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  • A Successful Continental League?

    Suppose the NL and AL initially opt not to expand and the Continental League actually gets off the ground in 1961 as planned. CL teams would (theoretically) have been located in Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, and Toronto. How do the NL and AL respond after that? (Let's assume that there is enough major league talent to go around for all 3 circuits.) I imagine there might be a belated scramble for expansion sites, but there aren't many immediately available.

    Claimed by CL
    Atlanta: Ponce de Leon Park (20,000); Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (52,007 -- opened 1965)
    Buffalo: War Memorial Stadium (46,500)
    Dallas: Burnett Field (10,500); Turnpike Stadium (10,500 -- opened 1965, designed to be expandable to 50,000)
    Denver: Mile High Stadium (34,657)
    Houston: Buffalo Stadium (14,000); Colt Stadium (33,000 -- opened 1962); Astrodome (54,816 -- opened 1965)
    Minneapolis (Bloomington): Metropolitan Stadium (30,637 -- expanded to 40,000 in 1964)
    New York: Polo Grounds (55,000)
    Toronto: Maple Leaf Stadium (13,000)

    Other potential sites
    Indianapolis: Bush Stadium (13,254)
    Los Angeles: Wrigley Field (20,457); (Anaheim) Anaheim Stadium (43,250 -- opened 1966)
    Louisville: Fairgrounds Stadium (19,901?)
    Miami: Miami Stadium (13,000)
    Montreal: Delorimier Stadium (20,000)
    New Orleans: Tad Gormley Stadium (26,500)
    Portland: Multnomah Stadium (17,000)
    San Diego: Westgate Park (8,268 -- planned to be expandable to 40,000); San Diego Stadium (67,544 -- opened Aug 1967)
    Seattle: Sick's Stadium (11,000)

    Not yet available
    Oakland: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (35,067 -- opened 1966)

    The AL could feasibly expand into LA, as they did in reality. As for the second team, while they didn't actually do this, it would make sense to place it on the Pacific Coast to ease the burden of travel for the league. So if Westgate Park is indeed expandable, I could see the Padres joining the AL. The largest available stadiums for the NL would then be in Montreal and New Orleans, so perhaps they'd expand there. The existing stadiums would likely be holdovers until larger parks could be built. (The CL Toronto team would need a bigger stadium too.) Thus, by 1963, MLB looks like this:

    NL (10): Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, Montreal Royals, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
    AL (10): Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Washington Senators
    CL (8): Atlanta Flames, Buffalo Bisons, Denver Bears, Houston Stars, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blues

    It's quite possible that the NL and AL would seek to absorb the CL (assuming the new league is successful) within a few years of its inception -- let's say 1965. With 28 teams, both leagues would presumably split their teams into two 7-team divisions. The Mets would likely go to the NL, but the other CL teams could go to either of the two established circuits. The NL is light on eastern teams, so I could see Buffalo and Toronto joining the NL East along with the Mets. This fills up the NL East with 7 teams, so Atlanta goes to the AL East. The NL West has 6 teams already, so they can only take one of the remaining 4 CL teams. It might be best to keep the Texas teams together, so they go to the AL West. This leaves Minnesota and Denver. The Bears can go to the NL to act as a bridge between the Midwest and Pacific teams, which means the Twins go to the AL.

    By 1965, here's what we've got:

    NL East: Buffalo Bisons, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Royals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blues
    NL West: Chicago Cubs, Denver Bears, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, New Orleans Pelicans, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
    AL East: Atlanta Flames, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Washington Senators
    AL West: California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Kansas City Athletics, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers

    I expect that it will be a while before any more expansion takes place. New locations such as Miami, Oakland, and Seattle may be first colonized by relocated teams like the A's or Senators. (The Athletics might just end up in Oakland as in reality.) This in turn may eventually lead to expansion, even if it's only for backfilling unhappy vacated cities.

    Here's my idea of what the majors look like in 1977 or so, when the next expansion takes place. The A's moved to Oakland in 1968 and the Senators -- the original ones -- went to Seattle in 1972 (which bumped the White Sox to the AL East). New KC and DC teams have been added to placate fans in those locations. With 30 teams, I envision a realignment which looks somewhat similar to that of 1998 in reality:

    NL East: Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Royals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates
    NL Central: Buffalo Bisons, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blues
    NL West: Denver Bears, Los Angeles Dodgers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Francisco Giants
    AL East: Atlanta Flames, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Senators
    AL Central: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Cyclones, Minnesota Twins
    AL West: California Angels, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Seattle Pilots, Texas Rangers

    In 1985, the Buffalo Bisons headed south to Tampa Bay, as the former is shrinking and the latter growing. Another round of expansion in 1993ish leads to another realignment. With 32 teams, each league can divide up its teams into 4 divisions of 4. The new teams are in Miami and Phoenix. Oakland seeks greener pastures by moving to Portland in 2001.

