Main League Baseball has existed lengthy sufficient in California that it is tempting to take it as a right. Within the spirit of giving thanks, writer Lincoln A. Mitchell presents a crucial reminder: MLB’s move to California didn’t need to occur in 1958 – at the least, not then, and not the best way it did.
In “Baseball Goes West: The Dodgers, the Giants, and the Shaping of the Major Leagues,” Mitchell provides a wide-lens take a look at the cultural, sociological and financial elements that predicted the Giants and Dodgers leaving New York for California in 1958, and how it might have occurred in another way.
Mitchell is an adjunct analysis scholar at Columbia College’s Arnold A. Salesman Institute of Struggle and Peace Research and the writer of 4 books. On this Q-and-A, we talk about some enjoyable alternate situations, a few of the missed repercussions of the Dodgers’ move, and whether or not the broader societal circumstances of the 1950s supply any predictions about an identical shakeup now.
Q: You touched on how fragile it was that the Dodgers and Giants moved to California in any respect, and how this was one in every of a number of situations that would have been in play within the years earlier than 1958. When do you assume that this move was lastly set in stone for the Dodgers and Giants?
A: I feel it was lastly set in stone in 1957, in all probability early within the season, early within the yr. The rumblings had been round for some time. When you look I consider it was the Brooklyn Eagle, when the Dodgers lastly gained the World Collection in 1955, the headline is ‘Dodgers win,’ and down within the lower-right nook, it says about the borough president (John Cashmore), ‘this should send a message to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn.’ Once they truly gained that World Collection in 1955, these rumblings have been already on the market. In ’56 and ’57, the Dodgers performed some video games in Newark. The Giants gained the World Collection in 1954, and attendance was horrible. A part of the story was it was clear that the Giants couldn’t actually final in New York. So I might say by the mid-50s the writing was on the wall, and there have been a good quantity of rumors that the Giants may be going to Minnesota, where that they had a minor league group – this had been sort of happening for some time – however when the deal received finalized, it acquired finalized in a short time.
Notably in Brooklyn, there was a way that this was going to occur. In San Francisco, there was a interval round ’85-93 when a rational individual would have stated the Giants are going to go away. They only can’t stick this out. And plenty of Giants followers have been in denial. In that case, the Giants didn’t depart, however it was that very same factor: ultimately, one thing was going to provide and ultimately it did.
Q: You astutely famous that historical past’s winners get to inform the story, however there have been losers on this move. You talked about Minnesota. Within the guide, you point out ideas of shifting the Giants or Dodgers or each towards the suburbs – New Jersey or someplace on the outskirts of New York Metropolis. Was there a loser that had a very viable case that must be talked about in the identical breath?
A: The Giants have been gone however the Dodgers might’ve stayed. There was one proposal to make a variety of area in downtown Brooklyn to construct a extra state-of-the-art stadium for the Dodgers. Robert Moses sort of killed that one. There was one other proposal to construct on what turned generally known as the World’s Truthful website; it’s now out by where the Mets play in Queens. That didn’t work out. Queens isn’t a loser right here as a result of they get the Mets anyway. They’re very a lot beloved in that borough. The narrative is that the individuals of Brooklyn have been the losers, however they stopped going to the video games. And by the mid-1950s, individuals had been licking their chops to get to Los Angeles – individuals which means Main League Baseball groups – for some time. This was too large of a market to disregard.
At one level the Yankees – think about the Yankees – within the early to mid-1950s being rumored to go to Los Angeles. This can be a staff that’s minting world championships and main the league in attendance yearly. They didn’t go anyplace however the rumors that they could go to Los Angeles as a result of that’s how a lot cash was seen as being on the market. The St. Louis Browns have been pursuing Los Angeles a lot earlier within the 1940s. I consider the vote was December 6, 1941 – not a fantastic day to vote on something in america as a result of issues modified dramatically the subsequent day. So L.A. was on the market. Individuals noticed the cash they might make there. O’Malley had the arrogance and the fortitude to see it via and make it occur.
Q: One of many alternate situations you bought me to think about was, what if the PCL had built-in earlier than the Nationwide or American League? Like, say, the Hollywood Stars or Los Angeles Angels had signed Jackie Robinson first. Or even when a Japanese or Spanish-speaking participant had signed with one of many California groups, with that inbuilt fan base which may have embraced the participant, might which have allowed the PCL to compete with the AL or NL as a viable main league?
