Baseball Shorts: The Oakland Athletics and their (White) Elephant

As a baseball fan, you will know the Oakland Athletics sport an elephant as their alternate logo on the sleeves of their jerseys. But where does it come from? Read on and you will learn.

Since time immemorial, the Athletics ball club sport a (white) elephant as their (alternate) logo. But what is the link between the A’s and an elephant? Well, the elephant is around since the early 1900s.

It all started in 1902. The Baltimore Orioles were bought by a group of businessmen and would be moved to New York at the start of the 1903 season, where they would become the Highlanders, the predecessors of the Yankees. One of the Orioles’ players, John McGraw, who just had been banned by American League President Ban Johnson, decided to jump ships and join the New York Giants, where he raided the roster of the Orioles.

At one point, McGraw was approached by several sportswriters. One of them asked: “What do you think of the Philadelphia A’s?” McGraw answered: “White elephants!” quickly retorted Mr. McGraw. “Mr. B. F. Shibe has a white elephant on his hands.”

The term white elephant means something like a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of.

The term stuck and when the A’s appeared in their first World Series in 1905 vs the New York Giants, they gave McGraw a miniature elephant statue.


The elephant would follow the team wherever it would go: Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland.

At some point in their history, the Athletics even did not sport the name Athletics or the capital A. No, in the 1920s (1920-1927)an Philadelphia Athletics Elephant Adjustable Royal Blue Cap - Shibe ...elephant adorned the jersey of the club (see photo on the right with Jimmie Foxx wearing an A’s jersey).

The elephant was officially adopted as the club’s logo in 1909 when it was part of the sweaters the Athletics wore.

When the club moved to Kansas City, the elephant would adorn the left sleeve of the jersey until 1960.

In Oakland, the club would not sport the elephant until 1988 when it returned on the left sleeve of the jerseys. It hasn’t been away ever since.

Through the years, the Athletics had a broad variety of elephant logos. Here are some examples:


Philadelphia 1921


Philadelphia 1939-1953


Kansas City 1955 – 1967


Oakland 1995 – present



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