Not having been present, this magazine is not quite sure how history's most earth-shaking decisions came to be born. It may be that all of them sprang from the most casual kind of remark dropped over some bar or dinner table during a lull in the conversation. Picture a faintly bored Karl Marx kneading his whiskers while remarking idly: "Might not be a bad idea if the masses had a shot at running things, y'know. Worth a try anyway." Or perhaps a Sigmund Freud saying unguardedly, "What about your folks? Like 'em?" It may be that that's the way such things get started, and it may be that Millionaire Del E. Webb, co-owner (with Millionaire Dan Topping) of the New York Yankee baseball team, was being just as casual as he passed through West Palm Beach last week. It may be, but we're inclined to doubt it.
What Webb said in his once-overlightly on the subject of big league ball was casual enough on the surface, and he evinced considerable surprise that anyone should get worked up over it. He was talking mostly about the difficulties of travel during the upcoming season, and he threw in a suggestion: "If you'd just switch two clubs, putting the Philadelphia Phillies in the American League and the Kansas City Athletics in the National, both leagues would be operating along more workable lines." "Hmm," you might say, "not a bad notion, Del. Well, what else is new?" But wait a minute.
To the reporters listening, Webb's remark did not have at all the ring of casual conversation. The Yankee owner's fortune is rooted in the construction business where carefully prepared blueprints are essential to success. Even his lightest wish carries huge weight in the high councils of baseball. What Del Webb seemed to many to be offering was a blueprint for a radically new baseball construction realigning the old leagues into a new East and West conference system in which two-team Chicago would sit alone on the Great Divide.
This plan would permit Webb's plane-hating Yankees to cover their eastern territory more easily by train, remove the danger of National League competition (by TV or railroad) in Philadelphia, and leave the Bronx-men kings in the New York area. It might in time open the way for the admission of extra teams in each league (Seattle and Denver, maybe, in the West; Minneapolis and Toronto in the East) without increased travel problems. It would, of course, mean a good deal of flying for the National Leaguers, and it would mean some heart-breaking shifts in loyalty for fans in Philadelphia and Kansas City, but that, of course, is not Webb's problem. Basically Webb's gerrymandering of baseball would benefit the Yankees.
March 31, 1958
Would it benefit baseball as a whole? Well, Del Webb reminds us of Engine Charlie Wilson. "What's good for the Yankees is good for baseball," we can imagine Del saying—and can imagine him adding, "Anyhow, what's good for the Yankees is good for the Yankees."