Cover Image: Kansas City vs. Oakland

Kansas City vs. Oakland

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This book is for the sports fan. It covers not only the two cities but the team’s football and baseball as well. First opens with the Kanas city A’S moving to Oakland when Charlie Finley got permission to move and the city of Kanas City did not want to help build a new stadium. He then goes into the rise of the Oakland A’s which most of the players who were drafted were selected when they were in Kanas City. After a few trades by the early 70’s they would be in the playoffs and winning three World Championships. Finely would still have problems with the stadium and with low turn out even when they were winning.
  The author goes into the different social problems of the times of the 60’ and 70’ and even touches on the SLA and of course the Black Panthers. Both of these were prevalent at the time of the era. He also speaks of a lack of jobs and how it would always be difficult to support the Oakland team. He also takes you to Kanas City and explains their problems with race for the same period.
   He moves on to the football side with the Raiders and the Chiefs. Taking you through the early days of the AFL when they were starting out and how the rivalry really began and became heated. To when the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV, then how they would fall off until the ’80s. through the time of the Raiders winning two super Bowls one when they were in L.A. 
    He also goes into the injuries of the players from that generation and how Kanas City got a new stadium but Oakland has not. Now the Raiders are moving. He takes you through the different lawsuits and a look at how each city and team have faired since. A good book all around for sports. It did bring back memories of watching both football and baseball games from that time, and also some social issues as well when he spoke of the SLA that was a name organization I have not heard about in decades but remembered from the whole Patty Hearst ordeal. The author looks at the entire time frame which is good. Very much worth the read.
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Author Matthew C. Ehrlich takes an interesting look at sporting and civic rivals in his book Kansas City vs. Oakland. 

Ehrlich traces the development of the rivalry between the two cities primarily through the 1960s and '70s, as each city struggled to capture and hold on to the indefinable quality that makes a city big time. The two cities respective entries in professional football and baseball are the proxies for this rivalry, with the added bonus that Oakland's baseball team arrived in town after leaving Kansas City behind in 1968 after only 13 seasons in KC.

The football rivalry between the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders perfectly aligned with the time period covered, as each team had legitimate hopes of reaching pro football's mountaintop. The division rivals played tough, hard-fought games, with each side claiming its share of victories.

The same cannot be said for the on-field battles of the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics. The A's were in the midst of a dynastic run in the early '70s, winning three straight World Series while the Royals were just getting their feet under them as a new expansion team in 1969. Like the child racing his father, as they grew the Royals got closer and closer to knocking off the A's, finally succeeding by winning the division over the A's for the first time in 1976.

Oakland and Kansas City themselves had their own difficulties in this time period, but it's hard to think of the two cities as rivals in the traditional sense. While each city sought to establish itself as a prominent American city, I'm not sure that they really competed with each other, and certainly not for a crown that only one could claim.

The story was interesting, but seemed to lack a unifying thread, though I'm sure the cities themselves were intended to be that thread. The teams and cities shared a geographic location, but the narrative reads more like three distinct stories- Chiefs/Raiders, Royals/A's, Kansas City/Oakland- than three tightly woven threads of the same whole. 

Kansas City vs. Oakland was interesting as a study of the rivalries between the teams in those cities in the 1960s and '70s, but doesn't make a compelling case that the cities themselves were engaged in a full-on rivalry in that same time period. 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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An absolutely fascinating look at one of the greatest football rivalries, the one between the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, with a secondary look at the rivalry between the A's and the Royals. 

I love reading about 1960s/1970s sports history and American cultural/political history so this book was right up my alley. Loved how the author integrated the sports rivalries in with the history of the times, too. It made for interesting reading which brings back memories for me.

I'd highly recommend this one to people who like to read about sports or even those who enjoy reading about American history.
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We've been warned not to judge a book by its cover for as long as books have had covers. Matthew C Ehrlich's Kansas City vs Oakland is a case in point. The cover picture has Kansas City Chiefs receiver Otis Taylor catching a pass during the AFC Championship game in January 1970, while Oakland Raiders defender Nemiah Wilson stretches to try to tackle him. Alongside that is the subtitle: "The bitter sports rivalry that defined an era".

So it's a book about the Chiefs and the Raiders, right? Well, not entirely. Ehrlich, a professor at the University of Illinois, has written a book about the rivalry between the cities of Kansas City and Oakland. That played out in football, especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s and in baseball but also in the competition between two cities of a certain size that were trying to demonstrate their relevance in a changing America.

The Chiefs and Raiders competed in the AFL in the 1960s - both cities having to settle for a team in the challenger league, rather than the NFL. The two teams were strong contenders. The Chiefs won AFL Championships in 1962 and 1966, then lost Super Bowl I before achieving some redemption by winning Super Bowl IV.

The Raiders won the AFL Championship in 1967 and lost Super Bowl II before a run of six Championship game losses in eight years. They finally reached the pinnacle for the first time by winning Super Bowl XI in 1976. However, the Chiefs faded as the 1970s went on and the rivalry dwindled.

