By 1955, the two dynastic periods of the Philadelphia Athletics were fading in the collective memories of the A’s dwindling fanbase. The popularity of the Phillies “Wiz Kids,” persistent losing, family power struggles and mounting debts all contributed to the “pachyderms” packing up and “goin’ to Kansas City.” For the full story behind the franchise transfer, I highly recommend Jeff Katz’s book: The Kansas City A’s and the Wrong Half of the Yankees and the SABR Fall 2010 “Baseball Research Journal” account by Robert Warrington: “Departure Without Dignity.”
The American League approved the sale of the Athletics and the move to Kansas City on November 8, 1954 — which gave Topps and Bowman enough lead time to make sure their A’s baseball cards were designated as Kansas City. Neither company appears to have included an actual Kansas City card (photographed after the move) in their 1955 sets.
Kansas City’s uniforms were changed in several ways from the ones wore by Philadelphia in ’54. Most significantly, the main accent color was changed to navy blue from the traditional royal blue. The year before the move saw the A’s switch to a script Athletics with red trim on the uniforms — instead of the traditional “Old English A.” The distinctive “A” remained on the cap but with a red outline. This design was continued in the Midwest, but a yoke was added on both home and road uniforms and the cap “A” was changed to red. Lastly, a sleeve patch-with the “white elephant” logo — now featuring the pachyderm on top of a ball — was added to the new duds.
Jim Finigan is the first Kansas City card and features the airbrushed red and white “KC” on the cap. Topps anticipation that the team would want to represent the new city did not prove prescient. The A’s would not adopt “KC” for the cap insignia until ’60. Note that Finigan is pictured in a ’54 royal blue accented Philadelphia uniform, without the yoke piping or sleeve patch.
One might believe that Lou Limmer’s “in action” could be authentic, since the photo shows him in a yoked uniform. However, this is a pre-1954 A’s uniform that had the chest piping, since Lou never played in Kansas City.
As an aside, I discovered this odd ’55 Topps Double Header card for Limmer. The Double Header set features two colorized player photos on opposite sides of the card. When folded, the legs of the player on the front serve as the legs of player on the back. Lou is coupled with Rube Walker-and his legs. Topps has drawn on the “KC” emblem, but the photo used as a model is from ’51, since Lou is wearing the “Golden Anniversary” patch worn by the AL teams that season.
Bowman bowed out of the card business after producing the wonderful “Color TV” set in ’55. Apart from two cards, all the Bowman cards feature the Athletics wearing the royal blue and red home uniforms from ’54. Many of the cards in this set are taken at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, the home city of Bowman.
The before mentioned two oddities are cards for Manager Lou Boudreau and Cloyd Boyer. Both have dark caps with poorly rendered red A insignia on the caps. Boudreau’s photo is probably from his stint as manager of the Red Sox. The dugout pose is like his ’53 Bowman card.
So, it was up to Topps to produce the first true Kansas City Athletics card in ’56. As you might expect there are caveats. Card #14 in the numerical sequence is that of Hector Lopez. He was a rookie with Kansas City in ’55 and never played in Philadelphia. The “in action” pose clearly shows Hector in a KC uniform, complete with yoke and the “elephant on a ball” shoulder patch. But, the “colorizer” painted his cap “A” white, instead of red. Topps finally comes through with a proper cap on card #106: Joe Astroth.
Since I want to make sure everything is up-to-date in Kansas City in terms of accuracy, please let me know if I earned an “F” instead of an “A” by missing an “elephant in the room.”
Though you may wish to give me the “bum’s rush” for continuing this blog series, I will next leave Kansas City from the corner of 12th Street and Vine and head to Brooklyn for look at the cards resulting from The Bums’ rush to LA.