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MLB and Negro Leagues Merge: An exercise in creative alternative history

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  • MLB and Negro Leagues Merge: An exercise in creative alternative history

    Just started thinking about this some time back, about what would have happened if some of the more successful (and better organized) Negro League teams had somehow managed to become part of the National and American Leagues. Just going to post it up as a kind of time line with a few explanations as I go along, to show how it could have possibly happened. Going to be changing some bits of history as it really happened, just go along with it.

    1947: Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier and begins playing for the Dodgers.

    1950: Branch Rickey bought out by Walter O'Malley. Although offered the job of managing the Pirates, Rickey instead becomes an advisor to the Negro American League, the remaining black "major" league after the end of the Negro National League in '48 as many players were lured away by the major leagues. At his suggestion, the Homestead Grays move permanently to Washington DC and become the Washington Grays. Also at Rickey's suggestion, the renamed Negro League Baseball (NLB) also becomes integrated as the Chicago American Giants sign white players. With the demise of the NY Black Yankees and Cubans by '48, Effa Manley is persuaded to move her Eagles back to Newark from Houston, the team sometimes playing games at Dexter Park, the home of the semipro Brooklyn Bushwicks.

    NLB Teams:
    Baltimore Elite Giants
    Birmingham Black Barons
    Chicago American Giants
    Indianapolis Clowns
    Kansas City Monarchs
    Memphis Red Sox
    Newark Eagles
    Philadelphia Stars
    Washington Grays

    1952: The Pacific Coast League receives the "open" classification and thanks to Branch Rickey, this same classification is granted to the NLB. The PCL and NLB began to play interleague series' throughout the season, most of these games occuring out west. Although the league is still majority black, each of the NLB teams sees players of other ethnicities, mostly players who could be considered AAAA.

    1953: Baltimore Braves move to Milwaukee. The Washington Grays are regularly out-drawing the hapless Senators in Washington.

    1955: Philadelphia Athletics move to Kansas City. The Philadelphia Stars begin play in old Shibe Park. In Chicago, the White Sox have become the third wheel in the city as the Cubs and the Chicago Americans (the Giants moniker having been dropped) see much higher attendance.

    1958: Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Giants move to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively.

    1959: Not wanting to leave New York exclusively to the American League and needing teams quickly, the National League owners offer membership in the league to the Newark Eagles, who immediately become the Brooklyn Eagles (receiving financial support from the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper) and seeing an opportunity to claim a new market. the Washington Grays are also brought into the NL and begin play this season.

    1960: The White Sox leave their home in Chicago and head to Toronto, becoming the first major league franchise to play in Canada. The American League works out a deal with the Philadelphia Stars who move to Minnesota and begin play as the Minneapolis Stars in the AL and also add the Chicago Americans to maintain an AL presence in Chicago.

    1961: The AL sees several more moves the following season as the Washington Senators abandon the capital to the Grays and head to Dallas to begin play as the Texas Rangers, the St Louis Browns finally give up on the Midwest and with encouragement from the AL move to Los Angeles and become the LA Angels. Charlie Finley resists AL pressure to also move to the west coast and instead moves his team to Atlanta. The AL also adds two more NLB teams, the KC Monarchs and Indianapolis Clowns. In response to the AL move to Canada, the NL brings in the Birmingham Black Barons and move the team to Montreal where they become the Royales. The final piece to the puzzle is the arrival in the NL of the Elite Giants, who are now know simply as the Baltimore Elites (still pronounced e-lights).

    Both leagues adopt a two division system for the 1961 season and the two leagues look like this:

    American League East:
    Atlanta Athletics
    Boston Red Sox
    Cleveland Indians
    Detroit Tigers
    NY Yankees
    Toronto White Sox

    American League West:
    Chicago Americans
    Indianapolis Clowns
    Kansas City Monarchs
    Los Angeles Angels
    Minnesota Stars
    Texas Rangers

    National League East:
    Baltimore Elites
    Brooklyn Eagles
    Montreal Royales
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Washington Grays

    National League West:
    Chicago Cubs
    Cincinnati Reds
    LA Dodgers
    Milwaukee Braves
    St Louis Cardinals
    San Francisco Giants
    Last edited by Tadasimha; 06-29-2012, 11:17 AM.
    If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve!

  • #2
    Very interesting -- I enjoy alternate history, especially when baseball is involved.

    Your POD is in 1950, wherein Branch Rickey manages to save the NAL by reverse integration. The Negro American League fielded the following 10 teams in OTL 1950: Baltimore Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, Houston Eagles, Indianapolis Clowns, Kansas City Monarchs, Memphis Red Sox, New York Cubans, and Philadelphia Stars. In your TL, the Houston Eagles were spared and returned to Newark; the Homestead Grays were admitted to the league and moved to Washington; the Cubans folded, as did Cleveland, presumably, as it was not mentioned. I'm guessing your list of NLB teams is from the 1951 season. Unfortunately, there are 9 teams listed; a league needs an even number of teams to function properly. Memphis is listed but not mentioned later, so I'm guessing they didn't make it to 1951. In 1952, with the same lineup as in 1951 (I'm assuming), the NAL and PCL were both given the same "Open"/AAAA status as the PCL was in OTL.

    I would think that such an overt challenge to the NL and AL would result in the established majors objecting to intra-market competition. This makes the survival of the Chicago American Giants, the Grays (whether they're in Homestead/Pittsburgh or in Washington), and the Philadelphia Stars unlikely unless they relocate to an unoccupied market. Some suggestions: the American Giants themselves could move to Toronto rather than the White Sox and call themselves the Blues; the Stars could head to Minnesota (as you have them do) and go by the North Stars; and the Grays could move to Dallas. The Eagles might be better off staying in Houston, since the three New York area teams will oppose competition from a Newark team.

