Back in 1965, to put it plainly, the Kansas City Athletics sucked. They finished the year with a 59-103 record, dead last in the American League. Then-GM Charlie O. Finley, a man committed to winning at all costs (a quality lost by recent green and gold ownership) was open to anything that would deliver a W. His philosophy led to a variety of ‘lucky charms,’ which for the previous four years had been a group of grazing sheep that stood out beyond the right field fence. According to the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, Finley had thought, “The sheep would bring me luck. But they ain’t.”
So he brought in a mule.
His name would be Charlie O. and he was donated by the State of Missouri. Governor Warren E. Hearnes said, “I’d consider it an honor and a privilege for Missouri to donate this mule to the A’s.”
Couple of cool side notes:
- The mule was reportedly born in Kansas to parents not of the same species.
- Documentation of his birth was not available.
- He was said to be three years old, while standing a little over 5-feet tall and weighing 1492 pounds.
So it was decided. Charlie O. would become a part of the team. In fact, Finley said on Feb. 8, 1965. “Charlie O. will come out of the A’s dugout on Opening Day, even if it takes the whole ball club to push him out. We will take Charlie O. with us on one trip to each of the nine cities in the American League – somehow.” Finley continued on about his newest addition stating the mule would receive, “a real good blanket with his name in green letters trimmed in white.” Finley, himself, panned to ride the mule on Opening Day out onto the field. Even for a brief period in the 1965 season, some Athletic relief pitchers rode him from the bullpen to the mound.
Finley made sure to take great care of his mule, even to the point where he would never let him get lonely. The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich noted that Finley signed “a cageful of monkeys, a prized bird dog, a hutch of outsided checker rabbits and two peacocks.” It was in stories like this that Charlie O. performed admirably, turning many heads onto his enjoyable self and away from the A’s struggles. Over the Athletics 13-year tenure in Kansas City, they never finished first in the AL.
Oakland’s attraction was welcomed in whichever city he ventured to, with his trip to New York drawing the biggest buzz. Charlie O., ridden by Finley, began the trip welcomed at the Americana Hotel by an eight-piece band. The New York Times accounts indicated that “Charlie O. clopped through the lobby, past startled guests and turned into a restaurant. There he paused at the bar long enough to consume a heaping portion of oats in a silver bowl. In his suite (okay it was a corner of the garage), Charlie O. also found a dresser in which to store his green and gold attire.” Being the focal point of the road trip, reporters just had to have them some of the mule. Ross Newhan of the Independent Press Telegram wrote, “Charlie O. is the hottest thing to hit the (American league) circuit since Mickey Mantle, and he has sounder legs. Charlie’s van is equipped with a stereo unit, but Charles has a one track mind when it comes to music. His selection is always the same: ‘Mule Train.’” Newhan observed that the mule’s ‘hotel room’ consisted of green and gold drapes, a desk featuring Finley’s picture, a TV set, and white-gloved attendants serving oats on silver trays.”
One of the more comical Charlie O. stories involved catcher Doc Edwards, who on occasion, was given the burdensome task of riding the big fella. While the team was on the road in Cleveland, Edwards fell off Charlie O. and was immediately traded to the Yankees. On another road trip in May of 1965, the White Sox GM Ed Short refused to allow Charlie O. inside the White Sox ballpark because he said, “we don’t issue passes to mules.” Finley responded by parading his mule around a leased parking lot across the street from White Sox Park and hired six models to hoist picket signs, accompanied by a six-piece band.
Four years later, the A’s along with their mule moved to Oakland and reversed their fortunes…
Praise Charlie O.
Chass, Murray. “Finley’s Follies Boasts Mule, Pigeons, Pheasants.” The New York Times, April 13, 1965.
Newhan, Ross. “Charlie O . . . A Mule, No Fool”, Independent Press Telegram (Long Beach, CA), May 2, 1965. D-2
Povich, Shirley. “Zoo in KC”, The Washington Post, March 30, 1965.
Jim Van Valkenburg. “Mule Replaces Sheep in Kansas City’s Park.” Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, February 9, 1965, 14.
Swanson, Don. “Kansas City Fans to Get New Kick.” Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette, March 26, 1965, 50.