Major League Baseball teams have relocated for one reason or another. The reasons for relocation vary from low fan attendance and financial troubles, to issues with the local stadiums. Some teams relocated due to heavy competition from another team in the same city. The geographic element in relocation is where teams were moving to. Most teams were relocating from East Coast cities to the Midwest and the Sunbelt region. It can be see as baseball going westward and southward. Major League Baseball teams relocating represent baseball expanding from its main urban cores to areas further west and south.
13. Milwaukee Brewers to St. Louis Browns (1902)
The Milwaukee Brewers of the American League were the first professional baseball team in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They would not be the last, nor would this be the last time a baseball team relocated from Milwaukee. They played in Milwaukee from 1894 to 1901. The Brewers started out as a minor league team, a member of the Western League.
It was renamed the American League. At the end of the 1900 baseball season, the American League would break from the National Agreement, and becoming a competing major league. The Milwaukee Brewers were one of two teams that were not thrown out of the league. 1901 would be the only season of play in Milwaukee. After a last place finish, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis and became the St. Louis Browns in 1902. The Milwaukee Brewers get their name from the beer brewing industry that is prominent in Milwaukee.
12. Baltimore Orioles to New York City Highlanders (1903)
The New York Yankees have their roots in the city of Baltimore. When the American League was reorganized, three more teams were added. One of those teams were the Baltimore Orioles, in 1901. The Baltimore Orioles got their name from Maryland's state bird, which is called the Baltimore oriole.
There were plans for the American League to give New York City two teams. However, the New York Giants of the National League rejected this idea. A team was given to Baltimore instead. Ironically, the Baltimore Orioles would move to New York City in 1903, becoming the New York Highlanders. This move took place after finding a baseball stadium available to them. The Highlanders played in Hilltop Park in Upper Manhattan. The Highlanders would change their name to the New York Yankees in 1913, after relocated from Hilltop Park to the Polo Grounds. The Polo Grounds were located at a lower elevation than Hilltop Park.
11. Boston Braves to Milwaukee Braves (1953)
The Boston Braves were the first baseball team in the city of Boston. They are also a founding member of the National League. The team was established in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings. They were part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. The National League would replace it in 1876 and the Red Stockings would become part of the National League. They were renamed the Braves in 1912. The Boston Red Sox of the American League would be established in 1901.
Several players for the Boston Braves left the team after being offered more money to play for the Red Sox. The Boston Braves would become Boston's "other team". Poor play on the field would further cement this role. While both teams had periods of attendance decline and losing seasons, the Boston Red Sox were the first of Boston's two teams to win a World Championship. The Red Sox won the very first World Series ever played, in 1903. The Boston Red Sox would win 4 more World Championships between 1912 and 1918. The Boston Braves would win 1 World Championship, in 1914. They would win the National League Pennant twice.
The Boston Braves found it difficult to compete with another baseball team in the same city. This manifested itself in poor playing and low attendance. Owner Lou Perini sought to relocate to another city. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953. Milwaukee had been the city of the Boston Braves' highest minor league farm team. In 1953, the Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves. This marks the first in 5 decades that a Major League Baseball team relocated. It was also the first time a team moved westward in 5 decades. This also marks the first time Milwaukee would have a Major League Baseball team since 1901.
10. St. Louis Browns to Baltimore Orioles (1954)
In 1902, the Milwaukee Brewers became the St. Louis Browns. The St. Louis Browns were the city of St. Louis' American League team. The St. Louis Cardinals of the National League were already established and a popular team. The St. Louis Browns frequently had poorly playing teams while the Cardinals were more successful. In 52 seasons of playing in St. Louis, the Browns only won the American League Pennant once, in 1944. Ironically, they would play against and lose the 1944 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
This marks the only time a World Series would be played only in the city St. Louis. As with the Boston Braves, the St. Louis Browns struggled to compete with another team in the same city. The Browns had far less successful in winning games than the St. Louis Cardinals. The team struggled with attendance compared to the Cardinals. 1953 marked their last season. In 1954, they moved to Baltimore and became the current Baltimore Orioles. They are currently the 2nd Major League Baseball team in Baltimore, having the same name as Baltimore's first Major League Baseball team. This relocation is unique because it features a Midwestern team moving to an East Coast teams.
9. Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City Athletics (1955)
The city of Philadelphia another city that contained two teams. The Philadelphia Phillies of the National League were established first. The Philadelphia Athletics of the American League were founded in 1901. For several years, the Philadelphia Athletics were successful, winning six American League pennants, and three World Championships during the first 13 seasons. The team would decline for a decade after its initial success.
The team would have success again in the late 1920s/early 1930s. After this, both the Phillies and Athletics played poorly for several years. In 1950, the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League Pennant. This would make the Phillies the more beloved of Philadelphia's two baseball teams. Low attendance, financial problems, and its location in a declining section of Philadelphia marked the teams final years. Businessman Arnold Johnson bought team in 1954. He also owned Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Philadelphia Athletics were moved to Kansas City in 1955. This marks another geographic relocation from the U.S. East Coast to the Midwest.
8. Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles Dodgers (1958)
The Brooklyn Dodgers were one of three baseball teams in the USA's largest city. They were also one of two New York-based baseball teams in the National League. The Brooklyn Dodgers, as their name suggests, played in the borough of Brooklyn. They had a history of success and high attendance, with several National League Pennants and one World Series title, in 1955. The Brooklyn Dodgers would also break baseball's color barrier with Jackie Robinson playing for the Dodgers, making him the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in its modern era.
The Dodgers had a decent history in Brooklyn. They have also had unsuccessful years in Brooklyn. What influenced the Brooklyn Dodgers to move to Los Angeles was the inability to obtain a new stadium in Brooklyn during the late 1950s. This was during a period of success in Brooklyn. Owner Walter O'Malley was promised a new stadium in Los Angeles. In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers would move to Los Angeles, becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles Dodgers would continue the success they had in Brooklyn. They were one of two teams to move to California in 1958.
7. New York Giants to San Francisco Giants (1958)
The New York Giants had wavering periods of success and failure, when it came to playing, and in finance. For the most part, the New York Giants had high levels of success. During the 74 year period when the Giants played in Manhattan, they won two World Championships and seventeen National League Pennants. Their best eras came during the early 1920s, the 1930s, and the early 1950s.However, their last three years in New York City were unremarkable. Attendance declined considerably. The level of play among the New York Giants declined as well. The team was not as profitable as it had been in the past. The Giants' stadium, the Polo Grounds, was located in a neighborhood that was decaying in the 1950s. The Polo Grounds itself was in decay.
Giants owner Horace Stonemen sought out playing in the same stadium as the New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium. He also sought to have a new stadium built. Both plans ended in failure. Horace Stoneman considered relocated the team. One location that was considered was Minneapolis. However, the Brooklyn Dodgers were trying to move to California. The Dodgers would not be able to move unless the Giants moved to California as well. Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, as well as San Francisco mayor George Christopher, convinced the New York Giants to move to San Francisco, which already had a stadium available. In 1958, the Giants moved to San Francisco.
6. Washington Senators to Minnesota Twins (1961)
The Washington Senators represented Major League Baseball in the USA's capital city. This made the team name "Senators" a fitting name. They played in Washington, DC from 1901 to 1960. For much of the team's history, success eluded the Senators. A majority of the 60 seasons spent in Washington, DC result in a win-loss record below .500. The Senators won one World Championship, in 1924. The Senators won 2 American League Pennants. The city of Baltimore would receive a Major League Baseball team in 1954. As Baltimore is 40 miles north of Washington, DC, this would give the Washington Senators competition, as many Senators fans lived in Baltimore.
The Senators had played poorly for a long time. With a new team in Baltimore, this would have a negative affect on attendance for a team that known for poor play. Clark Griffith owned the Washington Senators from 1920 to 1955. After his death in 1955, his son Calvin Griffith would own the team. By this time, three baseball teams relocated to other cities. Like many teams that relocated, poor attendance and poor performance on the team were major issues. Calvin Griffith found it economically unfeasible to keep the team in Washington, DC. One place offering to take the Senators was Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, this move was rejected by the American League. In 1960, there was talk of establishing the Continental League, with teams in cities that didn't already have a Major League Baseball team, Minneapolis being among those cities. It was then that Calvin Griffith was allowed to move the Senators to Minneapolis. In 1961, the Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins, reflecting the location in Minnesota Twin Cities. This marks the start of Major League Baseball in Minnesota.
5. Milwaukee Braves to Atlanta Braves (1966)
The franchise that would become the current Atlanta Braves has its roots in Boston. After struggling to compete with the neighboring Boston Red Sox, owner Lou Perini moved the Boston Braves to Milwaukee in 1953, becoming the Milwaukee Braves. The 13 seasons spent in Milwaukee are marked by success on the field. Players such as Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron flourished in Milwaukee. They never had a losing record while playing in Milwaukee. They would win a World Championship in 1957. However, attendance would drop during the early 1960s. While the team remained decent, the level of play was not the same as it was in the 1950s.
After the Braves were sold to an ownership group led by William Bartolomay. A larger television market was sought after. Atlanta was a fast growing city in the southern USA. A new stadium was being built during the 1960s, and in 1966, the Milwaukee Braves were relocated to Atlanta, becoming the Atlanta Braves. This represented the first time an MLB team was relocated to a city below the Mason-Dixon line. Jim Crow was in force in the South through the 1960s. Atlanta's mayor, Ivan Allen, was slowly desegregating Atlanta during the 1960s.
4. Kansas City Athletics to Oakland Athletics (1968)
The Oakland Athletics have something in common with the Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles. These teams originated from two other cities. After the Athletics moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955, the Kansas City Athletics continued to performed poorly. While initial attendance numbered over 1,300,000 in their first season (which was considered high for the 1950s), attendance never reached those levels while the Athletics were in Kansas City. Every season from 1955 to 1967 involved the Kansas City Athletics finishing below .500.