A: There are two elements to that. If the Los Angeles Angels, or the Seals or Stars had signed Jackie Robinson or an African-American participant with roots in California, that’s one state of affairs. The opposite is what in the event that they began to signal these Japanese-American gamers, as a result of there have been Japanese semi-pro leagues. They have been sort of however not totally excluded from the PCL. However the issue was, notably within the instant post-war interval, with Robinson what if that they had finished this in 1945 or ’46 … the African American inhabitants, and the density of the African American inhabitants, wasn’t there in California or the West Coast on the time. When the Los Angeles Angels traveled as much as Portland, who’s getting excited about seeing that recreation? Say they occur to have this hypothetical African-American participant and even Jackie Robinson himself? I don’t know that that would’ve stored it going. For those who actually need to assume about situations, what about had you introduced in Latino gamers where there’s a giant Spanish-speaking inhabitants on the West Coast, and then added a pair groups in Mexico where there was cash, there was curiosity? That is very a lot within the realm of what may need been, and in fact we don’t know the reply to these questions.
There was very briefly what was then often known as a Negro League on the West Coast in ’46, which was the precise improper factor to do. It didn’t final for lots of those causes. The inhabitants bases have been primarily L.A. and the Bay Space. There wasn’t a lot in between and there weren’t too many different cities. What is an African American staff in Portland or Seattle, which have been massive cities however didn’t have a lot of an African American inhabitants? The Dodgers have been an enormous attract Brooklyn but in addition on the street in all places in ’47. African People got here into these cities, whether or not it was Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh. They got here as a result of they needed to see Jackie Robinson play, and additionally Larry Doby later with the Indians, and Satchel Paige with the Indians in ’48. That introduced attendance in. You then’re going to Detroit and the Bronx, you’re going to where your viewers is. However not on the West Coast.
Q: One other state of affairs I couldn’t assist however conjure: Southern California within the ’30s and ’40s had individuals with the technological know-how for movie and tv. Not solely that, the terrain with all of the mountains that made terrestrial broadcasts logistically attainable, arguably greater than New York. What if the Hollywood Stars or Los Angeles Angels have been on TV commonly – was that state of affairs ever a sensible path for the PCL to do greater enterprise?
A: I by no means learn that state of affairs, so I can’t say it was, however it’s an fascinating state of affairs as a result of where the PCL as a league was not going to compete with the American or Nationwide League, however the higher groups in any given yr – the 2 greatest groups yr in and yr out have been the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Seals. Not yearly, however as a basic rule for many of what we consider because the lifetime of the PCL. In any given yr, these two groups have been higher than a 3rd to a half of the main league groups. I can’t show that, however for those who take a look at the numbers intently, that’s a discovering that you’ve. The worst groups within the PCL couldn’t compete with the worst groups within the main leagues most years. However the higher groups might, and in the event you did one thing like that that raised the profile of the higher groups, then I feel the pure factor to do would’ve been, ‘well look, the Angels, we’re not strolling away from that fanbase,’ they might have built-in the most important leagues earlier, the Dodgers would’ve in all probability ended up staying in Brooklyn, the Giants would have gone to Minneapolis or wherever. I can simply see a state of affairs like that. However once more, who is aware of.
Q: You described Willie Mays as the primary crossover African American baseball star, and Koufax as the primary Jewish star, at the very least for the era that didn’t develop up with Hank Greenberg. Studying that, I can’t assist however consider what the primary brazenly homosexual participant may imply for Main League Baseball right now, and for the game, for the league. Do you assume the cultural forces are in play to permit that to occur and is that a legitimate comparability?
A: I feel it very a lot might occur. I don’t know the identify of that participant, however I feel for those who had a man who was an excellent baseball participant, who got here up by means of the processes that produce younger baseball gamers, notably in the event that they have been American, I feel they might very simply do properly. I say that as a 50-year-old straight man, so I don’t know precisely. My first e-book, I wrote quite a bit about youth baseball, and I’ve been round youth baseball quite a bit. I do know that the diploma of the politics mirror the place. … If a homosexual participant who was excellent received recruited to go to USC or UCLA or Berkeley or Stanford, I think that participant, it can be OK. Having stated that, I’m positive there are lots of closeted ballplayers that we don’t know about. I do not know, however the knowledge would recommend that, the best way numbers work, and that participant would confront bigotry, they might be an individual of nice social import, the interplay between society and sport. The Mays/Koufax comparability is the suitable one. It’s not Jackie Robinson. There already has been Glenn Burke, who got here out so shortly afterward. There already has been Billy Bean, who got here out. There have been homosexual gamers in different sports activities, however it would nonetheless be a really massive deal. I hope it occurs.
