Philadelphia A’s old-timers game in 1939 brought together two generations of legends

Written by: Tom Shieber

The 1939 Philadelphia Athletics were not a good ball club. They finished the season with a record of 55-97, basically the same record as in each of their previous four seasons, and had little hope of improving in years to come.

But in the late summer of ’39, some 25,000 fans gathered at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park to celebrate two Athletics dynasties from years past. Between games of a Sept. 10 doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia staged an exhibition contest pitting stars from the powerhouse Athletics of 1929, 1930, and 1931 against greats from the stellar A’s squads of 1910 through 1914.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s unparalleled Library collection preserves some of this history of this unique game.

More than three dozen former Athletics suited up for the game, the list of returning stars being a virtual “who’s who” of legends from Philadelphia’s glory days. Standout players such as Max Bishop, Jack Coombs, Harry Davis, Jimmy Dykes, Stuffy McInnis and Jack Quinn took the field alongside future Hall of Famers Frank “Home Run” Baker, Albert “Chief” Bender, Mickey Cochrane, Stan Coveleski, Lefty Grove, and Herb Pennock.

Red Sox executive and former second baseman, Eddie Collins, who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame just months earlier, also took part in the game. Jimmie Foxx, then the Red Sox first baseman who would be elected to the Hall of Fame a dozen years later, was unable to take part in the festivities after undergoing an emergency appendectomy the day before.

Hall of Famer Connie Mack, who managed each and every one of the ball-playing alumni, was on hand to greet the players – and prior to the old-timers game the long-time Athletics manager posed with members of both clubs for photographers and newsreel cameramen. Yet another future Hall of Famer, Tommy Connolly, umpired the contest, a fitting role for the arbiter as 30 years earlier he officiated the first game ever played at Shibe Park.

After two-and-a-half innings, the game ended in a 6-4 victory for the 1910-1914 club, though the fans cared little about the result. But thanks to Philadelphia sportswriter James Isaminger, who kept score of the shortened game, a record of the day is preserved. That record is part of an Isaminger scorebook at the Hall of Fame. Isaminger, who covered Philadelphia sports for more than 30 years, was posthumously awarded with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s 1974 J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

Following their "Reunion of World Champions," the Philadelphia Athletics hosted a reunion dinner at Philadelphia’s Hotel Warwick which featured a baseball-themed menu. PASTIME (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Also part of the Hall of Fame Library collection is a scorecard from that day as well as a menu from that evening’s reunion dinner at Philadelphia’s Hotel Warwick.

Tom Shieber is the Senior Curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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