In baseball, the two teams are linked by the Oakland A's, who were the Kansas City A's between 1955 and 1968, when they departed for California. A year later, following political pressure, Kansas City was awarded an expansion franchise, the Royals. The A's and the Royals had no significant rivalry but Ehrlich looks at how the two cities' baseball fortunes changed in the ensuing decades through factors such as new stadiums and the fight for fan attention.

Both sports allow Ehrlich to shed light on other issues that the cities were dealing with. Race, for example, was a significant issue through the 1960s and 1970s and Oakland and Kansas City were no exceptions. Ehrlich looks at the changing racial make-up of the cities and how racism shaped where black Americans were able to live and what work was available to them.

He also looks more broadly at issues like urban regeneration and how smaller cities tried to create jobs and tourism by adding buildings such as conference centres. Kansas City was trying to prove itself a modern city and shake off its image as a "cow town", while Oakland struggled to escape the shadow of neighbouring San Francisco.

It's a short book and one that's quite academic in tone. However, it's very readable and likely of interest to Chiefs and Raiders fans who want a better understanding of the social context surrounding the early years of their teams.
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Kansas City vs. Oakland: The Bitter Sports Rivalry That Defined an Era by Matthew C Ehrlich is a wonderful look at a unique time in both US history and professional sports history in the US. The use of this particular rivalry between two cities and their teams is a microcosm of what was happening to some degree in many cities.

Let me get some basic stuff out of the way. I am amazed that people either buy or request books without actually taking the time to read the paragraph or two that describes the book, then act like it is somehow the author or the publisher's fault they failed to do so. So.......this is about the sports rivalry between the cities, not the football rivalry and not the baseball rivalry, and how that rivalry was a result of so much more than just what took place on the field. In other words, this a a much broader topic than just rehashing a great sports rivalry, it is truly a rivalry between the cities themselves. There, enough of that nonsense.

I remember those sports rivalries very well and the team movement also, but never fully realized the broader social, cultural, and political landscape within which it all played out. While these rivalries haven't lasted as long as the NY/Boston(NE) ones, the animosity, for at least a short time, ran every bit as deep.

If you sometimes wonder how much a part of the bigger picture our love of professional sports is, this book will give you a lot of information to digest. How sports teams have come to represent how big and/or marketable a city is and even to what extent it can call itself a "major" city really developed during these years. Looking at this particular dynamic gives us insight into what other cities have done, or have resisted doing, since then.

Highly recommended for fans who like their fandom grounded in the bigger cultural picture as well as for those interested in urban history and planning, race relations during the civil rights era, and history buffs who like a larger view than many histories offer. Not sure whether this is a sports book with some history or a history book with some sports. Either way, it is well worth the read.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Obviously this book has a very niche audience, but it was perfect for me. I grew up a Chiefs and Royals fan in Missouri, and spent 12 years in the Bay Area as an adult. A good friend is a diehard Raiders fan. Born in the 60s, I am just not quite old enough to know the full history of these franchises and the long-time rivalry. 

There is some back and forth between football and baseball which can be disconcerting, especially if you’re more a fan of one sport than the other. It really is about the cities and not just the sports teams. I thought it was well-researched and taught me a lot I didn’t know already. 

If you’re a Kansas City or Oakland sports buff who enjoys learning about sports history, I think you’ll enjoy this. You would probably never seek it out otherwise, so you should be able to enjoy what it represents. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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As a young sports junkie born and raised in the Bay Area of California with some roots in Kansas, I grew up with Oakland and Kansas City baseball and football. While I had a sense of the rivalry when it came to athletics, I remained mostly clueless as to the real history and depth of the two cities' connections until I read Matthew Ehrlich's Kansas City vs. Oakland: The Bitter Sports Rivalry That Defined an Era. An in-depth look at the franchises and the cities that support (and sometimes don't support) them, Kansas City vs. Oakland is recommended for anyone who is a fan of either team, lives in the surrounding areas, or has an interest in the impact of sports on a city (and vice versa).

I find the history of sports franchises fascinating in general, but you'd be hard-pressed to find an ownership foursome more colorful and intriguing than Charles O. Finley (owner of the Kansas City A's who moved them to Oakland--and named the mascot after himself), Al Davis (owner/GM of the Raiders), Lamar Hunt (owner of the Chiefs and a founder of the AFL), and Ewing Kauffman (who established/owned the Royals and brought baseball back to KC).

Ehrlich charts the rise and fall of each team through the years from dream to fruition to present day, along with the rises, falls and championships along the way. Views of sportswriters, broadcasters and social figures of the times add insight, and the interplay of the teams and cities with stadium building, political strife, race, economic turbulence, and fandom evidences the many layers of impact sports have had on both locales.

