is a must-read for any A’s fan, and would be engaging for non-A’s fans, as well. I highly recommend picking up a copy.