6-1-09: Mailbag

Hello again everybody...

I may have to be a touch brief today. Unfortunately, the job that actually pays my bills is going to interfere a touch. A new show is debuting, an old show is moving time-slots. So it's going to take a bit for everybody to get comfortable with all the new timings involved.

So let's skip my usual musings in the preamble and get right to today's Mailbag question, shall we?

"The world is governed more by appearances than realities, so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it."
- Daniel Webster (1782 - 1852), American statesman

I suppose you could read that either as a naturalistic statement, or a purely political one. Personally, I think it says a lot about why politicians are the way they are.

«Read More...»

Today's column is another edition of the Sports Take Mailbag. Remember, if you'd like your question answered in a sometimes learned, most-times snarky, and always entertaining way, then send your email to:!

Today's question comes from Tom in Phoenix, who asks:

"I have a question. The DBacks were playing the Oakland Athletics a couple weekends ago. I noticed that the Athletics wear an elephant balancing on a ball on their uniform sleeve. What does an elephant have to do with the Athletics????"

That's an excellent question Tom! I know I say that nearly every time, but I mean it even more here since the A's "elephant logo" is something I've seen a ton of times, but never stopped to ask what the connection was.

First, a little history about the A's. The Athletics were formed in 1860 in Philadelphia as an amateur team based at the Athletic Club of Philadelphia. Hence the Philadelphia Athletics.

They became a professional team in 1875, and joined the American League in 1901.

The A's played 53 seasons in Philadelphia before packing up and heading west to Kansas City after the 1954 season. They stayed there for 12 seasons before moving to Oakland after the 1967 season, where they've been ever since. There was an official name change in 1970 from "Athletics" to the nickname they were better known by, the "A's". That lasted through 1981 when ownership decided to switch back to "Athletics" to better embrace the entire franchise history.

So what does all that have to do with the elephant? Well, the elephant has it's historical roots in Philadelphia, so it makes sense to trace the lineage back to there.

Here's the story. In 1905 Philadelphia was slated to take on the mighty New York Giants in the World Series. In a pre-series interview, Giants skipper John McGraw claimed that Philadelphia's owner, Benjamin Shibe, had a "white elephant on his hands".

Apparently, McGraw was upset about the amount of money Shibe was spending on his payroll. I suppose the white variety of elephant is particularly expensive to acquire, and that's the parallel that McGraw was using.

Twins fans will recall in 2006 when White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen referred to the bottom third of the Twins line-up as "those piranhas" in mocking praise of their peskiness.

Well much like the Twins adopted that moniker, Philadelphia manager Connie Mack adopted the "white elephant" nickname and presented his old friend John McGraw with a stuffed toy elephant at the beginning of the Series.

The nickname "White Elephants" or "Elephants" stuck, and four years later, a patch started appearing on Athetics sweaters. Nine years after that, a patch appeared on the A's uniforms, where it stayed until 1963 when then owner Charlie Finley decided that a mule was a much better mascot than the elephant.

Maybe Finely was a Democrat, maybe he was just an ass. I didn't know the guy, so I won't judge him personally.

I will say that say that the Elephant was the way to go. That's not a political statement, I'm just a fan of history. And since the Elephant had such a long history with the club, I'm happy to say that it was restored in 1988 and has adorned Oakland uniforms ever since.

The 80's being what they were, there was a short period of time when they used a guy in an elephant suit as a mascot. That's not any more annoying than any other mascot. The name was the problem. They called him: Harry Elaphante. Oof.

Harry's run was a brief one. Currently the A's use an elephant mascot named "Stomper". Much less annoying.

It's a rough go for the A's this year. Currently, they're 19-29, in last place in the A.L. West, 10 games behind the Texas Rangers. But in the wild west, no one's going to run away and hide. So maybe the Elephants can get things turned around and back on track!

Hope that answers your question. Thanks Dad!

Remember, if you want your question featured in a Sports Take Mailbag, drop me an email at:

That's all for today. Again, I apologize for the brevity. Hopefully over the next week or two, we'll figure all these new timings out and I'll have more time to write.

I'll be back on Wednesday, perhaps peeking at some picks? We'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Harry Elephante, I love it.

    Regarding White Elephants, in particular, there was a ruling class in Asia (India? Cambodia?) that owned a breed of white elephants. Sometimes, they would gift them to "friends".

    Now, the White Elephant was sacred, so you could not put it to work....and it was a gift, so you could not get rid of it. It was expensive to maintain, and you had no way to recoup your costs.

    So, there's your reasoning on the White Elephant accusation. The other manager was disparaging the A's for being expensive, and impossible to recoup the costs for.