Embrace the White Elephant


The MLB Oakland Athletics are one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. The club was founded in 1901 in Philadelphia, and since the 1905 World Series the team has had an unlikely mascot. The team known most commonly as the A’s has a white elephant on the sleeve.

(Um, a big, slow, lumbering elephant?  How does that represent someone Athletic?)

The ironic thing is that a white elephant is a term used to describe something out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.  A lost cause. The term “white elephant” was given to the A’s by, then manager of the New York Giants, John McGraw. He told reporters before the 1905 World Series that the owner of the A’s had a“white elephant on his hands…”, then proceeded to clobber the A’s four games to one to win the Championship.

In a game filled with superstition it seems a white elephant mascot is ill fated. Would you play for a team that is proud of the lost cause? I would. I admire the franchise for accepting their past and using it to fuel their future.  They make no apologies. They embraced it. They made it an integral part of their brand.  The A’s are far from a lost cause.  They are one of baseball’s greatest success stories.

  • 9 World Championships.
  • 15 AL Pennants
  • Including this year’s playoff push they now have 15 Division titles
  • They have a Best Picture Oscar nominated movie Money Ball in the bullpen that highlights their innovative front office.
  • And boast the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball: 52 Million. (Contrast that to the Yankees 200M)

That’s not a lost cause.

That’s called ROI.