Major League Baseball relocation of 1950s–1960s

Major League Baseball relocation of 1950s–1960s

The Major League Baseball relocation of 1950s-1960s is the move of several Major League Baseball franchises to the Western and Southern United States. This was in stark contrast to the early years of modern baseball, when the American League intentionally put teams in National League cities to compete directly with those teams. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis were two-team towns, while New York City had three. This effectively had baseball confined to the Northeast and Midwestern United States, with no teams west of St. Louis and no teams south of Washington, D. C.

The moves, though controversial in some circles, brought new prosperity to the game of baseball. As of 2010 Chicago remains as the only market with two pre-expansion era teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, though the White Sox have come close to relocating on several occasions.


Early history

During the early years of the American League as a major league, the league placed franchises in cities that were either in direct competition with National League teams (New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis) or in markets abandoned by the Senior Circuit after the 1899 contraction (Cleveland, Washington, D. C., and briefly Baltimore). Only Detroit, home of the Detroit Tigers, was a true "new" baseball market for the American League, although the National League had previously hosted the Detroit Wolverines between 1881 and 1888.

In these early years, only two National League markets did not have an American League counterpart: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. It is unknown why a second team was not placed in Cincinnati to compete with the Cincinnati Reds, though there was a reasoning behind Pittsburgh not getting an American League team. The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of baseball's dominant teams early in the 20th century, and as part of the National Agreement in 1903, the Junior Circuit agreed not to place a team in Pittsburgh.

After the relocation of the original Baltimore Orioles to New York in 1903 where they ultimately became the New York Yankees, no major league team would relocate for 50 years. The set-up was also reflective of the population at the time, as most of the major population areas were in the Northeast and Midwestern United States in the aftermath of Reconstruction and later the Great Migration.

Beginning of the moves

Over the years, though, it became apparent that one team would be more popular than the other in a given market. In Boston, despite the Boston Braves having been established much longer in the city and arguably being the oldest continuing professional sports franchise in North America, the Boston Red Sox were by far the more popular team at the gate and with fans. In addition, the Red Sox were largely successful on the field (except in the immediate years after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees) while the Braves were an also-ran and often in the second division of the National League. In stark contrast, the National League was able to hang on to St. Louis, where the St. Louis Cardinals were more successful than the St. Louis Browns.

One oddity would be Philadelphia, where the American League's Philadelphia Athletics were by far the more popular team in the city, led by longtime manager Connie Mack, as the Philadelphia Phillies were mostly losing during this period. However, with the Phillies enjoying rare success in 1950 at the hands of the Whiz Kids, the tables instantly turned on the Athletics. Still, the Phillies would not win a World Series until 1980, the last of the "original 16" teams to win a series and 25 years after the A's left town, during which it would win three more World Series championships before the Phillies broke through.

In New York City, the Yankees had long passed the New York Giants in popularity, though the Giants remained popular and the Brooklyn Dodgers were gaining popularity as well.

Chicago would see the Cubs as the more popular team over the White Sox despite the constant losing by both and the Curse of the Billy Goat inflicting the Cubs[dubious ]. This can likely be attributed to the after effects of the Black Sox Scandal still apparent on the White Sox, who on several occasions nearly moved.

The moves

The first shot would be fired by the Braves in 1953, when the team moved to Milwaukee, home of their top farm team, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Braves enjoyed immediate success in their brief time in Milwaukee.

Other owners took notice, and combined with the post-World War II population shifts south and west, began their relocation threats as well. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore for 1954, becoming the Baltimore Orioles. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City for 1955, briefly displacing the Cardinals as the westernmost town in the majors. Save for some controversy with the Athletics, these moves were not controversial, as these were three of the least successful teams in the majors, although the Browns and Braves had both won league championships in the mid-1940s.