Ehrlich organizes the book in chronological sections alternating between baseball and football in each chosen period of time. With the addition of the stories of the two cities, I sometimes found myself wishing there was just one chronology for each team. However, with the interplay and rivalry factors, along with some of the city and cultural parallels, I think Ehrlich made the right call on organization when he had so much information to present and relationships to mine.

STREET SENSE: A detailed history of two cities and the sports teams that helped define them. Recommended for fans of sport and its impact on culture and urban "progress."

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: The Oakland Coliseum was different. In the fond words of the Raiders' Ken Stabler, it was a "little ol' bullring filled with blue-collar crazies" consisting of "everyone from bikers to longshoremen." Rather than sip cocktails, Raiders fans "drank out of the same bottle," according to one fan: "And when they were done, they threw it at somebody."

Also: "Holy Toledo!" (Because there was no one better than the great Bill King.)

COVER NERD SAYS:  I don't want to be too hard on this cover, because I don't expect a University Press to have a huge art and marketing budget and there's really nothing wrong with it. When I see it, I'm confident in what it's about. The colors, fonts and image have good interplay. The subtitle in a standout color gives it an added boost. But the book packs more punch than the cover might indicate. There's not much to separate this look from the many sports books or fantasy magazines on the shelves. It's a solid cover that lacks a little emotional oomph.
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Unfortunately I didn't like the writing style and had to DNF. For instance: In the introduction, the author starts out with Super Bowl IV and a little background of how Kansas City made it to the big game. Then, suddenly we're switching to baseball, which I like, but the sudden switch was jarring. The set up was a superficial info dump; on the two cities and it didn't make me want to read further.

The cover made me believe this was going to mainly focus on football, but it also includes the baseball rivalry.
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One of the best professional football rivalries from the 1960’s through the 1970’s was the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders.  While their rivalry was the most notorious and visible, that was certainly not the only rivalry or sports connection the two cities had.  There was a bitter history between the two cities in baseball as well and how these two sports connect with the local politics of both cities is told in this excellent book by Matthew C. Ehrlic.

While the book is geared more toward readers who prefer scholarly works, the narrative is not like that format at all - indeed, it is a quick and easy read that all readers will easily digest.  Ehrlic explains what each chapter will encompass in the introduction and there are plenty of endnotes to illustrate the extensive research he performed about not only the sports teams but the civic atmosphere in both Kansas City and in Oakland.

The coverage of the rise of the rivalry and also the fortunes of both football teams is very good, with most of the detailed passages describing games between the two teams.  Both the Chiefs and Raiders were considered to be the model franchises for the upstart American Football League and both represented the league in the first two Super Bowls, losing to the Green Bay Packers in both.  What really stood out in the chapters about these football teams was the fact that both of them had shaky beginnings in the AFL and nearly didn’t exist. Oakland was awarded a team only after Minneapolis broke its promise to the league and instead accepted an NFL expansion team (who became the Vikings) and Kansas City got the Chiefs only because Lamar Hunt had experienced poor attendance and financial difficulties in Dallas after that city was awarded an NFL expansion team, the Cowboys.  After such inauspicious debuts, it was interesting to read about how both franchises rose to success.

As for the baseball, the early connection between the two cities is more familiar as Kansas City was home to the Athletics in the American League.  In 1968, after a very acrimonious relationship between the city and A’s owner Charley Finley, the team moved to Oakland, where after the very brief honeymoon between that city and the team was over, the same type of attendance and financial problems still were present.  This was the state of the franchise even though the team won three consecutive World Series from 1972 to 1974, with players who were signed by Finley while still in Kansas City.  That city was awarded an expansion franchise in 1969 to offset the loss of the A’s and while that team, the Royals, experienced the usual growing pains associated with expansion teams, they too became a good ball club and soon were battling Oakland for the Western Division title in the American League every year. 

However, what really makes the book a fantastic read is how all four teams are connected to the civic and political issues of those times for both of the cities.  Both cities had to construct new stadiums for the teams.  In Kansas City’s case, Municipal Stadium that housed the A’s was deemed too decrepit for the new Royals franchise, while Oakland had to build a stadium for both the Raiders and A’s from scratch.  Both cities constructed new sports complexes, despite protests from city residents about using tax money that could be better spent on things such as schools.  Because these were not built in the respective cities, these were also seen as catering to the suburbs instead of the inner cities, where the population was mostly African American.  Both cities had the same types of problems addressing these issues.  The connections between them were numerous, and Ehrlich covers them all, right down to the fact that both teams were awarded NHL franchises that failed as well.  These sections were so well researched and written that this is the rare book that while the emphasis is on sports, the passages on other topics are even better reads.

One doesn’t have to be a fan of Kansas City or Oakland teams to enjoy this book.  History and sports buffs who enjoy reading about those topics from the 1960’s and 1970’s will love this book.  Highly recommended for those readers with those interests, as well as fans of those four teams.

I wish to thank University of Illinois Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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