Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lawn jockeys in A's uniform were 1960s K.C. fad

In the early 1960s a fad developed around Kansas City for A's fans to paint their iron "jockey" or "stable boy" lawn statues in team colors.

According to an account in the Jan. 11, 1964, issue of The Sporting News, the number of such lawn decorations exceeded two dozen.

About that time, however, team owner Charley Finley outraged a significant portion of his local fan base by threatening to move the team to Louisville--or Oakland--if Kansas City wouldn't sweeten his stadium lease to at least as good a deal as they were giving the Chiefs of the American Football League. 

When the city agreed to Charley O's terms, he asked for further concessions and went so far as to sign a two-year agreement with Louisville, even though that city's stadium didn't meet minimum American League requirements. 

It became evident that Finley was going to move his team no matter what city fathers did and the furor from jilted fans redoubled. 

One fan's protest was depicted in TSN with a photo of one of the A's-uniformed stable boy statues holding a sign disparaging the A's owner.

In 1962 the K.C. A's ended the season in ninth place in the 10-team AL; attendance was dead last at 635,675. When the team moved up to eighth place in 1963, attendance climbed to 762,364, about 20% better and eighth in the league. In the face of Finley's threats to move, attendance in 1964 fell back to 642,478 (-16%), second-worst in the major leagues.

It took three more years of bad baseball--two cellar finishes and one seventh-place-- and poor attendance before Finley was able to make his escape to Oakland for 1968.

Accompanying the above photo in TSN of one of the lawn decorations was this cutline:

At the start of the 1963 season, Mr. and Mrs. T.L. Cox (address redacted), Kansas City, painted the uniform of their iron stable boy Kelly green and gold with the fancy letter "A" on the shirt and "KC" on the cap--a nearly perfect replica of the A's uniform--in an effort to boost club interest and attendance. At least 25 other stable boy owners in greater Kansas City followed suit. Each time the Athletics would win Cox would have the boy holding an American flag upright. Whenever the A's lost, the flag's position was changed to "half staff." However since Finley has threatened to move the A's following unsuccessful stadium rental talks with city officials, this "Finley Go Home" sign has appeared.

If you're of a mind to revive the fad, and not afraid of the political correctness police, you can buy a modern reproduction of the iron stable boy/lawn jockey statues for $250-300. The better pieces are well detailed, measure about 44" tall and weigh something over 150 pounds. Cruder knockoffs in pot metal or concrete can be had cheaper.

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