Monday Mascots #3: Charlie O The Mule

29 06 2015

Twitter is an interesting thing.  I have technically been on twitter for about 2 years, but I’ve just started to check it consistently in the last few months.  I follow a couple of guys who do things associated with sports logos (@sportslogosnet, @ToddRadom), and saw a tweet about a mule that took pitchers to the mound in 1965.  Now that seemed like a mascot I should learn something about!  Two days ago, the Oakland A’s did a promotional giveaway of this T-shirt:

Charlie O promo give away t-shirt

Mascot/Team:   “Charlie O” the Mule (Kansas City / Oakland Athletics, 1965-1976)

Charlie O Mule Charlie Finley

Background:   Prior to the 1961 American League season, Charlie O. Finley purchased the Kansas City Athletics franchise.  Finley would eventually be remembered for a number of his marketing efforts to promote the Athletics in both Kansas City (using the shortened “A’s” moniker) and after he moved the team to Oakland (incentivizing players to grown a handlebar mustache).

When Finley bought the team, they had only been in Kansas City for a few years.  He wanted to move away from the team’s historical Elephant mascot to something with a tie to Missouri.  And after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune, he was determined it needed to be a Missouri mule.  He ordered Jim Schaaf, head of the A’s promotional department, to find the finest Missouri mule he could.  They arranged to have newly elected governor Warren Hearnes donate the mule to the team, and on opening night 1965, Charlie O was unveiled to KC fans.  Finley rode him around the park prior to the game, causing a number of fans to question who was the bigger ass – the donkey or the owner who had tried to move the team to California one year earlier.

Finley brought Charlie O around the American League that year, and even offered Ken Harrelson 25 bucks to ride the mule in a game at Yankee Stadium.  It didn’t go so well when Roger Maris hit Charlie O with a baseball, causing him to buck wildly.  The “Hawk” tells the story here.

Charlie O Hawk Harrelson

When Finley moved the A’s to Oakland in 1968, he (somewhat controversially) took the Mule with the team.  Charlie O was still a fan favorite, however, even though the Missouri connection was gone.  He could perform tricks, like bowing to the fans, and he oversaw 3 straight World Series titles for the A’s from 1972-1974.

Charlie O bowing

Charlie O passed away in 1976 at the age of 30.  The team still used a mule as a mascot until 1981, when Finley sold the team to Walter Haas, Jr.

Outside of baseball:   In addition to parading before home games at Municipal Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum, Charlie O had engagements at hotels and hospitals.  I even read that Finley went to a barbershop to get Charlie O’s haircut.

Charlie O also had a song written about him, which I’ll post about tomorrow.

Baseball card connection:  Charlie O. hasn’t had any cards made yet.  He is getting 2 T-shirts, however.  The A’s had a giveaway 2 days ago as I noted above, and the Royals are doing a promotion where they remember the Kansas City A’s on July 6th where fans can get their picture taken at the ballpark with a Missouri mule wearing Charlie O’s original blanket.

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