The Senators Move to Minnesota; The League Meeting

The American League voted to allow the Washington Senators to move to Minneapolis-St.Paul during a league meeting in October 1960. This was not an easy decision and some clever manipulation of the rules was necessary to allow the move.
The background is that the Senators were suffering from poor attendance at an small, antiquated, poorly located stadium.  The location did not allow for parking when the new stadiums offered acres of parking. The location was difficult to get to as there was only a single, low capacity,  street car line serving the stadium. Efforts to build a new stadium was focused on a football stadium and it was going to be built. The location of that stadium was not beneficial to the baseball team as it was located far from its historical fan base in Northwest Washigton and Maryland. An effort by the team to have locations in Northwest Washington, the Military Road site, were not seriuously considered by the Armory Board that was focused on the Redskins as the primary tenant of the new stadium that would be named after Robert F. Kennedy following his assasination.

The Senators had been courted by Los Angeles interests, but Dodger owner, Walter O’Malley, upon hearing this, quickly talked Giants owner, Horace Stoneham, into partnering in a West Coast move. It was the addition of the second team that made the move possible. The Senators could not have moved alone. As it turned out, it took expansion to make the move possible.

Expansion was a reaction to Branch Rickey’s efforts to create the Continental League, a third major league. There is nothing more alarming to an established major league in any sport than the creation of a competitor. Rival leagues are either absorbed or crushed. Here the decision was to crush the new league by expanding to its major cities, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Houston, New York and California. A new franchise was to be placed in Washington to avoid antitrust legislation that would take away the antirust exemption created by the Supreme Court in the Baltimore Federal League case in 1921. The act of crushing competitors is an antitrust violation and had a new team had not been placed in Washington, there was real fear of Congressional action repealing the antitrust exemption as Congress had been focused on the antitrust exemption prior to this action.

The easy decision was to simply expand to Minneapolis-St. Paul and Los Angeles. However, the Senators had the advantage that the American League’s President, Joe Cronin, member of the Hall of Fame as shortstop for Washington, shortstop, manager and general manager of the Red Sox, was also Senators owner, Calvin Griffith’s brother-in-law.  Cronin’s Red  Sox had operated the AAA Minneapolis Millers and Cronin had been pushing Calvin towards Minneapolis for several years.

There was a competent, local owenrship group, the same one Rickey had put together to operate the Minneapolis-St.Paul Continental League team,as well as a new, soon to be expanded stadium built on 100 acres south of Minneapolis with parking for 15,000 cars! Sponsorship by Hamm’s Beer was available, and the nearest competion was Milwaukee 330 miles away. The question was how to get the Senators to make the move. Cronin manuevered this adroitly by providing for new owership under WWII General Elwood Quesada for an expanion team in Washington and managing the critical league vote.

The league meeting took place in New York in late October, 1960. The league’s rules required a super majority for a franchise transfer. That meant that 3/4 of the members voting in a properly convened meeting was required to allow the move. A properly convened meeting meant that proper noticed had to be made of the purpose of the meeting, and the Senators move to Minneapolis-St. Paul was on the agenda. As Cronin managed the meeting, he managed the discussion of this item, and sensing that there were three negative votes present, New York, Chicago, and Baltimore, he asked that the issue be tabled until after lunch. Lunch at such meetings was always a problem as some members ate their lunch and some drank it. When the meeting was re-convened, Cronin noticed that several “no” members were absent and he called for a vote on the Senators issue. Three quarters of those present at the time voted to allow the move and the Minnesota Twins had been created.  When the absent members, who wandered into the meeting late, asked about the Senators move,  Cronin said, “We voted on that, Calvin is in Minnesota.”

I firmly believe that the move would not have occurred if the new DC stadium had been built where the Senators wanted the stadium. Calvin had firm ties to DC and did not like the new stadium location. His concern is supported by history as the team never prospered on the Armory site.

The 1960 expansion created the new Senators, the Calfornia Angels, the Houston Colt. 45s, and the New York Mets.  These teams occupied new or soon to be constructed stadiums.  The expansion Senator’s failed in the Armory stadium and moved to Arlington, Texas.  Baseball in Washington had
failed and would not be resumed until a new, modern stadium was built.

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