The 1950s were marked by threats of a 3rd relocation to California. After Charlie Finley bought the Athletics in 1960, he initially promised to keep the team in Kansas City. However, as attendance remained poor and performance on the field remained poor, Charlie Finley was seeking to relocate the team. Requests to move the team to Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Louisville were denied. Another problem for Finley was dissatisfaction with the lease for Municipal Stadium, which was being shared with the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs. In 1968, Finley finally received permission to move the team, and the Kansas City Athletics relocated to Oakland, where they remain today. In 1969, Kansas City was awarded another MLB team, the Kansas City Royals.
3. Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee Brewers (1970)
In 1969, the city of Seattle was awarded a Major League Baseball team, the Seattle Pilots. It was mark the first time the Pacific Northwest could have an MLB team. It would also mark the Pilots only year in Seattle. While the Pilots went through the struggles of poor play, which is common for expansion teams, Sicks Stadium was the team's biggest problem. It was a stadium once used by a minor league team, and was poorly designed. Only 19,500 seats were available on opening day. Sicks Stadium needed to expand to a minimum of 30,000 seats.
Poor plumbing was another problem with the stadium. This played a role in low fan attendance, in addition to the team's poor play. By the end of the 1969 season, the Pilots were operating at high financial losses. Milwaukee businessman Bud Selig wanted to bring baseball back to Milwaukee. Selig bought the team and relocated to Milwaukee, naming them the Milwaukee Brewers. This would be the 2nd installment of the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Washington Senators to Texas Rangers (1972)
After the first Washington Senators team moved the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, DC was awarded another Major League Baseball team, also named the Washington Senators. Like the Washington Senators of old, these Washington Senators suffered from poor playing on the field. The new Washington Senators also had to compete for fan attendance with the Baltimore Orioles, who played 40 miles away. The Orioles won four American League Pennants and two World Championships in a five year period (1966-1971). The Washington Senators only had one season above .500.
This compounded attendance problems, as fans who lived closer to Baltimore would rather see the Orioles play instead of the Senators. The team also had debt issues. The team's owner, Bob Short, threatened to move the team if no one would buy the team. The mayor of Arlington, Texas (suburb of Fort Worth) Tom Vandergriff, was seeking to bring Major League Baseball to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. With a down payment and a stadium ready, Short moved the team to Arlington, Texas in 1972. The would be renamed the Texas Rangers, a nod to the law enforcement agency of the same name.
1. Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals (2005)
1969 marked the first time Canada would get Major League Baseball. The city of Montreal would become home to Canada's Major League Baseball team, the Montreal Expos. This team was named for Expo 67, an exposition celebrating Canada's 100th birthday. They wouldn't be Canada's last baseball team, as Toronto, Ontario would receive a team in 1977. The Expos had undulating times of failure and success. The Expos almost didn't survive its first decade in Montreal.
A stadium needed to be furnished quickly or the franchise would be given to Buffalo, New York. Jarry Park Stadium was used as a stadium for the Expos, and the Expos were required to have a domed stadium built by 1972. This was delayed due to construction delays and the Expos had to seek permission to stay for extra time until the new stadium was built. The new stadium, Olympic Stadium, was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics. The new stadium would be the home of the Expos for the remainder of their stay in Montreal.
The events leading to the Expos leaving Montreal varied from an obsolete stadium to poor attendance. During the early 1990s, the Expos had one of the best teams in Major League Baseball. In 1994, they had the best record in Major League Baseball, before the 1994 strike began. This ended the baseball season, canceling the playoffs. The Expos could no longer afford to pay some of its plays, leading to some of its best talents to go to other teams. The Expos would go into decline. A large amount of revenue comes from attendance, which was declining.
Olympic Stadium was becoming obsolete. There were several structural problems with the stadium. Among them included its roof. The roof was intended to open. Mechanical problems put an end to this. There were also safety issues, especially after a support beam snapped. A new stadium was demanded by owner Claude Brochu. A location in Downtown Montreal was recommended. The Expos played in a stadium located in a relatively remote part of Montreal.
The idea was that a stadium in Downtown Montreal, closer to businesses and restaurants, would attract more people. Quebec's Premier, Lucien Brouchard rejected any proposal to provide public funds for a new stadium. The Expos played their last home game at Olympic Stadium on September 29, 2004. In 2005, the Expos were relocated to Washington, DC, becoming the Washington Nationals. This would represent the first time Washington, DC had an MLB team since 1971.
Have Any Major League Baseball Teams Relocated?
Thirteen major league baseball teams have relocated for one reason or another including low fan attendance, financial issues, or issues with the local stadium. Some of these teams are the Milwaukee Brewers to the St. Louis Browns in 1902, the Kansas City Athletics to the Oakland Athletics in 1968, and the Montreal Expos to the Washington Nationals in 2005.
About the Author
Marques Hayes is a freelance writer and World Atlas contributor. He holds a BA in geography from Kennesaw State University.
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