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For some, A's still live in Philly
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06/05/2003  8:52 PM ET 
For some, A's still live in Philly
Philadelphia A's Historical Society fondly recalls past
By Joe Santoliquito / Special to MLB.com Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
The Phillies' new ballpark opening next season includes extensive plans for an exhibit detailing the history of baseball in Philadelphia. (Courtesy Phillies)
PHILADELPHIA -- There's a special bond between ballplayers and children. If you think about it, you remember more about the players you watched in your childhood and feel a greater connection with them for some reason. And it really doesn't matter how old you get.

Ernie Montella, Ted Taylor and Dave Jordan, grown men with children and grandchildren of their own, were still looking for a tangible link with their childhood heroes, the Philadelphia A's, the most successful pro sports franchise in the city's history. Their mutual fascination collided one afternoon standing in line at an autograph show in the early 1990s.

The three looked around and were amazed at how long the autograph line was for Eddie Joost, the former Philadelphia A's shortstop and last field manager of the team in 1954. From there, an idea cropped up: How about a historical society honoring the great players and incredible achievements of the Philadelphia A's?

That spark created the Philadelphia A's Historical Society, which was founded in 1996 and is based in Hatboro, Pa. The group of A's fans will get another chance to meet their boyhood heroes when the Oakland A's visit the Phillies at Veterans Stadium for a weekend series, June 6-8. It's a historical occasion, marking the first time these two organizations, originally based in Philadelphia, will meet during the regular season.

The Phillies are bringing back Joost and Gus Zernial, who both live in California. On Friday, Ruth Mack Clark, the only surviving child of legendary A's owner/manager Connie Mack, will be at the Vet, and former Florida U.S. Senator Connie Mack, Mack's grandson, will throw out the first ball and be joined by other Mack grandchildren.

On Saturday, a number of former A's players, wearing their old jerseys, will be on hand, and on Sunday, the Phillies will honor Zernial, the former A's slugger. During the whole series, an A's exhibit will be in the Vet concourse on the 200 level.

For the former A's players, just being remembered is something they cherish.

"I've always been very happy to go back to Philadelphia and I run into young people there who will tell me that their grandfathers saw me play, or their fathers saw me play," said Joost, now 86 and living in Santa Rosa, Calif.

"It's the nicest thing to happen to me in my baseball life," he said. "The best part of my career came when I played here in Philadelphia. The fans accepted me. When I was there, I came across guys like Mickey Cochrane, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, they were all my heroes and they were the guys I grew up with watching baseball."

The weekend will also serve as a reminder for Philadelphia baseball fans of how great the A's organization was while in Philadelphia from 1900-54, before Arnold Johnson bought the franchise from Mack and moved it to Kansas City.

The team won nine pennants and five World Series, tied with the Boston Red Sox for second all time in the American League for Series victories, during its time in Philadelphia. Many historians believe the 1929 team of Al Simmons, Cochrane, Foxx and Grove may have been the best baseball team of all time, finishing 18 games ahead of the Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig led New York Yankees. The '29 team beat the Chicago Cubs, led by Rogers Hornsby and Hack Wilson, in the World Series, then followed up with another Series title in '30 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The dynasty ended in the '31 Fall Classic when the A's lost to the Cardinals in seven games.

The A's last winning season was 1952, when the spunky 139-pound Bobby Shantz was the American League MVP, going 24-7 with 27 complete games. But financial concerns continued to plague the club.

"The short story is that money forced the team out," said Max Silberman, 59, the historian of the A's Historical Society. "When you bought a ticket to an A's game, you put food on the table for the Mack family. As you get to a certain age, you lose friends and family, and you start to look for things to hang on to. Guys that I watched at 9 and 10 years old, I'm very close to. Every October, we have a reunion, drawing 25 players and around 450 people come. It makes us all feel 50 years younger."

Jordan attended his first A's game at Shibe Park for a Memorial Day doubleheader in 1943, as an 8-year-old. Detroit's Hal Newhouser threw a two-hitter against the A's in the opener, but Philadelphia rebounded to win the nightcap. Since then, the 68-year-old retired attorney has been hooked as a lifelong A's fan.

The A's Historical Society is a way to keep his memories fresh.

"Yes, the society literally started in a line at an autograph show and it kind of blossomed from there," Jordan said. "We're incorporated as a non-profit organization and for a while, it was run out of the homes of the founders. We started putting newsletters together with a local card promoter, and we began holding these breakfasts. It's a chance for everyone to remember things about the old team and out of these breakfast reunions, it gives us a chance to hear everyone tell old stories.

"It's kind of grown from there," Jordan continued. "We have 900 members, with the majority of them from the Philadelphia area. We've had hot-stove sessions and autograph sessions. We have about 400 people show up to our breakfasts now, and the various players sit and eat with the fans. It works out very well. We have a museum now and a gift shop, which helps support the museum. It's a crowd that's getting older, and we've been working closely with the Phillies and Mr. Larry Shenk, their PR director, for a number of promotional things. We're really looking forward to this weekend when the A's visit."

Former A's first baseman Lou Limmer, who played for Philadelphia from 1951 to '54, is looking forward to seeing his old teammates this weekend. It's been a while since the 78-year-old has been on a Major League ball field. Limmer, like Joost, realizes his group of former teammates is a dwindling bunch, due to advancing age, making the few times they're able to gather that much more significant.

"It's funny, you play 11, 12, 13, 15 years in different ballparks, and you move and you think that you're forgotten," Limmer said. "But with the Philadelphia A's, you're never forgotten. It's one of the greatest feelings in the world to be remembered and not be forgotten. All ballplayers have egos. They may not like to be bothered when they're eating dinner, but they do like to be noticed.

"Just to play was a joy," Limmer said. "They had to peel a baseball uniform off of me for me to get off a ball field. I always look forward to seeing my buddies and talk about old stories. I can't wait to see them."

For more information on the A's Historical Society:

Philadelphia A's Historical Society
6 North York Road
Hatboro, PA 19040
(215) 323-9901
philadelphiaathletics.org

The Society has a gift shop, museum and library.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cooperstown Gallery

Philadelphia Phillies POS Induction Year  
Alexander, Grover Cleveland RHP 1938  
Ashburn, Richie CF 1995  
Bancroft, Dave SS 1971  
Bunning, Jim RHP 1996  
Carlton, Steve LHP 1994  
Delahanty, Ed LF 1945  
Hamilton, Billy CF 1961  
Klein, Chuck RF 1980  
Lajoie, Nap 2B 1937  
Rixey, Eppa LHP 1963  
Roberts, Robin RHP 1976  
Schmidt, Mike 3B 1995  
Thompson, Sam RF 1974  
Wright, Harry MGR 1953  
 
Philadelphia A's      
Baker, Frank 3B 1955  
Bender, Chief RHP 1953  
Cochrane, Mickey C 1947  
Collins, Eddie 2B 1939  
Foxx, Jimmie 1B 1951  
Grove, Lefty LHP 1947  
Mack, Connie MGR 1937  
Plank, Eddie LHP 1946  
Simmons, Al LF 1953  
Waddell, Rube LHP 1946  
 
Native Sons      
Campanella, Roy C 1969 Philadelphia, PA
Goslin, Goose LF 1968 Salem, NJ
Jackson, Reggie OF 1993 Wyncote, PA
Johnson, Judy 3B 1975 Wilmington, DE
Lasorda, Tommy MGR 1997 Norristown, PA
McCarthy, Joe MGR 1957 Philadelphia, PA
McGowan, Bill UMP 1992 Wilmington, DE
Pennock, Herb LHP 1948 Kennett Square, PA






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