The story behind A's elephant logo
OAKLAND -- The image of an elephant on the left sleeve of A’s jerseys is often met with confusion by outsiders.
Of all the fit and fierce creatures in the animal kingdom, why is the selection to represent the “Athletics” organization a slow-moving mammoth? Turns out the elephant logo -- which dates back more than a century -- was partially inspired by Oakland’s rival across the Bay.
The origin of the elephant dates back to 1902, when John McGraw held a news conference after he was set to leave his position as manager of the Baltimore Orioles to take on the same role with the New York Giants. A reporter asked McGraw about his thoughts on the Philadelphia A’s, who at the time had been making headlines as they bought up contracts of some of the top players in the National League, such as Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell and outfielder Topsy Hartsel. Unenthused by the question, McGraw responded, “The Philadelphia club will make no money. They have a big white elephant on their hands.”
That diss by McGraw got back to then-A’s owner Connie Mack, who was amused by the comment so much that he made a white elephant the team’s unofficial mascot as a sort of rallying cry. Three years later, when the A’s and Giants squared off in the 1905 World Series, Mack carried on the playful back and forth by presenting McGraw with a white elephant statue before Game 1.
For the next 50 years, the elephant continued to integrate itself as part of A’s tradition, eventually becoming the primary logo on the front of the team’s uniform. But when the club moved to Kansas City in 1955, new owner Charlie Finley removed the elephant as the primary logo. In ’65, Finley decided to change the team mascot to a mule -- the symbol of the Democratic Party -- in a move to appeal more to the Democratic-dominant town of Kansas City. The mule was also the state animal of Missouri. And yes, a real mule wearing a “KC” hat was often seen walking on the field inside Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium.
Even when the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968, the elephant was still absent. It wasn't until after Finley sold the team to the Haas Family in ‘80 that the elephant made its return. The logo was placed on the left sleeve of all iterations of A’s uniforms and was embraced by fans in Oakland.
Nowadays, the elephant mascot has evolved into Stomper, the big and jolly elephant who roams the Coliseum during A’s games. Stomper made his debut on April 2, 1997, during an A’s 5-4 victory over Cleveland on Opening Night.
From delighting fans during games with his silliness and impressive dance moves, participating in the many community events held by the A’s around the Bay Area and even starring in some of the funniest A’s promotional commercials over the years, Stomper remains a beloved figure around these parts.