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by Harold Friend
Michael Davis grew up in Kansas City after World War II. He rooted for the Yankees because the Kansas City Blues were the Yankees' top farm team, but all that changed when Arnold Johnson bought the Philadelphia Athletics and moved them to Kansas City. '
Kansas City Becomes a Major League City
In 1955, I finally lived in a major league town. No, I didn't leave Kansas City. The Athletics moved to Kansas City from Philadelphia but It didn't take long for me and the rest of Kansas City to realize that although we had an American League, we were not a major league city. All that happened was that the name of the team we cared about was now the Athletics, not the Blues.
Something Was Wrong
The Philadelphia Athletics finished in last place in 1954, which was no surprise. Arnold Johnson bought the team from the Mack family. I was only a teen-ager, but eventually, even I could see that there was something wrong with the way the Kansas City Athletics were being run.
We finished in sixth place in 1955, ahead of Baltimore and Washington, which was no big deal, but the team was improving. The trouble was that the Yankees always stopped the improvement.
A Few Good Men
The Athletics had a few good men. We had Vic Power, who was the best fielding first basement in the majors, with the possible exception of Brooklyn's Gil Hodges. Power hit .319 with 19 home runs in 1955, but he had been considered "too flashy" for the conservative Yankees, who traded him to the Athletics. It really is ironic that in 1958, it was Power, along with Woody Held, who was sent to the Indians for Roger Maris. We all know what happened after that.
Young Panamanian pepper pot Hector Lopez, who batted .290 with 15 home runs, played third base, and we had two outfielders who had solid seasons. Former Indian Harry Simpson hit .301, and old Enos Slaughter batted .322.
The Yankees Take Back Enos Slaughter
The Yankees had traded us Slaughter in the first real trade between the teams early in 1955, but late in the 1956 season, when the Yankees needed outfield help, Arnold Johnson sent him to New York on waivers.
Some Minor Waiver Deals
Just before the 1955 season started, the Yankees unloaded sore armed Ewell Blackwell on us. They also sent us Tom Gorman, who had seen better days, and first baseman Dick Kryhoski, for whom they had no use. Okay, I thought, no big deal, but the pattern was being established.
The First Yankees-Kansas City Trade
In May, 1955, the Yankees and Athletics made the first trade under Arnold Johnson's ownership. We sent Sonny Dixon, who had a 11-17 lifetime record, and who would never win another game, to the Yankees for Johnny Sain and Slaughter. Sain was over the hill, but Slaughter hit for us. It was a good trade for the Athletics. So much for Yankees' general manager George Weiss' baseball brilliance.
The Yankees Send Bob Cerv to Kansas City
Bob Cerv had been Mickey Mantle's caddy. He was a pretty good fielder when he was young, and he could always hit. The Yankees sold Kansas City Bob Cerv after the 1956 season, and in 1958, Cerv had a great season for us, batting .305, hitting 38 home runs, and batting in 104 runs.
But George Weiss and the Yankees more than made up for Slaughter and Cerv. They got both players back when they needed them, and they helped the Yankees win pennants.
Other Kansas City players the Yankees took included Hector "What a Pair of Hands" Lopez, Ralph Terry, Roger Maris, Bobby Shantz, Art Ditmar, who might have cost the Yankees the 1960 World Series, Clete Boyer, whose glove helped them win the 1961 Series, Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, who was a flop, Duane Frederick "Duke" Maas, and veteran knuckle ball pitcher Murray Dickson.
The Yankees' 50 Man Roster
Don't give me or other Kansas City fans the garbage that the Yankees won in the 1950s and 1960s because they had the best organization. The Yankees had a 50 man roster in those days, and they sure took advantage of it.