Expansion Era  1961-1976

Expansion Era 1961-1976

An enlarged strike zone and expansion from 16 to 20, and then 20 to 24, teams gave cause for a reduction in the average offensive output - as compared to the Lively Ball and Integration Eras. In 1965, a player draft was implemented where teams would select, in reverse order of their finish in the standings, amateur talent to sign. In 1969, each league split into two divisions and then employed a season-end League Championship Series to determine their champion. In response to the shifting of dominance from offense towards pitching, in 1969, the pitcher's mound was lowered; and, 1973, the American League adopted the use of the Designated Hitter (for pitchers). Starting pitchers completed their games 26% of the time in this period.

The Major Leagues move west


Baseball had been in the West for almost as long as the National League and the American League had been around. It evolved into the Pacific Coast League, which included the Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Oaks, Portland Beavers, Sacramento Solons, San Francisco Seals, San Diego Padres, Seattle Rainiers.

The PCL was huge in the West. A member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, it kept losing great players to the National and the American leagues for less than $8,000 a player.

The PCL was far more independent than the other "minor" leagues, and rebelled continuously against their Eastern masters. Clarence Pants Rowland, the President of the PCL, took on baseball commissioners Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Happy Chandlerat first to get better equity from the major leagues, then to form a third major league. His efforts were rebuffed by both commissioners. Chandler and several of the owners, who saw the value of the markets in the West, started to plot the extermination of the PCL. They had one thing that Rowland did not: The financial power of the Eastern major league baseball establishment.

No one was going to back a PCL club building a major-league size stadium if the National or the American League was going to build one too, and potentially put the investment in the PCL ballpark into jeopardy.


Until the 1950s, major league baseball franchises had been largely confined to the northeastern United States, with the teams and their locations having remained unchanged from 1903 to 1952. The first team to relocate in fifty years was the Boston Braves, who moved in 1953 to Milwaukee, where the club set attendance records. In 1954, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and were renamed the Baltimore Orioles. In 1955, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City.

National League Baseball leaves New York

In 1958 the New York market ripped apart. The Yankees were becoming the dominant draw, and the cities of the West offered generations of new fans in much more sheltered markets for the other venerable New York clubs, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Placing these storied, powerhouse clubs in the two biggest cities in the West had the specific design of crushing any attempt by the PCL to form a third major league. Eager to bring these big names to the West, Los Angeles gave Walter O'Malley, owner of the Dodgers, a helicopter tour of the city and asked him to pick his spot. The Giants were given the lease to the PCL San Francisco Seals digs while Candlestick Park was built for them.


The logical first candidates for major league "expansion" were the same metropolitan areas that had just attracted the Dodgers and Giants. It is said that the Dodgers and Giants—National League rivals in New York City—chose their new cities because Los Angeles (insouthern California) and San Francisco (in northern California) already had a fierce rivalry (geographical, economic, cultural and political), dating back to the state's founding. The only California expansion team—and also the first in Major League Baseball in over 70 years—was the Los Angeles Angels (later the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and, as of 2005, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), who brought the American League to southern California in 1961. Northern California, however, would later gain its own American League team, in 1968, when the Athletics would move again, settling in Oakland, across San Francisco Bay from the Giants.


Along with the Angels, the other 1961 expansion team was the Washington Senators, who joined the American League and took over the nation's capital when the previous Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. 1961 is also noted as being the year in which Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth's single season home run record, hitting 61 for the New York Yankees, albeit in a slightly longer season than Ruth's. To keep pace with the American League—which now had ten teams—the National League likewise expanded to ten teams, in 1962, with the addition of the Houston Colt .45s and New York Mets.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, opened in 1966, was built in part to lure the Athletics from Kansas City.


In 1969, the American League expanded when the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots, the latter in a longtime PCL stronghold, were admitted to the league. The Pilots stayed just one season in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee and becoming today's Milwaukee Brewers. The National League also added two teams that year, the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres. The Padres were the last of the core PCL teams to be absorbed. The Coast League did not die, though. It reformed, and moved into other markets, and endures to this day as a Class AAA league.



By Tom Hannon


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