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Question about the 1960 Senators move

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  • Question about the 1960 Senators move

    Couldn't the AL have saved itself a hassle in 1960 by just awarding a Minnesota expansion team to Calvin Griffith instead of allowing him to move the Senators to Minnesota? That would have made more sense and been more easily accomplished than uprooting the Senators, IMO. In essence, just find a new owner for the Senators in Washington as long as his name wasn't Bob Short.

    I'm sure that this was proposed to Griffith, but what would have been the reasons for him to turn down an expansion team? Tradition? Griffith, I don't believe, was going to call his team the Minnesota Senators. Did Griffith know that he had a strong nucleus developing that would go to the WS in 1965? I doubt it. Did he fear that an expansion team, with the inevitable losing that accompanies such teams, would turn off the Minnesota market? Perhaps.

    Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that Washington would not have supported a team with Killebrew, Kaat, Oliva, Carew, etc. Nothing against the Nationals, but if Griffith would have accepted just an expansion team, the Senators could still be in existence today in their first year in their new ballpark.

  • #2
    Steve, By the 1950's the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators were the last 2 teams in the majors being run as a family business. The Macks in Philadelphia and the Griffiths in Washington were baseball people. (Of course, the A's moved from Philly to Kansas City in 1955.) They had no other income besides the teams themselves and stadium rentals.

    Clark Griffith was very loyal to the Washington, DC area. He would not consider moving the team. However, he died in 1955 and his adopted nephew Calvin inherited the baseball operation. Having seen how the Braves fared when they moved from Boston to Milwaukee, Calvin started looking for "greener pastures". In fact, he was making overtures to the city of Los Angeles fully 2 years before the Dodgers moved.

    When the American League voted to expand from 8 to 10 teams at the 1960 winter meetings, the franchises were awarded to Minnesota and Los Angeles. Calvin, pleading poverty, convinced the other owners at the meeting that he should be allowed to move the Senators franchise. The move was granted, and baseball's ruling fathers then transferred the expansion franchise from Minnesota to Washington. (I believe that part of the reason for this was that they feared loss of baseball's anti-trust exemption if DC were to be stripped of it's major league status.)

    There were some extenuating circumstances-Griffith Stadium was in a deterorating part of the city and had only 200 parking spaces. The trolley cars that carried many patrons to and from the games were being replaced with buses. (The replacement of trolley or "streetcars" was completed in 1962, IIRC.)

    After finishing in second place in 1945, 1.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers, the Senators only finished in the first division once-1946 when they were still 2 games under .500. They would finish last in 1949, 1957-1959. However, the nucleus of the young team that eventually went to the 1965 World Series finished 73-81 in 5th place in 1960 and drew over 743,000 fans.

    The expansion Senators would play in Griffith Stadium in 1961 but would move to a new stadium (DC Municipal, later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, locally referred to simply as "RFK") in 1962.

    In my library, I have a book titled "Calvin-Baseball's Last Dinosaur". It's been a while since I read it, but I believe that Calvin made a plea to the owners to allow him to relocate which is why the original franchise was moved rather than having the expansion franchise in Minnesota.
    "For the Washington Senators, the worst time of the year is the baseball season." Roger Kahn

    "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." Rogers Hornsby.


    • #3
      You mentioned that the 1960 team drew 743,000. While that was still last in the AL, it was a marked improvement from previous seasons. The fans were aware that a good, young squad was developing. Nevertheless, didn't fans know that the Senators were perhaps on the verge of leaving, which kept that number from getting higher? I'm sure the newspapers reported that Griffith was talking to other cities about moving the team and fans were aware of what was going on, so whatever excitement that could have been generated was tempered.

      Now, I've been pondering this for a bit, but let's say Calvin Griffith accepts the expansion team in Minnesota without moving the team. But, there are concessions made to him to accept the proposal. One scenario I could see is Washington being forced to protect less players than other teams in the expansion draft, thus allowing the Twins to field a respectable, if not winning, team out of the shoot. But the Twins couldn't pluck all of the Senators talent, such as Kaat, Allison or Killebrew under this scenario though.

      But this is all speculation and "what ifs" on my part
      Last edited by Steve Jeltz; 04-29-2008, 12:02 AM.


      • #4
        One important issue for Calvin was that he was about to lose the rent from the Redskins. He asked, why do I want to rent a place where the Redskins pay me, and go into a bigger place where I have to pay the City of Washington (and the Interior Department)?

        Short sighted, yes. Washington was a baseball town primarily right until Bob Short took the New Senators to Texas, and George Allen, eager for any edge, proclaimed that the Redskins had to go to the playoffs to avenge to the insult done to the capital of the nation.

        Meanwhile, Ed Bennett Williams discovered that he could fill DC/RFK Stadium if the Reddskins were almost mediocre, and Williams went on to make a Redskin ticket a prized possession. He made an invitation to the owner's box a grant of a royal audience.

        We knew that the 1960 team was good, and getting better. We saw Killebrew, with Allison, Lemon in the outfield, with Dan Dobbek coming up. We saw Zorro Versalles come up in August-September and dazzle. We knew that Pascual would recover from arm injuries...

        That team would get better, we all felt. Futher, we had sufferred through the "rebuilding" in the mid-50's, when the Nats gave away older favorites like Mickey Vernon, Pet Runnels, and Eddie Yost. We suffered until Pacual learned to pitch. Remembr Bobby Malkmus? Dean Stone? Wayne Terwilliger? Norm Zauchin? Faye Throneberry? Russ Kemmerer?

        It took a long time to accept the New Senators as "real"

        If Griffith had stayed, he would have ridden the economic wave that lifted the Washington area. Could his little family business competed with the independently wealthy owners? At least, Griffith would have had a valueable franchise if he sold in the '70s.
        Last edited by welch; 06-21-2008, 08:29 PM.


