A Final Season: The 1954 Philadelphia Athletics

This article was written by Thomas Van Hyning

This article was published in The National Pastime: From Swampoodle to South Philly (Philadelphia, 2013)

affixes his signature to an agreement selling the Athletics to the Philadelphia syndicate on October 17, 1954—a commitment Roy would betray just a day later in a backroom deal with Arnold Johnson.

Roy Mack affixes his signature to an agreement selling the Athletics to the Philadelphia syndicate on October 17, 1954—a commitment Roy would betray just a day later in a backroom deal with Arnold Johnson. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)


  W-L Pct. GB
Cleveland 45-20 0.692
Chicago 43-22 0.662 2
New York 42-25 0.627 4
Detroit 28-34 0.452 15.5
Washington 27-37 0.422 17.5
Philadelphia 26-37 0.413 18
Boston 22-39 0.361 21
Baltimore 23-42 0.354 22




1. Johnny Gray made his MLB debut for the A’s on July 18, 1954. Gray was a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, where the A’s did their spring training.

2. Phone interview with Spook Jacobs, September 27, 2010. Jacobs played 14 seasons in the minors, finishing with a .300 career batting mark. Jacobs retired after his 1960 season with Chattanooga. He got four hits in his first MLB game, on April 13, 1954, in the first, third, sixth, and eighth innings (retired in the fifth on pop fly). Jacobs was playing winter ball in Cuba when the A’s selected him. He represented Cuba in the February 1954 Caribbean Series hosted by Puerto Rico and played against Vic Power’s Caguas team. Jacobs was inducted into the Cuban (pro) Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2009, along with Negro Leagues stars Josh Gibson and James “Cool Papa” Bell. He was also inducted in Baseball Hall of Fames of Delaware, South Jersey, the Eastern Shore (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia), and the Columbus (Ohio) Jets.

3. Lee MacPhail—a classmate of the author’s mother at Swarthmore College (Philadelphia area)—in his autobiography, page 49, stated that Vic (Power) was “making his presence felt by 1954 … was an outstanding fielder at first base—I am not sure I have ever seen anyone any better—and a good right-handed hitter with power. He was an aggressive player with an aggressive attitude, and the latter had caused a few problems in the clubhouse. (George) Weiss and (Dan) Topping wanted to be certain that the first black player to play for the Yankees would be a role model. We thought we had the ideal man in (Elston) Howard.” Power hit .328, with 101 doubles, 32 triples, and 38 homers in his three AAA seasons—Syracuse (1) and Kansas City (2).

4. Dr. Bobby Brown, in a phone interview, recalled the A’s—late 1940s—had a very good pitching staff with Kellner, Joe Coleman, Phil Marchildon et al plus solid position players: Buddy Rosar behind the plate, Ferris Fain (1B), Pete Suder (2B), Hank Majeski (3B), Eddie Joost (SS), Barney McCoskey, Ben Chapman, Elmer Valo, and Wally Moses in the outfield.

5. Bobby Shantz won eight Gold Gloves: four in the AL, 1957–60, with the Yankees, and four in the NL, 1961–64. Vic Power earned seven AL Glove Gloves with Cleveland, Minnesota, and Los Angeles, 1958–64. Bobby told me his career highlight was a 14-inning, 2–1 win over the 1952 Yankees where Mickey Mantle hit a third-inning homer. Dykes tried (unsuccessfully) to take Shantz out of the game a few times and Bobby related: “I told Dykes that our bullpen wasn’t that good and if I’m going to lose it, will lose it myself. Threw 300 pitches.” Shantz echoed Bobby Brown’s remarks about earlier A’s teams with two-time AL batting champion Ferris Fain.

6. Marilyn Monroe posed for several publicity shots, in high heels, with Zernial, at the 1951 Chicago White Sox training camp in Pasadena, California, prior to a trade which sent Zernial to the 1951 Philadelphia A’s. Joe DiMaggio first noticed Monroe when he saw footage of those shots and wondered why Zernial was so lucky. Zernial suggested that DiMaggio contact the press agent who coordinated these publicity photos (and he did).

