The seven gentlemen above, looking out with gracious, shirtsleeve informality, are executives of Organized Baseball. They were lined up on a perch in Columbus, Ohio because it was appropriate to a high-sounding pronouncement they and their fellows had just handed down. Which was this: the American and National leagues—with no plans for letting any more towns into their own leagues—see no reason whatever why they should not "favorably consider" a bid by suitable cities and suitable fellows to start a third major league "within the present baseball structure."
It was not, to be sure, the news expected out of Columbus last week. The baseball executives were ostensibly meeting there to decide what to do about the devastating effect of major league television in minor league territories. But when it became apparent they were getting nowhere on that problem Commissioner Ford Frick said it was high time to tackle the long-evaded question' of spreading major league franchises around some of the status-seeking towns that are ready for them. The upshot of the meeting, held on the farm of Sportsman John Galbreath (see page 70), was the guarded invitation to join the bigs.
The baseball executives, it should be understood, do not intend that the formation of another league is to be any picnic. No league will be considered, for instance, unless each represented city is at least as large as Kansas City (pop. 515,000). And each team must have or be able to build a stadium with a minimum seating capacity of 25,000. Another provision sets certain time limits for submitting applications, which will work marvelously toward postponing any precipitous action on forming a third league.
After taking soundings of our own we are able to report that the third-league theme has led to very little dancing in the streets. In Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Fort Worth (and in New York City, for that matter) the prevailing response was a good deal more of a weary shrug. "Here we go again" and "We'll believe it when we see it" were themes from coast to coast. Another was: "This way, even if it happens, we won't get to see either Casey Stengel or Willie Mays." Said Frank Shaughnessy, president of the International League: "I think the idea was brought out just to stop talk of expansion [within] the American and National leagues."
May 31, 1959
But the heavy air of skepticism was ventilated with fresh breezes of enthusiasm, too. "We could almost press a button and get going," said New Orleans Mayor Delesseps Morrison. "I've been working on this for a long time.... I got a wire off to Frick the minute I heard the announcement." Folks in Dallas and Fort Worth seemed more bullish than bearish; so what if Casey and Willie wouldn't be coming to town—a third league would be better than nothing. In New York, Bill Shea, a hard-driving Irishman who heads the city's baseball committee, was exultant. "At last we know they're thinking right," he said. "I'm only sorry they didn't do it sooner. We will be able to present a plan for a league within five weeks—we've thought of everything and we have a plan for everything."
Well, it is a good thing Bill Shea has plans for everything, for it has not been shown that the major league executives have gone that far. Where will the third league get major league players, Ford Frick was asked. "Oh, they'll develop," he answered with an airy wave.
But to those who hoped for real action, the most significant item to come out of the meeting was the picture at the top of this page, which clearly reveals that the big league gents had not even rolled up their nice white sleeves.