Q: You wrote one thing that, if not controversial, a minimum of isn’t within the story the Dodgers inform about themselves, which is that in Los Angeles “the Dodgers were gradually rebranding themselves as a whiter, more glamorous, and more winning version of what they had been during their last few years in Brooklyn.” To what extent was that rebranding intentional and, contemplating the connection the Dodgers loved with the movie and TV business, would you say it labored?
A: It undoubtedly labored. The Dodgers within the late ’40s in Brooklyn have been the trailblazers bringing in African American gamers, no query. By 1949, that they had Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe – three guys who have been superstars for the higher a part of the last decade, African American gamers, and they continued doing that via the 1960s. These ’60s groups that have been excellent, that gained three World Collection between 1959 and ’65, had Maury Wills, had John Roseboro. … Willie Davis was an ideal African American participant for some time. Tommy Davis. Al Downing. However they actually fall behind in scouting the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean normally. The Giants took a a lot greater lead on that. Then, you already know, (Don) Drysdale is that this nice pitcher, however in the event you’re the Los Angeles Dodgers that is the man you need. That it’s your second-best pitcher speaks to the great fortune of getting Sandy Koufax. He’s this handsome, camera-ready Hollywood type of man. Koufax is Jewish and can also be very handsome, camera-friendly, and presents as the proper individual, too. That begins to assist. The profitable half is nice; that’s not about race, that they gained. You actually see this within the ’70s.
To me, having watched these Dodger groups within the ’70s and appeared on the numbers so much within the late ’70s to the current: why is Steve Garvey the face of this staff within the late ’70s? Don Sutton? Tommy John? Reggie Smith was the higher participant by any measure. Why is Davey Lopes not seen nearly as good as Steve Garvey? You don’t should be Invoice James in 1978 to determine that Garvey is overrated and Davey Lopes is underrated. Within the nationwide context, you by no means heard from Reggie Smith, from Davey Lopes, from Dusty Baker, who – I don’t know that Dusty Baker is the best in-game supervisor on the planet, however Dusty Baker is charming, erudite, enjoyable, when he talks on the radio now looks like a fantastic man – why is Dusty Baker not being heard from? The politics of Glenn Burke? Glenn Burke’s story is being a semi-closeted homosexual man at a really homophobic time, in a really homophobic business, at a second when the homosexual rights second is starting its first degree of advance. However Glenn Burke can also be African American, and that to me is part of that story.
The 2 issues I might level out about Glenn Burke’s story which strike me as fascinating: one is that folks all the time assume he was in contrast as the subsequent Willie Mays. With out speaking about the racial element that each African American participant is ‘the next Willie Mays,’ each African American outfielder with somewhat little bit of velocity and somewhat little bit of pop. Which is to begin with utterly unfair. You shouldn’t examine anyone to Willie Mays. It all the time struck me as racial profiling. Secondly, Burke has this relationship with Dusty Baker. Lots of the Dodger gamers are actually respectable to Glenn Burke, and that basically comes throughout in Burke’s writing. However Dusty Baker – with whom he has the primary high-five, an historic second – is an older African American participant who’s mentoring Glenn Burke. I write this within the ebook as a result of it’s not a part of the story, however it ought to be. Henry Aaron had mentored Dusty Baker. That’s a very essential and nice story. As an alternative within the ’70s it’s all the time ‘Steve Garvey is going to run for the U.S. Senate,’ which was loopy. I do know that (Tommy) Lasorda is beloved in Los Angeles, however there’s little or no in his report to recommend he was a progressive individual on problems with race, ethnicity and variety.
Q: I discover it fascinating that Roberto Clemente was a Dodger for like two seconds within the 1950s earlier than the Pirates received him within the Rule 5 draft. How would that historical past have performed out from a baseball standpoint for one, but in addition from a cultural standpoint when you’ve got arguably the most important Latino star within the recreation whenever you move to L.A.? How would which were totally different for the Dodgers?