        • #5
          I have developed an alternate history timeline, which includes various events whose outcome differed from that in real life - such as the relocation of the original Senators:

          1957: The Dodgers and Giants want to move. But the owners reject their wishes to move to California, as to help the Pacific Coast League get into the majors. But they will let the teams move somewhere else. The Giants are approved to move to Minneapolis, where they will be called the Minnesota Giants. The Dodgers, looking to fill the NL void in Boston, move there.

          1958: The Pacific Coast League is accepted into Major League Baseball, beginning in 1960. During the 1959 season, no teams will be allowed to call up or send down players from/to the league.

          1959: William Shea announces the Continental League to begin play in 1961. He seeks membership into Major League Baseball, and gets it (due to the desire to even out the postseason format). Denver (Bears), Houston (Colt .45s, renamed Astros in 1965), Indianapolis (500s), New York City (NY Mets), and Toronto (Blue Jays) are the initial cities. Atlanta (Crackers), Buffalo (Bison), and Dallas/Fort Worth (Rangers) are later added.

          1960: The Washington Senators’ attempt to relocate elsewhere is blocked by Congress, who are not willing to see the nation’s capitol without baseball. Calvin Griffith subsequently sells the team to an owner who promises to keep the team in D.C.

          1964: The Milwaukee Braves are keen on moving, and they do so - to Miami, effective 1965.

          1967: The Kansas City Athletics announce intentions to move to Louisville, a city without major league baseball since 1900, and become the Kentucky Athletics. Stuart Symington, a US Senator from Missouri, is not happy, and looks to have MLB’s antitrust exemption revoked unless baseball returned to Kansas City no later than 1969. MLB announces each league will add 2 teams. The Denver Bears agree to move to the Pacific Coast League as that league wants exclusive rights to markets in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. In return, one of the PCL’s expansion slots goes to the CL. PCL uses their lone expansion slot to add a team in Oakland (due to the Seals’ desire to play a team from that city, like they did during the minor league days).

          1968: The Continental League announces that their expansion teams will be located in these cities: Charlotte, North Carolina; Montreal, Quebec; and Mexico City, Mexico.

          1968: The American League adds a team in Kansas City, Missouri as part of the settlement, and places its other team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

          1968: The National League places their expansion teams in New York City and Columbus, Ohio.

          1969: All 8 expansion teams begin play, these are the nicknames chose for each team:
          Oakland: Oaks
          Charlotte: Speed
          Montreal: Expos
          Mexico City: Aztecs
          Kansas City: Royals
          Milwaukee: Brewers
          New York City: Brooklyn Trolleys (in new domed stadium in Brooklyn from 1971 onward)
          Columbus: Capitals

          1969: First year of divisional play, each team now plays 162 games (18 against each team in league).
          American League:
          East: Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, New York, Washington
          West: Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Kentucky, Milwaukee

          National League:
          East: Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
          West: Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Minnesota, St. Louis

          Pacific Coast League:
          North: Denver, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Vancouver
          South: Hollywood, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco

          Continental League:
          North: Buffalo, Indianapolis, Montreal, New York, Toronto
          South: Atlanta, Charlotte, DFW, Houston, Mexico City

          Division winners meet in League Championship Series, then LCS winners are seeded 1-4 (1 VS. 4, 2 VS. 3); winners of those series meet in World Series.

          1984: Each league approves 2 expansion teams to begin play in 1987.
          American League:
          Birmingham Barons (West Division)
          Orlando Suns (East Division)

          National League:
          Nashville Sounds (West Division)
          Tampa Bay Treasure (East Division)

          Continental League:
          Memphis Blues (South Division)
          Winnipeg Whips (North Division)

          Pacific Coast League (both teams in North Division, Sacramento moves to South Division):
          Calgary Cannons
          Edmonton Trappers

          2002: Yet another round of expansion occurs, for the 2004 season.
          American League:
          Hampton Roads Tides (East Division)
          St. Louis Browns (West Division)

          National League:
          Hartford Whalers (East Division)
          New Orleans Swamp Cats (West Division)

          Continental League:
          Motor City Mechanics (North Division)
          San Antonio Alamos (South Division)

          Pacific Coast League:
          Arizona Diamondbacks (South Division)
          Utah Saints (North Division)
          The playoffs should expand eventually, but only if MLB itself expands.

          See my blog for more info.


          • #6
            Interesting alternative history, although it ends with a lot of teams!

            My own alternate history has MLB deciding to "contract" in 2000 (or whatever year that was suggested). Each league is reduced to eight teams, and I have perfect locations for each.


            • #7
              Originally posted by welch View Post
              My own alternate history has MLB deciding to "contract" in 2000 (or whatever year that was suggested). Each league is reduced to eight teams, and I have perfect locations for each.
              When Bud Selig was suggesting contracting the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos I thought the perfect alternative would have been:

              Relocate the Minnesota Twins back to the city where they originated-Washington DC! The rivalry with the Yankees and Orioles would be renewed without the trappings of this detestable interleague play and we'd once again see the Indians, Tigers, Athletics and all those other American League teams that I grew up rooting against.

              As for the the Expos-they had strong ties to Brooklyn at one time and the folks of that fair borough have waited for over 50 years for MLB to return. 'Nuff said!

              Oh-and while we're at it, the divisions would be realigned to have the 8 original franchises in one division, the expansion franchises in the other.
              Last edited by Aa3rt; 06-21-2008, 09:51 PM.
              "For the Washington Senators, the worst time of the year is the baseball season." Roger Kahn

              "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." Rogers Hornsby.


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