Monday, April 16, 2018

Recent Baseball History

By the 1950’s, more major league baseball teams moved into the West. Baseball has always been played in the West for a long time. There was the Pacific Coast League. This league included the Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Oaks, Portland Beavers, Sacramento Solons, San Francisco Seals, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Rainiers. The PCL was very large in the West. It was a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. It kept losing great players to the National and American leagues for less than $8,000 a player. The PCL was more independent than other minor leagues. They rebelled against others in the East. The President of the PCL back then was Clarence Pants Rowland. He took on baseball commissioners Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Happy Chandler at first to try to get equity from the major leagues. He wanted to form a third major league. His efforts were rebuffed by both commissioners. Chandler and others saw the value of the market in the West. So, they plotted to end the PCL. Rowland didn’t have the financial power of the Eastern major league baseball establishment. Many people left the PCL club after the National or the American League build stadiums out west. Until the 1950's, major league baseball franchises had been largely confined to the northeastern United States, with the teams and their locations having remained unchanged from 1903 to 1952. The first team to relocate in fifty years was the Boston Braves, who moved in 1953 to Milwaukee, where the club set attendance records. In 1954, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and were renamed the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1955, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City. By 1958, the New York market changed. The Yankees was the dominant draw in New York City. Many in the West grew as fans of baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants existed. The Dodgers moved into Los Angeles and the Giants moved into San Francisco. This was helped by owner of the Dodgers Walter O’Malley. Candlestick Park was built for baseball teams too. Expansion teams grew like the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The American League influenced southern California. By 1968, the Athletics moved into Oakland across from the San Francisco Giants. During the 1960’s, more players asserted themselves in unions. In 1966, the players enlisted the help of labor union activist Marvin Miller to form the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The same year, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale – both Cy Young Award winners for the Los Angeles Dodgers – refused to re-sign their contracts, and the era of the reserve clause, which held players to one team, was coming toward an end. The reverse clause was weakened.

Along with the Angels, the other 1961 expansion team was the Washington Senators, who joined the American League and took over the nation's capital when the previous Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. 1961 is also noted as being the year in which Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth's single season home run record, hitting 61 for the New York Yankees, albeit in a slightly longer season than Ruth's. To keep pace with the American League—which now had ten teams—the National League likewise expanded to ten teams, in 1962, with the addition of the Houston Colt .45s and New York Mets. By the late 1960’s, pitchers were favored between pitching and hitting. In 1968 Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with an average of just .301, the lowest in history. That same year, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain won 31 games – making him the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Bob Gibson achieved an equally remarkable feat by allowing an ERA of just 1.12. That is why some wanted to create rules to benefit the batters in 1969. The pitcher’s mound was lowered and the strike zone was reduced. In 1973, the American League was suffering from lower attendance than the National League (which made a move to increase scoring even further by initiating the designating hitter rule).  The 1970’s saw many great individual achievements too. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's all-time record. He would retire in 1976 with 755 and that was just one of numerous records he achieved, many of which, including Total bases scored, still stand today. Hank Aaron is an African American man who endured death threats and vicious letters, but he spoke the record triumphantly. Aaron supports Kaepernick's protest movement too. There was great pitching too: between 1973 and 1975, Nolan Ryan threw 4 "no-hit" games. He would add a record-breaking fifth in 1981 and two more before his retirement in 1993, by which time he had also accumulated 5,714 strikeouts, another record, in a 27-year career.

The American League expanded by 1969 when the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots, the latter in a longtime PCL stronghold, were admitted to the league. The Pilots stayed just one season in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee and becoming today's Milwaukee Brewers. The National League also added two teams that year, the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres. The Padres were the last of the core PCL teams to be absorbed. The Coast League did not die, though. It reformed, and moved into other markets, and endures to this day as a Class AAA league. The second Washington Senators moved into Texas to be the Texas Rangers in 1972. In 1977, the American League expanded to fourteen teams, with the newly formed Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Sixteen years later, in 1993, the National League likewise expanded to fourteen teams, with the newly formed Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins). By the 1994 season, the AL and NL were divided into the three divisions: East, West, and Central. There was a wild card team. The 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike caused the new rules that didn’t go into effect until the 1995 World Series. In 1998, the AL and the NL each added a fifteenth team, for a total of thirty teams in Major League Baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays—now called simply the Rays—joined the American League. In order to keep the number of teams in each league at an even number (14 – AL, 16 – NL), Milwaukee changed leagues and became a member of the National League.
From the 1980’s to the present, major league baseball had increased in popularity. Training and workouts have improved. Cable television has shown more games. Average attendances first broke 20,000 in 1979 and 30,000 in 1993. That year total attendance hit 70 million, but baseball was hit hard by a strike in 1994, and as of 2005 it has only marginally improved on those 1993 records. There has been massive television investment and marketing. The Internet and video games play a huge role in baseball. On September 6, 1995, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record. This was the first high-profile moment in baseball after the strike. Ripken continued his streak for another three years, voluntarily ending it at 2,632 consecutive games played on September 20, 1998.

In 1997, the Florida Marlins won the World Series in just their fifth season. This made them the youngest expansion team to win the Fall Classic (with the exception of the 1903 Boston Red Sox and later the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, who won in their fourth season). Virtually all the key players on the 1997 Marlins team were soon traded or let go to save payroll costs (although the 2003 Marlins did win a second world championship). During the year of 1998, the New York Yankees won a record 125 games, including going 11–2 in the postseason, to win the World Series as what many consider to be one of the greatest teams of all time. Some baseball players unfortunately used performance enhancing substances like steroids that tainted the race for records (Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds have been accused of using steroids. In the BALCO Grand Jury, Giambi admitted using steroids. McGwire and Bonds to this very day deny using steroids).  In 2013, no player from the first "steroid class" of players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame was elected. After the steroid era of the early 2000's, batting averages have declined to 1960’s levels and strikeouts are in all-time highs. There is a new pitching revolution too. Since the 1990's, the changeup has made a resurgence, being thrown masterfully by pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Pedro Martínez, Trevor Hoffman, Greg Maddux, Matt Cain, Tom Glavine, Johan Santana, Marco Estrada, Justin Verlander and Cole Hamels. In 2013, in keeping with Commissioner Bud Selig's desire for expanded interleague play, the Houston Astros were shifted from the National to the American League; with an odd number (15) in each league, an interleague contest was played somewhere almost every day during the season. At this time the divisions within each league were shuffled to create six equal divisions of five teams.

By Timothy

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