A decade after disbanding his championship team, Mack set about building another competitive team. Baker told him about a teenager with great abilities named Jimmy Foxx. Then he bought a team in Portland, Oregon, and that team had catcher Mickey Cochrane. Other players such as Al Simmons, Mule Haas, Max Bishop and Joe Boley were involved.
In 1924, Mack bought a left-handed pitcher, Robert “Lefty” Grove of Baltimore of the International League, for the whopping sum of $100,600. In 1927, the team finished second with 91 wins. In 1928, the A’s battled Ruth and Gehrig’s Yankees in September, but trailed by 2.5 games. In 1929, the A’s won the pennant by 11 games, then defeated the heavily favored Chicago Cubs in the World Series in five games. In 1927 they caught 605,529. In 1928, the team drew 689,756. In 1929, the A’s finally clinched first place on May 13 and again defeated the Cubs in the World Series. The club drew 839,176. Before Memorial Day, it was a fait accompli that the A’s would win the pennant, and the club was drawing 139,000 more fans than it was when it was challenging New York for the pennant.
Mack believed that a team that was in the chase would outlast a team that won a championship. If that’s what he believed, then why, with fans knowing the Athletics would be in the World Series in May, did attendance increase?
Just weeks after the A’s won the 1929 World Series, the stock market crashed. The A’s won the pennant again, in 1930, but tied 721,663, a drop of 118,000. In 1931, the A’s finished 13 games ahead of the Yankees and won 107 games, a Mack record, but tied 627,464; a loss of 95,000 fans from the previous year. The A’s lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
In 1932, the A’s won 94 games, but finished second to the Yankees by 13 games and tied only 405,500, which was third-highest in the league. At the end of the season, Mack sold (future Hall of Famer) Simmons and Haas to the Chicago White Sox for $100,000.
“In 1932, the United States was in the worst of the Great Depression, and Mack was selling players to make ends meet at the time, believing his attendance would decline no matter how good the team was, and he was probably right,” he said Kuklick. “However, he left a ‘scar that never healed’ in the immediate area.”
“None of this goes against the fact that Mack was a cheapskate with a very narrow and old-fashioned business mindset. Very little insight into deficit spending, civic engagement, or political savvy of how to get help from city politicians,” Kuklick added.
John P. Rossi, a retired history professor and Philadelphia native who has taught baseball history and is the author of four books on the subject (and is an occasional writer for BallNine), said “Philadelphia has been very affected, very hard” since the Great Depression. “Unemployment in Philadelphia was around 20-25%. I think it was a convenient excuse for him to do exactly what he did with the previous team (1914). I think partly it was a cold-blooded financial issue, and he may have really believed he could build another team, like he did the other two times.
1933 was the turning point for “The Mackmen”. The club dropped to third place. Foxx won the Triple Crown, Cochrane had a banner season, and as far as the other six starters were concerned, the lowest batting average among them was 289. But pitching was poor. The 33-year-old Grove was business as usual, going 24-8, but George Earnshaw, also 33, who had won 86 games in the previous four seasons had just five wins to 10 losses with a 5.97 ERA.
The team’s ERA was 4.81, up from 3.44 in 1929.