    Here's what the league looks like in the present day:

    NL East: Montreal Royals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates
    NL North: Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blues
    NL South: Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, New Orleans Pelicans, Tampa Bay Bisons
    NL West: Denver Bears, Los Angeles Dodgers, Phoenix Firebirds, San Francisco Giants
    AL East: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Senators
    AL North: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins
    AL South: Atlanta Flames, Houston Astros, Kansas City Cyclones, Texas Rangers
    AL West: California Angels, Portland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Seattle Pilots

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

  • #2
    No interest? It seems "what if" scenarios don't get much attention around here. A shame.
    *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

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    • #3
      Wow! That is a lot of work you put into coming up with all that! Looks quite impressive. I wouldn't no where to begin in picking some of those names you have there! Tampa Bay Bisons, do they have a team down there called the Bisons because I can't imagine too many of the big animals grazing around in Florida. Maybe, I really don't know. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!
      "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Herr28 View Post
        Wow! That is a lot of work you put into coming up with all that! Looks quite impressive. I wouldn't no where to begin in picking some of those names you have there! Tampa Bay Bisons, do they have a team down there called the Bisons because I can't imagine too many of the big animals grazing around in Florida. Maybe, I really don't know. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!
        Thanks. They were the Buffalo Bisons, and when they moved to TB, they kept the name. Most of the names for the CL teams and later expansion teams are historical (Montreal Royals, Buffalo Bisons, Denver Bears, Phoenix Firebirds, New Orleans Pelicans, etc.), but some I just made up.
        *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

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        • #5
          Sorry it took so long for me to reply, I just joined(specifically so I could comment on this thread) and there was a delay in getting my account activated.

          Anyway, I actually stumbled upon this thread because I was doing some research for a "what if?" scenario of my own. The information you provided, specifically regarding the stadiums that were available, was extremely helpful. Before I get to what I think would've happened, I want to say this. My first reaction to your thread title was the thought that when you say a Successful Continental League, "successful" can have a wide range of definitions. To me, there's three different levels of "success" in this context:

          1.The AL example. They were able to start up, put themselves on equal footing with the NL, and remain completely independent for almost a century, other than all-star games and the World Series. This was the CL's stated goal - acceptance within the existing structure of organized baseball.
          2.The AFL example. They had themselves nearly at the level of the NFL, but not quite. (A lot of people believe they would have gone the AL/NL separate leagues route if Al Davis had been allowed to continue his war.) They were able to force a full merger, with all teams joining in their current state, and in some ways maintained their own identity.
          3.The WHA/ABA example. At their heights, they looked like the AFL, but they weren't able to merge at their peak and things really came apart before they were ultimately forced to merge at very favorable terms for the other party. In each case, only four of the six teams joined their respective rivals, and they were really treated more like expansion teams than merged teams from another league.

          (Honestly, there's probably a level between the AFL and WHA/ABA, but it hasn't happened in North American sports to my knowledge.)

          Anyway, here are some thoughts on what you laid out:

          1.I agree that the AL and NL would've expanded, and that the AL would've gone out to the west coast - probably with two teams. Obviously the Los Angeles Angels would be one, but I think the other would in Oakland (Oaks?) rather than San Diego. It's true that Oakland's stadium wasn't ready until 1966, but I've found that it was originally planned to be ready by 1964 - I think that the promise of an MLB team could have prevented the delays that took place. Also, I've read that the AL was in contact with Oakland regarding a possible expansion team throughout the 60's, and at one point the AL president apparently even told officials that they should model their stadium after Dodger Stadium.

          2.I think the NL still would've put a team in New York. With the Mets moving to Shea Stadium in 1964, the new NL team could've played in the Polo Grounds until their own new park opened. Their second expansion team could've gone to Montreal, if MLB decided they wanted a presence in Canada with the CL in Toronto, or maybe they put a third team on the west coast in San Diego. It's also possible that, much like real life, the Washington Senators would've relocated to any of these cities and been replaced by an expansion team. In fact, in my scenario, I had the Senators moving to San Diego and Washington getting an NL expansion team. I think it makes more sense for the beltway teams to be in separate leagues, like they are today, than both in the AL like they were back then.

          I think this round of expansion would've taken place in 1964, so for that year I have the mostly the same setup as you do, just with Oakland instead of San Diego in the AL, New York instead of New Orleans in the NL, and the Senators moving to San Diego with an NL expansion team replacing them.

