Wednesday, April 12, 2017

...And then there were the elephant jokes...

Who's ready to talk about some long-ago history?

Thanks to both of you for sticking around.

This involves Philadelphia, Oakland, Kansas City in a way, and also Siam.  And elephants.

You don't hear this expression so much these days, but we used to call something a "white elephant" if it was something you didn't need and no one else wanted and it was hard to get rid of. The perfect application for the term today would be a VCR or a CRT television or monitor. No one wants them, Goodwill won't take them, and you have to either haul them to the county dump or leave them boxed up on your porch disguised as something Amazon just dropped off.  

If you do so, someone will come along and take your white elephant off your hands.

Image result for the king and iIt was even tougher back when Thailand was known as Siam and was ruled by a king. When he 
wasn't busy dancing around the palace in odd shoes and funny pants, the real King of Siam was in the habit of giving albino (white) elephants to members of his squad who had vexed him in some way. His theory was probably true - the recipient of a white elephant sent by the king was not about to just let the beast roam away, but the maintenance fees would drive him bankrupt soon. I mean, just the cost of peanuts alone....

So. We call stuff that neither you nor anyone else wants a "white elephant," and that's what manager John McGraw of the 1902 New York Giants baseball club called the Philadelphia Athletics: "a bunch of white elephants."  And Connie Mack (born Cornelius McGillicuddy), who managed the Athletics for 50 years (1901 - 1950) took this as a challenge to his team, and adopted the image of a white elephant as his team's symbol. And wouldn't you know it, the A's won the American League pennant that year, uh huh.

Image result for connie mack 50th anniversary patch
In his final season, the A's had a special patch on their jerseys, marking 50 years of Connie Mack running the club, and showing the big old white elephant who even today shows up on the team gear, even though they moved twice since leaving Philadelphia - to Kansas City, and then to Oakland, California.

Along the way, they changed the team colors to green and gold to reflect the Irish heritage of owner Charles O. Finley.  But now, when you're watching a game with the Oakland Athletics playing, and some wise guy points out that the elephant is not necessarily noted for athleticism, you can tell him that the same could be said for the King of Siam!

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