Going Continental – by G. Scott Thomas

It was 64 years in the past this week — Might 21, 1959 — that the 2 main leagues gave their blessings to a newcomer. The New York Instances blared the stunning information in a page-one headline the next morning: “Majors Invite a Third League.”

The invitation couldn’t have been extra insincere.

New York lawyer William Shea had been touring the nation for greater than a 12 months, lining up franchise house owners for his proposed Continental League. His progress — and the prospect of recent competitors — deeply frightened the house owners of the 16 golf equipment within the American and Nationwide Leagues.

Legal professionals for the present leagues warned towards any try to smother the Continental League in its crib. Ways so crude and heavy-handed would by no means be countenanced in an period of heightened antitrust-law enforcement.

So the majors pretended to be welcoming.

“Since there is no such thing as a current plan to develop the current main leagues,” they introduced on that Might day in 1959, “the 2 main leagues declare they may favorably think about an utility for major-league standing inside the current baseball construction by an appropriate group of eight golf equipment.”

They appended 10 stipulations, an preliminary try to deliver Shea and his fellow renegades to heel. Amongst them:

  • Each market within the new league should be bigger than Kansas Metropolis.

  • Each ballpark should seat at the very least 25,000.

  • The schedule should be 154 video games.

  • Proof should be equipped of the “monetary skill and character” of all new house owners.

Shea wasn’t fazed within the least. He was ecstatic. “We have now been working for months, and I’m certain they [American and National League owners] know it,” he mentioned. “We’re elated.” He predicted that the third league would meet all 10 necessities inside two years.

Shea quickly lured baseball legend Department Rickey to function president of the Continental League, and the 2 males proceeded to grant franchises to Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, and Toronto. The schedule for the CL’s preliminary 1961 season was launched a 12 months and a half prematurely.

Not a single recreation on that slate would ever be performed.

The American and Nationwide Leagues labored strenuously — at all times behind the scenes — to impede the upstarts. New roadblocks stored popping up within the latter half of 1959 and the early months of 1960, but Shea remained optimistic. “We have now no considered disbanding,” he mentioned as late as July 1960. “We’re going to interrupt our necks attempting to fulfill each doable demand manufactured from us by the majors.”

However the renegades’ steely resolve melted in August 1960, when the 2 older leagues abruptly promised to confess Shea and Rickey’s eight golf equipment as enlargement franchises within the close to future. The prevailing leagues requested solely that the Continental League disband, which it fortunately did.

It ought to come as no shock to anyone aware of baseball historical past that the majors reneged on their deal. Solely two of the eight CL golf equipment had been admitted within the enlargement of 1961-1962 — Houston and New York — whereas the others had been compelled to chill their heels. The remaining two enlargement bids in that spherical went to Los Angeles and Washington, which had no ties to the Continental League.

Invoice Shea blasted the baseball institution for “one of many lowest blows beneath the belt within the historical past of sport.” Department Rickey assumed the mien of an aged tragedian. “The dictionary definition of perfidy has now been confirmed,” he intoned.

It didn’t matter. The baseball institution, then as now, did no matter it needed.

Two Continental League markets, Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul, lured current big-league golf equipment from different cities within the Sixties. However 4 CL cities — Dallas, Denver, Toronto, and Buffalo — remained on the skin as of 1969. The primary three can be welcomed to the major-league fraternity between 1972 and 1993. Buffalo was the one Continental League metropolis that by no means acquired the promised name.

Scroll beneath for capsule profiles of the eight markets that belonged to baseball’s long-forgotten third main league. You’ll see metro populations as of 1960 and 2020. (Toronto’s figures are for various years, matching the schedule of the Canadian census.) You’ll additionally discover listings of every space’s ballclubs then and now, and a proof of when and the way every market joined the majors.

A brand new installment will arrive in your electronic mail every weekday morning

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 1,017,188

  • 1960 baseball membership: Atlanta Crackers (AA Southern Affiliation)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 6,089.815

  • 2023 baseball membership: Atlanta Braves (MLB Nationwide League)

  • When joined majors: 1966

  • How joined majors: Relocation of Milwaukee Braves

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 1,306,957

  • 1960 baseball membership: Buffalo Bisons (AAA Worldwide League)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 1,166,902

  • 2023 baseball membership: Buffalo Bisons (AAA Worldwide League)

  • When joined majors: By no means did

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 1,083,601

  • 1960 baseball membership: Dallas-Fort Price Rangers (AAA American Affiliation)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 7,637,387

  • 2023 baseball membership: Texas Rangers (MLB American League)

  • When joined majors: 1972

  • How joined majors: Relocation of Washington Senators (second model)

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 929,383

  • 1960 baseball membership: Denver Bears (AAA American Affiliation)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 2,963,821

  • 2023 baseball membership: Colorado Rockies (MLB Nationwide League)

  • When joined majors: 1993

  • How joined majors: Enlargement

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 1,243,158

  • 1960 baseball membership: Houston Buffs (AAA American Affiliation)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 7,122,240

  • 2023 baseball membership: Houston Astros (MLB American League)

  • When joined majors: 1962

  • How joined majors: Enlargement

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 1,482,030

  • 1960 baseball golf equipment: Minneapolis Millers (AAA American Affiliation), St. Paul Saints (AAA American Affiliation)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 3,690,261

  • 2023 baseball membership: Minnesota Twins (MLB American League)

  • When joined majors: 1961

  • How joined majors: Relocation of Washington Senators (first model)

  • 1960 metro inhabitants: 14,759,429

  • 1960 baseball membership: New York Yankees (MLB American League)

  • 2020 metro inhabitants: 20,140,470

  • 2023 baseball golf equipment: New York Mets (MLB Nationwide League), New York Yankees (MLB American League)

  • When joined majors: 1962 (Mets)

  • How joined majors: Enlargement

  • 1961 metro inhabitants: 1,919,400

  • 1960 baseball membership: Toronto Maple Leafs (AAA Worldwide League)

  • 2021 metro inhabitants: 6,202,225

  • 2023 baseball membership: Toronto Blue Jays (MLB American League)

  • When joined majors: 1977

  • How joined majors: Enlargement