A onetime fixture of Philadelphia sports culture has faded into a distant memory, and the historical society trying to keep that memory alive is fighting for its life. The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society, the Hatboro museum dedicated to remembering the Philadelphia A’s, is on thin ice financially.
Ernie Montella started the society in 1996, as an ode to the most successful sports franchise in Philadelphia history. The A’s won 5 World Series championships between 1901 and 1954, when the team moved to Kansas City.
“When we opened this gift shop up and founded the society, there were 120 former teammates of Connie Mack’s Athletics,” Montella said. “Today there are less than 40 still living. Now, a majority of those players would come around to the museum here and hold autograph sessions or just visit with us, and that would draw people into the store.”
One living former A, All-Star first baseman Eddie Robinson, will hold a book signing at the Historical Society in late May or early June.
Montella says just like thousands of other area businesses, the economy has taken its toll.
“Our gift shop supports this building, and the sales have been down for the last year,” said Montella. “It’s the walk-in traffic that has went downhill. That’s strictly because of the economy. People are not buying like they used to buy when we first opened this place up.”
Montella says there’s a possibility that the museum could relocate to the Atwater Kent Museum in Center City, which is currently undergoing a $5.3 million renovation. But he says he and the staff would prefer to stay in Hatboro.
Younger fans have begun to galvanize support on Facebook. One society member, Andrew Dixon, started a Facebook group called “Save the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society.” Another Facebook group, “Bring your A’s Game,” is trying to gain support for bringing the team back to Philadelphia. While Montella says he appreciates the support he’s getting online, it’s not translating into the financial help that could keep the society afloat.