The exit of the National League from New York City

Dodger Stadium in 2007

Baseball experts consider Walter O'Malley to be "perhaps the most influential owner of baseball's early expansion era."[1] Following the 1957 Major League Baseball season, he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles.[2] O'Malley was also influential in persuading the rival New York Giants to move west, to become the San Francisco Giants. He needed another team to go with him, for had he moved out west alone, the St. Louis Cardinals—1,600 mi (2,575 km) away—[3][4] would have been the closest National League team. The joint move would make West Coast road trips economical for visiting teams.[5] O'Malley invited San Francisco Mayor George Christopher to New York to meet with Giants owner Horace Stoneham.[5] Stoneham was considering moving the Giants to Minnesota,[6] but he was convinced to join O'Malley on the West Coast at the end of the 1957 campaign. Since the meetings occurred during the 1957 season and against the wishes of Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick, there was media gamesmanship.[7] When O'Malley moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn, the story transcended the world of sport and he found himself on the cover of Time magazine.[8] The cover art for the issue was created by sports cartoonist Willard Mullin,[9] long noted for his caricature of the "Brooklyn Bum" that personified the team. The dual moves broke the hearts of New York's National League fans but ultimately were successful for both franchises—and for Major League Baseball.[2] The move was an immediate success as well, because the Dodgers set a major-league, single-game attendance record in their first home appearance with 78,672 fans.[5]

The moves received considerable controversy: the loss of the Dodgers was especially painful because the team was one of the last vestiges of Brooklyn's status as a city in its own right prior to 1898. Though New York still had the Yankees in the American League, the loss of a National League team in the nation's largest market drew the ire of National League fans to the point that the New York Mets were eventually added as an expansion team for 1961. Ironically, the Yankees' attendance actually declined slightly in the years immediately following the Dodgers' and Giants' departure.

Subsequent moves

Both the Braves and Athletics did not stay in their locations for very long. The Braves, despite success in Milwaukee, moved to Atlanta in 1966 while the Athletics set up shop in Oakland for 1968. Both markets would eventually get replacement teams in the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals, respectively. The Braves would not have consistent success in Atlanta until the 1990s, while the A's were successful during several periods thereafter.

Aside from the Brewers moving to Milwaukee after one year as the Seattle Pilots, the other relocations since have involved Washington, D. C. The original Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities region in 1961 to become the Minnesota Twins, and the expansion Senators that replaced them moved to Arlington, Texas (in the Dallas-Fort Worth region) in 1972 to became the Texas Rangers. Several relocation threats would be made by the Giants, White Sox, and Pirates (in the latter's case, as a result of the Pittsburgh drug trials); however, none would happen, and all three markets to which these teams threatened to move (Toronto, Denver, and the Tampa Bay Area) would later receive expansion teams of their own.

There were no more moves until 2005, when MLB moved the Montreal Expos to the American capital and became the Washington Nationals. The President of the United States at the time, George W. Bush, formerly owned the franchise which had abandoned Washington, D.C. 33 years earlier; however he bought his piece of the Texas Rangers club long after it moved to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Montreal is the only city which has lost a major league franchise since 1901 without eventually getting another team. This is not counting the short-lived Federal League of 1914 and 1915; however, all Federal League markets save two — Buffalo and Indianapolis — either had a franchise in of one the two established leagues at the time or got one later.

See also


  1. ^ "Veterans elect five into Hall of Fame: Two managers, three executives comprise Class of 2008". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.. 2007-12-03. Archived from the original on 2007-12-04. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  2. ^ a b Murphy, Robert (2009). After many a summer: the passing of the Giants and Dodgers and a golden age in New York baseball. New York: Sterling. ISBN 9781402760686. 
  3. ^ "Worldwide Timetable" (PDF). American Airlines. 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  4. ^ "Identifying Locations". Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  5. ^ a b c "Walter in Wonderland". Time (Time, Inc.). 1958-04-28.,9171,868429,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  6. ^ "Metropolitan Stadium / Minnesota Twins / 1961–1981". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  7. ^ "Scoreboard". Time. Time, Inc.. 1957-05-20.,9171,809519,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  8. ^ "Walter O'Malley". Time. Time, Inc.. 1958-04-28.,16641,19580428,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  9. ^ "Sporting Cartoons". Time. Time, Inc.. 1958-08-25.,9171,868739,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 

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