Mets audaciously keep expanding baseball’s horizons

While seeking to relocate his Brooklyn Dodgers, then owner Walter O’Malley was actually in preliminary talks with Minneapolis prior to the mayor of Los Angeles intervening with a sweetheart deal he couldn’t refuse.

O’Malley then petitioned New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham into heading west as well.   When the vote was put to the Giants Board of Directors, all shareholders voted in favor of a move to San Francisco, except two – Mrs. Joan Whitney Payson and M. Donald Grant (whom later became one of the more reviled persons in the annals of New York baseball history).

Oct 21, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets fans after game four of the NLCS between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants subsequently purchased Mrs. Payson’s interests in the team, then proceeded westward with the Dodgers.

Instigated by then Mayor Robert Wagner’s desire to bring National League baseball back to New York City, in July 1959 an influential politically connected lawyer named William Shea officially unveiled plans for the creation of a third professional league.

He intended to place member clubs in cities under-served by major league baseball.  As the league’s anchor, a group headed by Mrs. Joan Payson was awarded a New York franchise.  With the venerable Mr. Branch Rickey poised to serve as league president, William Shea’s proposed Continental League set April 18, 1961 as their launch date.

Before the circuit ever played a game, however, baseball’s establishment acquiesced to the pressures of expansion, specifically into cities targeted by the Continental League.

Having satisfactorily secured New York City a new National League member club, William Shea officially disbanded his league in 1960.  Per their (very) loosely binding agreement, the National and American leagues embarked on a methodical process of adding 14 teams over the ensuing 38-years spanning 1961 through 1998.

The junior circuit was first to open its locker room doors by adding the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators-II (the original Senators moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul and became the Twins).

The National League followed in 1962 with the formation of the Houston Colt 45’s, and of course our beloved New York Mets.

In 1969, the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots joined the American League, while the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos took up residence in the National League.

  • The Seattle Pilots played one season, then were sold and relocated to Milwaukee where they became the Brewers.   In 1971, Washington lost its second franchise, when the Senators-II moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and became the Texas Rangers.

In 1977, the American League placed a second team in Canada with the formation of the Toronto Blue Jays, and revisited Seattle with the formation of the Mariners.

The two leagues remained unbalanced for the next 15 years until the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies joined the senior circuit in 1993.

Baseball’s last expansion push in 1998 gave rise to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Baseball staged 57 Fall Classics between 1903 and 1960, making this upcoming World Series the 54th of the expansion era.  In the previous 110 World Series played since 1903, at least one original-16 team (or remnant thereof..) participated in each Fall Classic.

This year, two expansion teams will vie for baseball’s championship for the first time in MLB history.

The New York Mets lead all expansion teams with what will be their fifth World Series appearance over their 54-year history.  In 1969, they became the first expansionist to capture a title, and did so in just their eighth year of existence.

The Marlins eventually trumped them in 1997 by winning a World Series in only their fifth season of existence.  The Mets, Marlins, and Blue Jays are the only expansion teams with multiple championships.  The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are the only team to win back-to-back titles.

This year’s American League champion Kansas City Royals will be making their fourth World Series appearance.  They captured their lone title to date back in 1985 over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Of the 14 expansion teams, only the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners have yet to appear in a Fall Classic.

Population growth and shifts, fast improving travel, and pressure from those whom held baseball’s anti-trust exemption over their collective heads, all made expansion inevitable.

That said, there’s no doubting William Shea’s efforts rattled the establishment, ushering change far sooner than the traditionally closed network of owners endeavored.  There’s also no denying how Joan Whitney Payson became the first woman in baseball history to ever establish and finance her own franchise, and in doing so, beat a bunch of crusty old magnates at their own game.

In fact, all expansion teams perhaps owe a small debt of gratitude to Mrs. Joan Payson and William Shea, and in essence, to the creation of the New York Metropolitans, or Mets for short.

In 1964, the Mets newly completed stadium was rightfully named in William Shea’s honor, with the idea coming from NYC Mayor Robert Wagner.

Five years later, the Mets became the first expansion team to ever win the World Series.

In 1986, they became the first expansion team to win two Commissioner’s Trophies.

With the New York Metropolitans presently in the midst of a record-setting postseason, here’s to winning number three…

#LGM