It was bound to come, and last week it came: the founding of baseball's third major league. New York City's Bill Shea had already named the impressive backers of a third-league team in his town (SI, June 29); this time he introduced some of the organizers of major league teams-in-waiting in Toronto, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Houston. The third league will call itself the Continental League, Shea said, and will strive to play a full season of 154 games (in stadiums seating 35,000 or better) by 1961. By that time there will be at least eight founder clubs, Shea promised, noting that New Orleans, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Indianapolis, San Diego, Seattle, Portland and San Juan, Puerto Rico are also showing interest.
Where will the ballplayers come from? Shea can answer that question a lot more fully after he and his fellow Continentals have met with the National and American League owners on August 18. The real answer, of course, is that they will have to come from the existing major league teams and their carefully guarded preserves in the minors, as well as from new baseball talent attracted and discovered by a broadening of the major league base. Before the Continental League can open for business hosts of other problems will have to be solved. But no one who has watched the growth of the U.S. and its sports interests in the last half-dozen years can very seriously doubt that the solutions will be found. Evidence of the vigor and enthusiasm the third league evokes was detectable in the people who stepped forward last week as backers of the Continental.
Most of them are young and already successful in a variety of business activities. Jack Cooke of Toronto, 45, is a manufacturer who got into sport by way of the Toronto baseball and hockey teams, and now talks of big league ball in Canada like a Crusader discussing a plan to capture the Holy Land from the Turks. Craig Cullinan Jr., 34, chairman of the Houston backers, is a grandson of the man who founded Texaco.
Wheelock Whitney Jr., 33, a friend and classmate of Cullman's at Yale, is a Minneapolis investment banker, a director of the Susquehanna Corp., whose board chairman is Avery Brundage. Dwight Davis, representing the backers of the New York team in the new league, is the son of the donor of the Davis Cup. Robert Howsam, 41, president of the Denver ball club, is the son-in-law of Colorado's elder statesman, ex-Senator Ed C. Johnson. (Simultaneously, in another significant show of enterprise, a young fellow named Lamar Hunt, 26, of Dallas revealed that he and some of his friends are deep in plans for a new professional football league. He is the son of Oilman H. L. Hunt, one of the richest men in the world.)
August 9, 1959
Strong supporting evidence that major league baseball should spread over the country in the 1960s came from Washington, where a Senate subcommittee heard testimony on two bills—S.616 by Senator Keating and S.886 by Senator Kefauver—both designed to prevent monopoly and preserve opportunity in professional sport. Before this committee testified Ford Frick, Commissioner of Baseball: "I feel deep in my heart that the new Continental League will become a reality." Frick promised that Organized Baseball would be "on the level" in cooperating with the Continentals. Said Senator Kefauver, invisibly waving S.886: "With an attitude such as Mr. Frick has, I should hope that there won't be any great delay in coming to a conclusion about the matter."