The Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954) were one of Major League Baseball's most successful franchises in the 20th century. They won a total of nine American League pennants and five World Series Championships under the tutelage of the legendary manager Connie Mack. The A's also featured baseball's first "100,000 dollar infield" and produced six MVPs, two Triple Crown winners, one Rookie of the Year and countless All-Stars over their span of 54 years in Philadelphia.
Twenty-one Philadelphia A's, including Mack, would eventually make it to Cooperstown, New York, Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Some of baseball's greatest players to ever to step foot on a Major League Baseball field have played for the Philadelphia Athletics; among them were Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Chief Bender, Rube Waddell, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Plank, Tris Speaker, Al Simmons, Nellie Fox, Bobby Shantz, "Bullet" Joe Bush, Zack Wheat, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Eddie Joost, Sock Seybold, Bing Miller, Wally Moses, Jimmy Dykes, Pete Suder, Elmo Valo, Gus Zernial and George Kell.
The A's were an original American League team that got its start in 1901. The A’s lasted in Philadelphia until 1954. At the conclusion of the 1954 season, the end was near for the Athletics in the City of Brotherly Love. A team that survived two World Wars, a Great Depression and a rival league raid eventually ran into financial woes so deep that the Mack family came to the realization that they had to sell the club. Unfortunately, the A's were sold to new ownership.
The A's were purchased by Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson in 1954, who would then move the team to Kansas City, Missouri, for the 1955 season. Sadly, the great era of the Philadelphia Athletics and the White Elephants was over. For countless loyal Philadelphia A's fans, it was an extremely depressing scenario. Their beloved Athletics were gone.
But for a few of those devoted fans, who never forgot the good and bad times at Shibe Park, they would eventually reunite 52 years later, and create one of the nation's best baseball historical entities, the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society (PAHS). This society was built from ground up, with their own time and money, with pure love and determination, to educate baseball fans throughout the world about the rich history of the Philadelphia Athletics.
Not only is the PAHS a historical society, its members are also very active in the local community. They conduct countless hours of outreach services to senior citizens centers, schools and youth organizations, and the even U.S. military. The PAHS officers and former baseball players speak before various gatherings to inform attendees of baseball's history and encourage their continuing interest in the subject. They are an all-volunteer, non-for-profit organization, dedicated to furthering the historical appreciation of the Philadelphia Athletics American League Baseball Club, the officials and players affiliated with the club, the home ballparks in which the team played, and the City of Philadelphia's baseball past.
To accomplish this, PAHS maintains a museum that is open for guided tours to schools, youth and community organizations, senior citizens groups and individuals interested in Philadelphia's rich baseball history. The museum/library/gift shop is open Monday through Saturday, 10AM to 3PM (closed on Sundays), and is located at 6 North York Road, Hatboro, PA. (Phone 215-323-9901 or 1-800-318-0483.)
All funds generated by the society’s various activities and operation of the museum and gift shop are reinvested in PAHS's ongoing efforts, educational programs and its continuing project to collect, catalog and preserve historically significant artifacts in its museum for future generations. All officers serve on a pro bono basis and the society is also committed to compiling a library of living history of audio tapes containing the memories and stories of former players and other appropriate individuals to document for posterity their recollections of their baseball-related experiences.
The PAHS is also well-known for its hugely successful society breakfasts and reunion gatherings of former Philadelphia A's players, family members and other professional baseball players. The society's baseball shop is loaded with spring/summer wear, children's wear, autographs, baseball hats, books, baseball cards, uniforms, A's replicate scorecards, programs, rosters, yearbooks, artwork, pennants, and much, much more. You can view all of the items for sale at the PAHS’s official website at http://www.philadelphiaathletics.org.
The PAHS also has more than 900 members and the membership reaches around the globe. To become a member of the PAHS, the annual membership fee costs $30.00, which includes the bi-monthly issue of Along the Elephant Trail, the official newsletter of the Philadelphia A's society. The PAHS website also has many features that any A's fan or baseball fan would enjoy. The site tells you about the society, the A's history, the history of the White Elephant, society events, the Museum, the online gift shop and the Collectors Place.
It also has a section where the PAHS Commissioner, Vice Chairman and A's historian Max Silberman dwells. Max is a retired history teacher from the Philadelphia area who knows the Philadelphia A's and its baseball history inside and out. He is a Philadelphia A's guru. Max is one of the nicest and most hard-working people I ever met. He does all his work free of charge and spends countless hours helping other people with the society's missions and general public questions.
If you have a Philadelphia A's question or baseball collectible question, you can ask Max at firstname.lastname@example.org. I asked Max a few questions about the society for this article and Max kindly responded.
Donald Moore: Max, how did the society get started and who was the driving force behind it?
Max Silberman: The A's Society was the brainchild of Ernie Montella and Ted Taylor informally in the mid 1990s. Ernie was active with Eddie Joost being inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame and often hosted other A's fans at his booth at the Willow Grove show. Taylor was a columnist who wrote an article about the "Secret Society of A's Fans" and dozens responded. In March of 1996, promoter Jim Lutz invited 13 former A's for the first reunion and it grew and grew.
DM: How difficult was it to start a museum and get material for it?
MS: In 1996, the organization was formally organized and in 1998, with almost no money, we signed a lease on the museum and stocked it with our own memorabilia.
DM: How hard is it to get ex-Philadlephia A's players to attend functions?
MS: Fourteen reunions were held but it is now very hard since our 138 living players in 1996 is now 60 and many are very old and sick.
DM: What is the main goal of PAHS?
MS: Our purpose is to keep the memories (and our childhoods) alive and honor Connie Mack's A's, Philadelphia's most successful sports franchise. It should be stressed that this was and is all done by volunteers, some of whom donate thousands of dollars and untold hours of work to make this happen.
Ernie Montella serves as Executive Director and is the heart and soul of the A's Society. Membership stays around 900. A core group of about a dozen volunteers work all year long to keep things going.
DM: What is your favorite thing about PAHS?
MS: You asked the best part: It is making friends with my boyhood heroes.
I also contacted Ernie Montella, the Executive Director and co-founder of the group. He told me a really great story that connected the PAHS to the Oakland A's. In the year 2000, the A's sent Stomper and a TV production crew out to the museum to look for a special artifact as a good luck charm for the A's. They found a 1954 foul ball that was hit at the A's former home park at Shibe Park. Stomper then proceeded to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and rubbed the ball over every A's HOF plaque for good luck.
The ball was then transported back to Oakland to have Bay Area resident and former A's player and manager Eddie Joost to throw out the ball on Opening Day. This baseball was the first ball to be used in the both 20th and 21st centuries. Stomper's antics sure did work because the A's made the playoffs that year. That special ball now resides at the PAHS Museum in Philadelphia.
I think it is very important that A's fans remember their past. The Philadelphia A's are a huge part of their making and I encourage any A's fan, or baseball fan who loves the history of this great sport and franchise, to this to view and visit the PAHS site and its museum. It is a treasure trove of history, love and dedication to the A's and baseball.
I'd like to thank Max Silberman and Ernie Montella for their participation, and all of the other PAHS members for their involvement, hardwork and devotion to Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics.
Source – Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society
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