Sunday, February 3, 2019

The 1956 Topps Kansas City Athletics Team Set

One of the fun things about a completed set is deciding how you want to organize it. I have the 1956 Topps set in a binder, sorted by team, in the same order that the teams finished in the 1955 Standings. In 1955, the Kansas City Athletics finished in 6th place in the American League with a 63-91 record.

1955 was the Athletics' first year in Kansas City. The team had been sold to Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson and moved from Philadelphia to KC. Connie Mack had been part owner of the team and/or involved in its day to day operations since he became the manager in 1900. He was in attendance for the team's home opener in Kansas City, having reluctantly sold the team. The new Athletics owner was also heavily involved with the New York Yankees (he owned Yankee Stadium), and in his tenure as A's owner, many of the Athletics best players became Yankees. Many of the Yankees' less desirable players took their place. In the 13 seasons the Athletics spent in Kansas City, they never once won a pennant. In fact, they never even posted a winning record!

It was a missed opportunity, as the Kansas City area was hungry for a professional baseball team. They were fortunate to have hosted one of the greatest Negro League franchises of all time, the Kansas City Monarchs. When Major League Baseball finally became integrated, the Monarchs could no longer retain the very best Black players, as they now were getting the opportunity to play in the Majors and prove they were every bit as good as anyone else. With the Monarchs diminished, the Athletics had the chance to capture the hearts of the local fans. The sub par product the Owner and GM placed on the field eventually wore on the Kansas City faithful. Flagging attendance was cited as a main factor in the team's next move to Oakland under the new owner Charlie O. Finley, but the fault was as much on the team's leadership as it was on fan support. 


The Athletics' best hitter in 1955 was Vic Power, the Puerto Rican born first baseman. Power had just moved to first after playing exclusively in the outfield, but he was right at home as a corner infielder. While many players are moved to first due to declining speed or limited mobility, for Power is was practically the opposite. The team had acquired Enos Slaughter in the off-season before the move to KC, and they needed to provide a spot in the outfield for him. Power was the team leader in runs scored, hits, and had an OPS+ of 129.

In '55, Power would make his first of 6 All-Star squads, and already was showing the tremendous defense that would net him 7 Gold Gloves. He had over 1,700 career hits in his 12 year career. You can check out his SABR biography here.

The A's best pitcher in 1955 was the team's closer, Tom Gorman. He saved 18 games, and finished a total of 35 during the season. Gorman, like Vic Power, was a Yankee cast-off - the A's acquired Gorman, Ewell Blackwell, and Dick Kryhoski from the Yankees in Spring Training before the 1955 season for $50,000.

Pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees, Gorman had already won 2 World Series rings in '52 and '53, but would not taste the postseason again with Kansas City. 1955 was his best season individually, however.

The lone Hall of Fame member in the team set is the aforementioned Enos Slaughter. The long-time Cardinal was familiar with playing baseball in Missouri, and even though the motivation to sign him was promotional, he also contributed quality at bats for 108 games. He hit .322 for the A's (.315 for the whole season), in his age 39 season.

Slaughter came in a trade from the Yankees too, but would be traded back to New York after proving he still had more to contribute. He was a 10-time All-Star, each appearance consecutive, sandwiched between 3 seasons in military service. He was a 3 time World Series champ.

The other All-Star for the '55 A's was Jim Finigan, a steady infielder with KC. Gus Zernial provided the slugging for KC, hitting 30 homers.

The pitching was patchwork, relying mostly on the Yankees' leftovers. Similar to Baltimore overhauling the roster after moving from St. Louis, the A's traded away many of its Philadelphia contingent to create a new identity in Kansas City. The new names did not fare much better on the hill. Bobby Shantz was the AL MVP in 1952 as a member of -- you guessed it, the New York Yankees. He was loaned out to Kansas City while he dealt with a sore arm. Elmer Valo had one of his better seasons, hitting .362 with a .460 On base average over 112 games. He was the 4th outfielder, but with 39 year old Enos Slaughter starting, it gave him many opportunities to play.

The '55 A's were buoyed by a rabid Kansas City fanbase. Despite the fact that they lost 91 games, they actually played well above their expected W-L record. They struggled to score runs outside of Zernial and Power, as Elmer Valo was the only guy getting on base with any regularity. Their pitching was suspect, and wasn't going to be getting better any time soon. It would not be until the move to Oakland that the team would return to the playoffs. 


  1. Never knew Enos Slaughter was a member of the A's, let alone had a card to recognize it. I'm digging these team posts by the way, keep them coming!

  2. I've always felt like the A's were the Yankees farm team. Didn't realize they were literally the Yankees dumping grounds. Ugh.