A: One solution to assume about that query would have been to the Giants: that they had (Orlando) Cepeda and (Juan) Marichal, not once they moved however just about once they moved. And Cepeda and Marichal have been large; Clemente was just about a longtime participant in 1958. However that they had the Alou brothers, notably Felipe, and that helped them quite a bit in San Francisco however it additionally made the racial query very difficult. There have been articles in official magazines and newspapers saying ‘the team is too diverse. How can they win with so many black and Latino players?’ The phrase for that’s racism, proper, and the Giants confronted that. Alvin Darkish didn’t deal with this with nice decency. ‘You can’t converse Spanish within the clubhouse’ – are you able to think about saying that in Los Angeles? That would have created extra issues. Roberto Clemente was clearly one of many nice, nice gamers and nice individuals in baseball historical past. If Orlando Cepeda didn’t like being informed to not converse Spanish, are you able to think about saying that to Roberto Clemente?
The Pirates staff that gained in 1960 was not as numerous. (Willie) Stargell wasn’t there but, for instance. Clemente all the time felt he acquired handled unfairly, or not revered sufficient for his contributions to that workforce. The info suggests he was proper about that interpretation. I feel it would’ve been an ideal boon for the Dodgers. But in addition you and I are usually not Latino. Clemente’s Puerto Rican. Cepeda and Marichal are Puerto Rican. That solely will get you thus far with a group that’s Mexican American, as most Latinos in these two West Coast cities have been and nonetheless are. That opens the door for this monumental position performed by Fernando Valenzuela somewhat bit later.
Q: You do a masterful job portraying the cultural shifts, the inhabitants shifts, within the 1950s that made this move logical. Within the current day we’re seeing inhabitants shifts from smaller cities into greater cities, cultural modifications like cord-cutting, and I’m wondering if there isn’t one other huge move in baseball – perhaps not East Coast to West Coast – but when the backdrop of tradition modifications now would predict some sort of a shift.
A: I did write an entire ebook about this query, referred to as “Will Big League Baseball Survive?” That e-book is about simply that. My sense is that the most important change in baseball, which started I feel with this move however has accelerated dramatically within the final 20 years, is that baseball is an more and more massive business and a decreasingly related a part of our tradition. I’ve an experiment on my Fb web page within the World Collection: ‘How many of you know who’s enjoying within the World Collection?’ A few third of my buddies didn’t. The position it’s performed within the tradition is absolutely altering. I feel that may drive baseball to attempt to remedy the next query: As an alternative of how can we proceed to seek out methods to proceed to observe the World Collection, to proceed to observe the playoffs … how do you separate the extreme baseball followers from their cash extra aggressively? That’s one set of challenges.
We haven’t had a franchise move because the Expos turned the Nationals, and an extended time since we’ve had enlargement. I feel that the issue that baseball faces now’s that should you broaden, you’re taking a look at three-year cities – cities where, as soon as the thrill wears off, the workforce doesn’t final. Consider the Milwaukee Braves, the Kansas Metropolis Athletics, as examples. For me, one thing baseball has finished rather well the final 20 years, is globalization. I proceed to assume that the daring move they might do is put one group in Tokyo, one staff in Seoul – two in East Asia where there’s cash and individuals are passionate about baseball, and put them within the Western Division, whether or not it’s the AL or the NL. It wouldn’t matter, notably. You’d need to make it so they might have longer house and longer street journeys and groups would add on a 10-day journey to these cities as a part of the journey. The scheduling can be difficult however the sum of money they might usher in can be monumental.
We’re in a way more international world now. I’m wondering about shifting towards a mannequin of a shorter season with extra tournaments and/or barnstorming. The World Baseball Basic, they’re actually enjoyable, and they actually assist globalize the sport, however you’ve gotten these issues of the perfect gamers aren’t there, it’s spring coaching for the pitchers in order that they don’t need to harm their arms. You possibly can tackle a few of these issues when you move away from the longer season. I’m not advocating for that, however I can see baseball considering in these phrases. The opposite state of affairs is that baseball recedes for slightly bit … not when it comes to fewer groups, however baseball for many of its historical past was performed in entrance of one-third empty, where the cash wasn’t this loopy and it was a beloved establishment – and for a few of that point a beloved establishment that generated loads of revenue. Baseball’s slightly bloated now. If baseball had much less cash within the recreation, it would survive that. I’m not advocating that, I’m simply considering about situations.