Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of usual series takeaways on the Yankees’ unceremonious sweep of the Oakland Athletics, I’d like to instead talk about the rich history between both teams.

Or, rather, the slow depreciation of that history with the A’s headed to Las Vegas in 2027. Who needs a longstanding legacy in a city with passionate fans when you can have a new stadium and a voucher to the buffet at the Wynn?

Whether or not the A’s should move to Las Vegas at all is a different conversation in itself. If you want my two cents, it’s pretty simple. Las Vegas already has both the NFL’s Raiders and a beloved minor league baseball team. If the A’s are to move anywhere, it should be to either Portland, Vancouver or elsewhere in California.

But I digress. With the latest teardown of the A’s, the rich history between the team and the Yankees is becoming further forgotten.

Granted, that isn’t to say the Yankees and old Philadelphia Athletics were bitter rivals. Far from it, actually. Connie Mack’s A’s won three World Series while the New York then-Highlanders were perennial non-contenders. The closest Mack’s teams ever came to the prime Ruth-Gehrig Yankees was finishing 2.5 games behind them in 1928. The A’s then made the next three World Series behind slugger Jimmie Foxx, winning two of them.

The connection between the teams carried over into the ’50s, long after the A’s lost too much in Philly and moved to Kansas City. Nothing changed except for one thing: lots of their players were traded to the Yankees and became stars in their own right.

Not many know it, but it’s true. Roger Maris was little more than a high-upside/potential bat when the A’s traded him to the Yankees in December 1959. The following season, Maris won the first of two straight MVP trophies.

The list goes on. Pitcher Ralph Terry was acquired from KC and pitched a complete game to win Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Slick-fielding third baseman Clete Boyer was also a former A’s prospect.

Cue a move to Oakland in 1968 and free agency less than a decade later, and the roles were reversed again. The A’s won three straight World Series from 1972-1974 while the Yankees struggled. In 1975 and ’77, respectively, two key players from those teams signed record-setting free agent deals…with the Yankees: Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Reggie Jackson.

Again, this isn’t a rivalry in the same vein as the Red Sox or Astros. More a respected opponent with a unique sort of shared history.

John Fisher is about to blow that up for a move to Las Vegas.

And for what?

I attended Wednesday afternoon’s game between the Yankees and A’s as a fan. Accompanying me was my friend Matt Tiemstra, who grew up in Oakland and a more casual A’s fan. He admits he’s only really started paying deeper attention to them in the last few years.

But even so, he has plenty of memories of the Coliseum. Family trips on weekends. A Senior Day. Random games with his father. In an old pinstriped A’s cap and green jersey with a script “Oakland” sprawled across the chest, he knows he’s one of what seems like a vanishing A’s fan base.

Except to listen to him talk about the team, there’s a passion there. Oakland cares about its team and would love nothing more for the A’s to stay. And yet, the fans’ cries fall on ownership’s deaf ears. If you ask Matt, this is why attendance has continually dropped. Not the quality of the Coliseum itself.

“It was after the 2021 offseason where they just sold off all these star players that they had developed, like [Matt] Chapman, [Matt] Olson, [Mark] Canha,” he says. “They had a great roster that they just clearly sold off for parts and just got nothing in return. It was the naked contempt with which they did that, basically.”

Granted, Oakland hasn’t finished higher than 23rd in attendance in the last decade but two things can be true. The Coliseum is an outdated ballpark for several reasons, but ownership isn’t making much of an effort to stay either. Even with another Howard Terminal hearing scheduled for Thursday.

“It feels like a bad dream in some ways,” Matt adds.

Meanwhile, Evan Drellich of The Athletic reports Fisher and the A’s have pivoted from the first $500 million land deal for a stadium to a smaller one at $395 million. A move wouldn’t be until 2027 but even so, from Matt’s point of view, this is an ominous sign.

“I think he’ll lose a ton of money doing this and ultimately just be a heel and have to sell the team anyway,” he says.

That’s unlikely, though it’s hard to not feel a similar sort of sadness at the situation. Particularly after three losses to the Yankees and being outscored 28-10.

What’s saddest about the diminishing history between the A’s and the Yankees is that as Matt told me on our walk to the stadium, Oakland’s plan was to be like the rival San Francisco Giants. Look at the original Billy Beane Moneyball teams and there are indeed similarities between them and what the Giants later built into a World Series dynasty. Both were built around strong, homegrown pitching and a competitive lineup featuring only two or three power bats.

Just imagine. An Oakland A’s team with a similar stadium by the Bay, complete with kayakers waiting to catch home run balls in the green-and-gold equivalent of McCovey Cove. In another lifetime, maybe these A’s regularly finish atop the AL West and often meet the Yankees in the playoffs. In some cases, maybe they even defeat them and go all the way to the World Series.

A long history between two teams that could have blossomed into a thriving rivalry. And in a few years, the bright lights, bells, and whistles of the Las Vegas strip could overshadow it all. For no real reason either. Just because.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.