On This Day in Baseball History May 15, 1968: The first American League game played in Milwaukee since the Milwaukee Brewers finished in last place in 1901 with a 48-89 record is a 4-2 win by the California Angels against Chicago White Sox before 23,403 fans. This game was the first of nine home games that the Chisox would play at Milwaukee County Stadium which stood empty with the departure of the beloved Milwaukee Braves to the greener pastures of Atlanta.
Now, when I saw this historical tidbit, I had to do a double take. I had no clue that the White Sox played "home" games in Milwaukee. I immediately thought of the Brooklyn Dodgers playing "home" games in Jersey City during the 1957 season right before their departure to Los Angeles after that season. So that got me thinking: Were the White Sox on the verge of leaving Chicago? The article A short history of the Milwaukee White Sox by Frank Jackson from the Hardball Times dated March 27, 2013 does a wonderful job describing the factors that led to the White Sox playing home games in Milwaukee not only in 1968 but also in 1969. So please go and read that post. But for simplicity sake, here goes a short synopsis.
Milwaukee was the first city to gain a major league city in 50-years when the National League's Boston Braves left the Beantown for Brew City right before of the start of the 1952 season. The Braves proved successful with two World Series appearances against the New York Yankees (1957-1958) with one World Championship in 1957. The Braves drew record crowds at first but attendance would decline even though the team never put up a losing record. Also keep in mind that by playing in Milwaukee, the team had issues earning revenue from the established medium of radio and growing medium of television. Being only 90 miles from two major league franchises in the second city of Chicago resulted in the lack of media opportunities and minimal media revenues.
That would change in 1965 when the city of Atlanta came in with a classic example of boosterism to woo the recently changed ownership of the Braves. For those of you who don't know what boosterism is, according to dictionary.com, boosterism is the action or policy of enthusiastically promoting something, as a city, product, or way of life.
The city of Atlanta offered an untapped major league viable market playing in a municipally owned state of the art stadium. Consider that unlike Milwaukee who was close in proximity to Chicago, in 1965 the nearest major league franchises to Atlanta were Cincinnati at roughly 400-miles away to the North, Washington D.C. at roughly 600-miles to the Northeast and the St. Louis Cardinals at roughly 500-miles away to the West. The Braves would be the Southern most franchise on the East Coast, since Florida was the home of Spring Training. The Marlins and Rays wouldn't become MLB franchises until the 1990's. The lure of an wide open market with no media competition (the Braves would later enjoy nationwide exposure with the broadcast of Braves games on cable TV on channel TBS) was an offer too good for the Braves ownership to pass up. This produced a problem in Milwaukee.
The team was to move for the 1965 season but was held up due to a lawsuit brought about by a group led by a Milwaukee car dealer by the name of Allen H "Bud" Selig. The lawsuit delayed the inevitable by a season leaving Milwaukee team-less in 1966. Selig believed that the next round of expansion in MLB would lead to Milwaukee getting another team. In order to Selig was able to organize an exhibition game between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 24, 1967 which drew over 51,000 spectators to show that Milwaukee was major league town. Unfortunately, MLB would expand into Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego and Seattle for the 1969 season. Going back to the "home" games for the Chisox in Milwaukee, Selig looked into moving the White Sox to Brew City.
As we know, the White Sox never left the South Side of Chicago. Ownership of the team remained in the hands of those who had no interest in moving the team. Selig's persistence would result in the purchase of the bankrupt Seattle Pilots right after the end of Spring Training of 1970 and the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in time for the 1970 season. For more information on the Seattle Pilots, check out Mike Fuller's SeattlePilots.com and don't forget to check out the aforementioned A short history of the Milwaukee White Sox by Frank Jackson from the Hardball Times dated March 27, 2013 for more information on the Chicago White Sox "home" series in Milwaukee.
With the movement to have Montreal get a second shot at a Major League team and rumors of the Rays potentially having to leave Tampa to stay viable, what city/cities would be a viable place for a move and/or expansion. Anyone want to take a guess?
Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
For Further Reading:
- The Milwaukee White Sox by Gene Mueller from the WISports website dated July 29, 2014
- Back when Milwaukee made goo-goo eyes at the Chicago White Sox by Gene Mueller from the Newsradio 620 WMTJ website dated June 24, 2012