Cities after MLB clubs … and they failed

Expanding MLB teams is always a tempting topic, because it allows us to dream of new possibilities. New stadiums, new nicknames, new logos, new rivalries. Baseball folks often chat about which cities would fit in as headquarters for a Major League Baseball club, whether it’s the return of the best baseball in the world to Montreal or a new franchise in Las Vegas, Nashville, San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland, Vancouver or in any other city that people imagine.

Indeed, for as long as MLB has existed, there have been entities interested in bringing a Major League Baseball club to new venues. The current 30-team format includes the histories of the venues that have survived.

Just a few examples: Seattle received and lost an expansion franchise in 1969, but then received another expansion opportunity in 1977. Milwaukee lost the Brewers and Braves, but got the Brewers back after taking the original franchise from Seattle. The Rays struggled big, but in the end they brought baseball to Tampa Bay. And the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex was turned down in several bids by an expansion team, before the Washington Senators moved there to become the Rangers prior to the 1972 campaign.

But what happened to the cities that haven’t been able to have a Major League Baseball franchise?

Next, a group of venues that came to be strongly considered but were ultimately left empty-handed.

Louisville, Kentucky
Many of you know that the Athletics moved from Kansas City to Oakland prior to the 1968 season. But what you may not know is that there were other potential relocation venues for the team that preceded that change of residence.

Frustrated with the lease of the Kansas City Municipal Stadium, owned by the same city, A’s owner Charlie Finley set out in search of potential venues to relocate. A bid to move to Dallas was scrapped by the other owners of the American League teams in 1962. There was also talk of a possible move to Seattle or Milwaukee. Finley even fantasized about the possibility (completely absurd and unlikely) of moving the team to the small town of Peculiar, Missouri, located about 45 minutes south of Kansas City, and erecting temporary bleachers in a pasture.

More serious was the idea of ​​moving the Athletics to the state of Kentucky.

Finley met with Louisville Mayor William Cowger and Kentucky Governor Edward Breathitt and announced that he had signed a two-year rental agreement for his team to use Fairgrounds Stadium as their home. Again, the owners of the American League clubs rejected the proposal. When Finley floated the idea of ​​signing a 20-year agreement with the city of Oakland to move the team to a stadium that was yet to be built, the owners scrapped it too, threatening to kick Finley out of the league if he didn’t accept what he was for. they was a fair rental extension proposal from Kansas City.

In the end, Finley had to give in and sign the four-year contract, but after it expired in 1967, the league and the owners finally let him pack up and move to Oakland. Too bad! But the house where the famous Louisville Slugger bats are made has been home to several Negro League teams, as well as the minor league team, Colonels. The minor league franchise now known as the Louisville Bats has been in operation since 1982.

Buffalo, New York
Buffalo came to have an MLB team – on loan – when the Blue Jays combined to play 49 “home” games at Sahlen Field, home to their Triple-A Bisons affiliate (which have been around since 1979), in the seasons altered by the 2020 and 2021 pandemic. But this city had already had a National League franchise – the original Bisons – from 1879 to 1885, another variant of the Bisons in the American League in 1900 (before it was became the Major League the following year), as well as the BufFeds and Blues in 1914-15 in the Federal League (which is recognized as the Major League).

And the War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo was used as the headquarters of the fictional “New York Knights” or “New York Knights” in the filming of the movie “El Natural”, which has to count for something.

But various efforts to land a Buffalo-based American League or NL franchise in the modern era have failed. As detailed in this article on the Padres’ volatile early years, Buffalo initially had the support of National League owners to host one of two expansion franchises in 1969, but some last-minute politicking and pressure deflected that. I vote for San Diego.

In the mid-1980s, Buffalo built Sahlen Field (originally known as Pilot Field) with Major League Baseball facilities in hopes of securing an MLB franchise, but missed an opportunity for expansion, which was instead won by Denver (Rockies). and Miami (Marlins) for the 1993 season and Arizona (D-backs) and St. Petersburg (Rays) for the 1998 season.

Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis has a rich baseball tradition that began in the 1870s, when the Indianapolis Blues became a National League franchise. The Indianapolis Indians (now the Pirates’ Triple-A team) debuted as an American Association franchise in 1902. Indianapolis also had a Negro Leagues franchise – the Clowns (Clowns) – which was established in the 1930s. and it was the last Negro Leagues team disbanded in the 1980s.

In 1985, a group of local Indianapolis investors were so hopeful of landing a major league team, whether via relocation (the Pirates and Athletics were for sale) or expansion, that they held a press conference to announce the name. of the team. The NFL Colts had just moved to Indianapolis the previous year and there was enough fan interest to secure deposits for 12,000 season tickets.

But the Indianapolis Arrows, as they might have been called, never took off. It was determined that repurposing the Hoosier Dome for baseball would be too difficult a challenge and generating the funds for new facilities would be impossible. The proximity of cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago also provoked resistance from the owners of those teams.

It was not the first time that the city of Indianapolis was rejected as a headquarters. Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Buffalo all had teams in the American League in 1900, which at the time was a minor league circuit. Each of those clubs was eliminated when the circuit was reorganized as part of the Major Leagues in 1901. Kansas City and Minneapolis eventually returned to the American League, but this was unfortunately not the case for Indianapolis or Buffalo.

Arlington, Virginia
In the years before the Expos moved to Washington DC and became the Nationals, there was a serious – and almost successful – effort to establish a major league team across the river from the American capital.

Representatives from Northern Virginia made a proposal to the MLB high command in 1990, proposing locations in Pentagon City. Instead, the league went ahead with expansion teams in Miami and Denver in 1993, but Virginia left some good pressure. When the expansion conversation resumed in 1995, Arlington was among four finalists for two new teams, but Phoenix and St. Petersburg ended up prevailing.

When MLB took control of the Expos and looked for options to relocate them, Arlington made another bid, proposing a stadium along the Potomac River with views of the capital. The plan was supported by Arlington County Board President Charles P. Monroe. But Monroe died suddenly of an aneurysm in early 2003, so the Board took a different tack and Washington, DC, got the Expos.

Orlando, Florida
Like Arlington, the city of Orlando was scrapped for an expansion team in 1998. Although the final decision was made in March 1995, everything seemed to be against Orlando. There was no way Central Florida would become two franchises; Tampa Bay entities had made six attempts over 18 years to buy a team and move it to St. Petersburg, including the San Francisco Giants, a transaction that Major League Baseball owners rejected in 1992.

Therefore, the owners possibly felt they owed Tampa Bay a team, so it was given priority.

At the end of 2019, the co-founder of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, Pat Williams, held a press conference announcing his intention to create a Major League Baseball team called the “Dreamers” (Dreamers), but for now that remains a dream.

New Orleans, Louisiana
The Rays’ recent proposal to split their home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal is unusual, but not unprecedented.

In 1971, Cleveland owner Vernon Stouffer was short on cash and arranged for the Indians to play 30 games a season for 25 years in New Orleans. Entrepreneur David Dixon had raised funds for the Superdome in an attempt to attract an NFL franchise to New Orleans, but it was designed to serve baseball and basketball as well.

Dixon and Stouffer communicated their idea to American League President Joe Cronin and the other owners, but it was not approved.

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