7. Lou Limmer, via a phone interview, related how he left Aguadilla on December 18, 1950, at 3:30 a.m . on a jitney from the town plaza to San Juan. Limmer caught a flight to New York before Island police made it to the airport. Limmer was suspended from winter ball for two years due to his fugitive stunt but returned to Puerto Rico five years later and helped Caguas (led by league MVP Vic Power) win the title. Limmer recalled earning a lifetime supply of single-edged razor blades by hitting for the cycle in the 1950–51 Puerto Rico season. His 244 career homers in the minors culminated with 30 for the 1958 Birmingham Barons in the AA Southern Association. Limmer’s World War II-era shoulder injury was documented by Peter Epross with Martin Abramowitz in their 2012 book: Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words.

8. Frank Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, shared this on April 14, 2011. Eddie Joost helped spark a final revival for the A’s, who had won five World Series (1910–11, 1913, 1929–30) earlier in the century. The ’47 A’s drew a franchise record 911,566 fans. With Mr. Joost as their acknowledged leader, Mack’s fourth-place team went 84–70 the following year and again broke its attendance mark with 945,076 fans. Joost his .263 with 23 homers and 81 RBIs in 1949. He was an AL All-Star in 1949 and 1952. The San Francisco native died in California at age 94.

9. Bill Renna phone interview February 11, 2013. Renna noted it took a good clout to hit it over center field (447 feet from home), and it was 363 feet to left-center (published data: 358 feet to left-center, 355 feet to right-center at Connie Mack Stadium). Renna, in right field, was near the scoreboard that was 400 feet from home plate, 50 feet high, and once had a 60-foot Ballantine Beer sign attached to it. Bobby Brown recalled it was 330 feet down the right-field line (329). The left-field foul line measured 334 feet. This was the first concrete-and-steel stadium in MLB history. William Steele and Sons built it in less than a year, and had it ready for 1909. The land cost $141,918.92. Stadium building costs totaled $315,248.60. Seating Capacity (1954) was 33,608.

10. Marc Aaron’s SABR bio of Gus Zernial stated this injury was the result of the left fielder’s foolishness and competitiveness. It was 17–0, and Zernial was tired of the team taking a beating.

11. Hemsley’s first major-league coaching job came with the 1954 A’s. He also coached the 1961–62 Washington Senators. His best MLB playing seasons were with the 1934–35 St. Louis Browns, managed by Rogers Hornsby. He hit .304 for the 1934 Browns with 31 doubles, and .290 with 32 doubles in 1935. Hemsley was an AL All-Star with the 1935–36 Browns, 1939–40 Cleveland, and 1944 Yankees. He managed against Rogers Hornsby during the 1950–51 Puerto Rico season, when Hornsby’s Ponce Lions played Hemsley’s San Juan Senators. Hemsley passed away in Washington, D.C. at age 65.

12. The Philadelphia A’s lost 100 or more games in 11 seasons: 1915–16, 1919–21, 1936, 1940, 1943, 1946, 1950, and 1954. They finished 50–59 games behind the first-place team in six seasons: 1915–16, 1919–20, 1939, and 1946. The 1939 St. Louis Browns (43–111) finished 64.5 games behind the New York Yankees. The 1932 Boston Red Sox (43–111) trailed the Yankees by 64 games at season’s end. The 1935 Boston Braves (38–115) finished 61.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL, in Babe Ruth’s last season as a major leaguer. Ruth’s 1927 Yankees (110–44) finished 59 games ahead of the last place Boston Red Sox (51–103). In 1961, the Yankees won 109 and Detroit won 101, while Kansas City and Washington lost 100 games each. The 1962 San Francisco Giants (103–62) and Los Angeles Dodgers (102–63), along with the 59–103 Cubs and 40–120 Mets expansion team accomplished this feat in the NL.