Posted on 30 March 2010 by Wanna Be Sports Guy
When the Philadelphia A’s pulled up roots and moved to Kansas City in 1955, owner Arnold Johnson may as well have dug a canal in his wake.
They were, perhaps, the best dancing partners in the history of the major leagues. In the years between his takeover of the Athletics (1955) and his death (1960), Johnson completed 15 trades with baseball’s most storied franchise, the mighty New York Yankees. Much of this had to do with the chummy relationship between himself and Yankee co-owners Dan Toping and Del Webb.
For a little perspective, it should be noted that they also completed 11 transactions with all of the other teams in Major League baseball combined. These deals, for the most part, were single players swaps. The trades with New York nearly always involved multiple players.
The most notable name to pass through this pipeline, however, was a young outfielder named Roger Eugene Maris.
That’s right. The man who broke the Bambino could have been one of the premier players in (now) Oakland Athletics history.
The dirty deed occurred on December 11, 1959, with outfielder Norm Siebern waving to Maris as they passed in the pipe.
Two years later, Maris would be polishing a pair of MVP awards and working on his comb-over (it has been reported that, due to the stress of pursuing Babe Ruth’s record, the outfielder’s hair fell out in clumps during the ‘61 season).
But, as Rob Neyer notes in his “Big Book of Baseball Blunders”, it’s tough to blame the A’s for trading the future Hall of Famer. Over a season and a half in Kansas City, Maris batted a meager .260 with only 36 home runs. He also struck out 105 times while drawing only 86 walks.
Siebern, for his part, had a few decent seasons for the A’s. He batted .289 over the next four years in KC, receiving MVP votes in each year from 1961-63. He also slugged 78 home runs while putting up a .844 OPS.
It all boils down to this: Maris almost certainly would not have broken the Babe’s record if he’d stayed with the A’s. Baseball owes one of its all-time greatest records to Arnold Johnson and his New York-Kansas City pipeline.
- Taylor Maxwell
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