Thursday Throwback: Before the Oakland Athletics’ Stomper, there was Charlie O
Readers who were around during the A’s initial years in Oakland in the late 60s and early 70s, will remember a white Oakland A’s crested Ford Country Squire station wagon pulling an air-conditioned horse trailer, driving out into center field of the Oakland Coliseum before A’s games.
After a PA introduction, the mule’s trainer, Steve Cosca of Skyline Ranch in Oakland, would ride the mule around the warning track and entertain the crowd with an eventual bow down by the draped beast to Coliseum fans.
Charlie O the Mule, the famous mascot mule of the A’s, was named after the team’s stubborn owner, Charles O. Finley. When the Athletics were in Kansas City in 1963 (where the mule happens to the be the state animal), Charlie O was a gift from Governor Warren Hearnes, who gave the mule to Finley to add to the cadre of critters he had beyond the outfield fence in old KC Municipal Stadium. (Ironically, the football Chiefs who shared the facility during football season, had their own equine, a horse by the name of Warpaint that would trot the field after a Chief’s score.)
With the gift, Finley abandoned the A’s former amulet – an elephant since 1909 – and designated Charlie O, along with new green, white and gold uniforms, as the team’s new mascot. Insiders also speculate that the adaptation of the mule (and dumping of the elephant) was due to Missouri’s heavy-democrat population, in an effort to attract fans.
Charlie O was so popular a song about him was written and recorded by folk singer Gene McKown.
When the A’s departed KC and moved to Oakland, Finley took the 17-hands tall mule as part of the team, stabling him in the Oakland Hills at Skyline Ranch. In addition to games, Charlie O made appearances representing the A’s in rodeos, parades, little league banquets, and at Oakland Children’s Hospital. His image was prevalent on team letterhead, memorabilia, Booster Club badges, and tickets. When other teams were using bland tickets for the ALCS and World Series, the A’s used special caricature Charlie O tickets.
During the Championship run of 1972-1974, Finley brought Charlie O on the road to the team’s hotel and World Series parties at the former Edgewater Hyatt House on Hegenberger Road.
Charlie O died in 1976 at the ripe age of 20. His ashes are still retained by a member of the Finley family. After Finley sold the team to Levis Straus owner Walter A. Haas, Jr. in 1981, the use of Charlie O as team mascot was discontinued. In 1988, the current elephant logo was resurrected as team mascot, and eventually in material form by Stomper, who first appeared in 1997.