On November 17, 1892, the American Association (then considered a major
Four of its members were bought out by the existing National League (for
the then princely sum of $130,000). The other four -- St. Louis,
Louisville, Washington and Baltimore joined the National League, in
what was then called the "Big League". That, in fact, is the origin of
that term. Incidentally, one of those four -- St. Louis -- is still a
member of the National League. In 1900, when the NL decided to contract
back to eight clubs, two of the others -- Washington and Baltimore, along
with a Cleveland club, were bought out, and the Louisville club had the
bulk of its players transferred to Pittsburgh, then co-owned by Barney
Dreyfuss, at which time it folded, leaving the eight-team National
League, which remained unchanged from that date until 1953, when the
Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee.
Until this month, that was the last time any major league team switched
For about two months in 1997, major league baseball was threatened with
what some termed "Radical Realignment". It would have eliminated
American League ball from the West Coast, and the NL from the East.
Fifteen clubs would have switched leagues, based almost solely on a poll
which insisted that this is what baseball fans wanted. It was decried
from all sensible quarters. Fortunately, most of the owners listened.
Coincidentally, as in 1953, the city of Milwaukee is at the center of
the maelstrom. In 1998, the Milwaukee Brewers, 28 seasons (29 if you
include their year as the Seattle Pilots) a member of the American
League, will compete in the National League Central Division, with the
Detroit Tigers taking Milwaukee's place in the AL Central, and the
expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays assuming Detroit's place in the AL East.
This will result in the NL having 16 teams and the AL 14, easier for
scheduling purposes, with the AL having two divisions of five and one of
four, and the NL two divisions of five and one of six.
From an historical perspective, this is actually somewhat satisfying.
Milwaukee was an NL city from 1953 to 1965, with two NL pennants and one
World Championship. Its citizens, before major league baseball came,
rooted primarily for the Cubs more than any other major league team. It
has always seemed more "NL" than "AL", if any city can "seem" that way.
This three-team "realignment" does not destroy traditional rivalries;
only does minor damage to league records, and in fact adds to the
colorful history of the game.
So do we, the real baseball fans, win?
Bud Selig has gone on record as saying this is only the beginning of
I say, why?
This realignment should alleviate the scheduling problems which were
given as the prime reason for all this in the first place; and if you
start "realigning" every year, or every few years when there's an
expansion, where does historical continuity go? Do the Braves win the NL
East one year, then the AL East, then some division named, oh, the Aaron
Division? Where does it stop?
Bud Selig, for one, should be thrilled. He was crushed when the Braves
left Milwaukee, and he spent the next five years trying to get major
league baseball to return, succeeding in purchasing the Pilots only days
before the 1970 season started. (True story: at the end of spring
training 1970, the drivers of the trucks containing the Pilots' gear
were told to drive from Arizona to Salt Lake City, there to wait for
instructions on whether to continue to Seattle or Milwaukee.) Bud's got
two new built-in divisional rivals in the Cubs and Cardinals. Truth be
told, this move should put about $3 million extra in Bud's pocket,
assuming that the Brewers' average crowd of 20,000 swells to 40,000 or
so for the twelve home dates with the Cubs and Cardinals. The suspicion
here is that this is the real reason behind all the realignment hoopla.
If so, that's sad, but not surprising, given all the damage that Bud and
his merry men have done to the game in the 1990's.
It's time to stop. This realignment is a good one, livable from every
standpoint, even creates more interest in what will happen in 1998. But
let it end here.
And do NOT even get me started about Bud's ill-advised rush to contract a
couple of teams, especially when a qualified minority owner is willing and
able to buy the Twins.
I hope the Twins win the AL championship in 2002. Would serve Bud right.
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