          Now comes the fun part. The CL/MLB merger. I agree that a successful CL likely gets absorbed into the current infrastructure, rather than maintaining their own identity, if for no other reason than it's impossible to have a three team World Series. But I saw it taking significantly longer than you did - I think it would happen closer to 1970, perhaps 1969. And while it's possible they accept all eight teams, I think it's worth considering the possibility they only take six or even four. Obviously which teams join would completely depend on how successful they are on the field(and, thus, at the gate), which is impossible to predict, but given the market sizes at the time I think Buffalo and Denver would be the most likely to be left out in the cold. Toronto also would've been in trouble if they couldn't get a new stadium, and perhaps MLB decides they don't need three teams in New York - maybe at the insistence of the Yankees and the new NL team there - and they don't make it either. When the Federal League was disbanded, two of that league's owners were allowed to buy existing MLB teams, and that could have happened with the Continental League - especially William Shea, who may have bought the NL's New York expansion team and put them in Shea Stadium as part of the merger.

          So I had Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Minnesota joining MLB from the CL in 1969. At that point, each league splits into two six team divisions, closely mirroring real life. I put Dallas and Atlanta in the AL, Houston and Minnesota in the NL. Meaning the divisions look something like this:

          AL East(6): Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, New York
          AL West(6): Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego
          NL East(6): Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
          NL West(6): Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minnesota, St.Louis, San Francisco

          From there, I didn't give this as much thought, but I think it plays out close to reality. The AL expands in 1976, adding Seattle and Montreal - or replaces teams that relocated to those cities, such as Kansas City and Milwaukee. The NL adds Toronto and Florida in the early 90's, followed by expansion teams in Arizona and Tampa Bay that causes an AL team to move to the NL(perhaps the expansion team in Milwaukee that replaced the Braves) so there's an even number of teams in both leagues. The new Washington team moves to Toronto sometime in the 80's, before Montreal moves to Washington in the 00's.

          I love "what if?" scenarios, and this one was a lot of fun. For some reason, mine answers tend to end up mirroring real life in the long run, but it was fun to read one that was pretty different. And I definitely think yours is plausible, if the CL really was a rousing success and all 8 teams managed to survive. That probably would have ultimately lead to a 32 team MLB, which would be fascinating. Especially if that meant New York had three teams again, which I think would have happened. Even if one of them ultimately moves out to New Jersey at some point, that could've had a sizable impact on the Yankees and especially the Mets, particularly their spending in the early 2000's.

          Sorry for such a long post, but like I said I love "what if?" scenarios...plus I've had almost a week to think about what I was going to post when I was finally allowed to.

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          • #6
            Glad to see a fellow AH fan. That's a good point about the levels of success. My thought was that merely getting off the ground would have amounted to success for the Continental League. I didn't know exactly what the CL's plan would be had they actually started play, beyond that they were looking to complement rather than challenge the established majors. I don't see how the CL as conceived could have been viewed as anything but a challenge from the perspective of the AL and NL.

            Oakland may have been more viable than San Diego for the AL -- I didn't realize the Coliseum could have been ready that much earlier. I had a whole paragraph on how things might have gone down in New York, but I don't know where it went. I was thinking that the relatively poor condition of the Polo Grounds and the prospect of merely absorbing the CL New York team in the imminent future would have given the NL pause with regard to recolonizing New York. But they could have bullied their way back into the Big Apple like you describe. In that case, a merger between the NL and CL teams would be the likeliest outcome. The absorption of the CL by the NL and AL could have taken longer to occur than in my TL. I just thought the competition for expansion sites would drive the stakeholders to the bargaining table fairly quickly. And it's quite possible that the CL merger would have been only a partial one, like you describe. I agree that the four CL teams that survive in your TL are the likeliest to survive such a merger.

            So if I read you right, your modern day MLB would look something like this?

            AL East: Baltimore, Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Washington
            AL Central: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City
            AL West: Dallas, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Seattle
            NL East: Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto
            NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Minnesota, St. Louis
            NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco
            Last edited by Nerdlinger; 04-30-2013, 06:18 PM.
            *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

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            • #7
              The problem with the Continental League would have been the prestige of the World Series. Winning the CL pennant wouldn't have counted for much. In addition, could the CL have wooed players with the absence of a pension plan?

              I'm a baseball traditionalist. I wished the Federal League had made it. Imagine if the CL was accompanied by an 8 team Federal League. Then the "World Series could have been a 4 team round robin or a two-round event. (And back in 1961 this could have happened.)

              MLB has an effective monopoly today. I view it as impossible for a new league to establish itself as a "major" league and compete with MLB. There won't be a new Federal League or a Continental League, and that's too bad.
              "I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another. The National League will go down the line with Robinson whatever the consequences. You will find if you go through with your intention that you have been guilty of complete madness."

              NL President Ford Frick, 1947

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              • #8
                coco1997 created some awesome alternate history uniforms to go with the teams in my timeline that didn't exist in reality. Check 'em out! https://imgur.com/a/FjLOMOp

                I particularly like the "db" logo of the Denver Bears. Reminds me of the Expos' "eMb" logo, or the Brewers' "mb" glove logo.
                Last edited by Nerdlinger; 06-17-2019, 04:16 PM.
                *** Submit your personal HOF as your ballot for the Single Ballot BBF Hall of Fame! *** Also: Buck the Fraves!

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