    The Barons may be fine in Birmingham at least for a while, but it's a relatively small market and they would likely benefit from a relocation. Rather than going to Montreal, perhaps the vacancy created when the Dodgers and Giants migrate west could allow for a Brooklyn Barons in 1959. If your intent is not to have NLB teams evicted from markets by later MLB moves (as happened to the PCL in OTL), the A's are unlikely to move to KC with the Monarchs already there, so perhaps they'd skip that step and just go straight to Atlanta. When the Browns shift to LA, it would be good for travel purposes if another AL team was on the Pacific coast with them, so rather than moving the Senators to Dallas (already occupied by the Grays here), they could move to Seattle.

    So here are my suggestions in list form:

    National League

    1951-52: Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
    1953-57: Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Braves, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
    1958: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
    1959-60: Baltimore Elites, Brooklyn Barons, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
    1961 East: Baltimore Elites, Brooklyn Barons, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates
    1961 West: Chicago Cubs, Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals

    American League

    1951-54: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators
    1955-59: Atlanta Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators
    1960: Atlanta Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota North Stars, New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Toronto Blues, Washington Senators
    1961 East: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Indianapolis Clowns, New York Yankees, Toronto Blues
    1961 West: Atlanta Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Monarchs, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota North Stars, Seattle Pilots

    Negro American League

    1951: Baltimore Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants, Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Indianapolis Clowns, Kansas City Monarchs, Philadelphia Stars
    1952-58: Baltimore Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Indianapolis Clowns, Kansas City Monarchs, Minnesota North Stars, Toronto Blues
    1959: Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Indianapolis Clowns, Kansas City Monarchs, Minnesota North Stars, Toronto Blues
    1960: Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Indianapolis Clowns, Kansas City Monarchs

    Note how the 8 former Negro League teams are evenly distributed amongst the major league teams in 1961, with 2 in each division.

    So what do you think?
    *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

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    • #3
      I think the Cubs should have to leave for Toronto because in the 1950's and 60's the Whitesox had more fans.
      "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

      "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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      • #4
        I think Branch Rickey would have been an extremely poor choice for an advisor. He had a bad reputation among players (even black players) and I doubt if any Negro League owners would have been willing to work with him, since Rickey didn't honor Negro League contracts when he signed Negro Leaugers.

        In 1950, I think Bill Veeck or Ape Saperstein would have been better choices for advisor.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by EdTarbusz View Post
          I think Branch Rickey would have been an extremely poor choice for an advisor. He had a bad reputation among players (even black players) and I doubt if any Negro League owners would have been willing to work with him, since Rickey didn't honor Negro League contracts when he signed Negro Leaugers.

          In 1950, I think Bill Veeck or Ape Saperstein would have been better choices for advisor.
          The thing is that NOBODY honored Negro League contracts...look at how many times Satchel Paige walked away from a contract to sign a new one with an owner who knew exactly what was happening, only to have Satch move on shortly afterwards into the arms of another willing co-conspirator. Teams were constantly raiding each other and players bounced around like ping pong balls. After Rube Foster, there was never a strong central figure to try to force the teams to cooperate and honor each other's deals. Rickey took advantage of that, but he was hardly the only one (black or white).
          "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Dude Paskert View Post
            The thing is that NOBODY honored Negro League contracts...look at how many times Satchel Paige walked away from a contract to sign a new one with an owner who knew exactly what was happening, only to have Satch move on shortly afterwards into the arms of another willing co-conspirator. Teams were constantly raiding each other and players bounced around like ping pong balls. After Rube Foster, there was never a strong central figure to try to force the teams to cooperate and honor each other's deals. Rickey took advantage of that, but he was hardly the only one (black or white).
            Among Major League owners Bill Veeck and Horace Stoneham are at least two that honored Negro League contracts and paid for the players that they signed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by DJC View Post
              1961 East: Baltimore Elites, Brooklyn Barons, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates
              1961 West: Chicago Cubs, Dallas Grays, Houston Eagles, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
              I think that having Milwaukee and Chicago in separate divisions does not take advantage of the natural rivalry that results from their proximity. I know that the Cardinals are a bigger rival for the Cubs, so that eliminates St. Louis as a choice for the East. I could more easily see Houston or Dallas in the AL West, Atlanta in the AL East, Toronto in the NL East, and Milwaukee in the NL West.

              That's just my two cents. Given that Chicago and St. Louis were in the NL East for years while Atlanta and Cincinnati were in the NL West, it is clear that geography wasn't always the deciding factor, but I would expect that MLB would want to maximize the number of games played between two teams located very close together.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by RUKen View Post
                I think that having Milwaukee and Chicago in separate divisions does not take advantage of the natural rivalry that results from their proximity. I know that the Cardinals are a bigger rival for the Cubs, so that eliminates St. Louis as a choice for the East. I could more easily see Houston or Dallas in the AL West, Atlanta in the AL East, Toronto in the NL East, and Milwaukee in the NL West.

                That's just my two cents. Given that Chicago and St. Louis were in the NL East for years while Atlanta and Cincinnati were in the NL West, it is clear that geography wasn't always the deciding factor, but I would expect that MLB would want to maximize the number of games played between two teams located very close together.
                That could work too. I was mainly trying to engineer it so that 2 former NAL teams were in each division, which couldn't happen if 5 of the 8 existing National League teams were in the NL West.
                *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

                Comment

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