50th Anniversary of the Proposed Continental League
July 29th, 1959: With the Giants & Dodgers moving to California, there was a big hole in New York sports. The fan base of the two departed teams was huge and they were not about to switch to American League baseball. An attorney from New York named Bill Shea headed the effort for a new league to be added to Major League Baseball. Then there was only 16 teams and the owners carried a lot of power over the Commissioner. They were not happy about a third league being added.
The Continental League would have franchises in New York, Houston, Minneapolis, Denver & Toronto. Three others were expected by 1961; with Dallas, Atlanta, & Buffalo leading the way. The franchise owners needed $2.5 million to start, not including stadium costs with seating for at least 35,000. The New York franchise was to play in Queens near the site of the upcoming 1964 World’s Fair.
The owners instead chose to expand the existing leagues in cities that didn’t have baseball. In 1961 the A.L. got two teams; The Twin Cities of got the Twins, ( the relocated Senators from Washington D.C.), D.C. got a new Senators franchise and the Los Angeles area of Anaheim got the 1st West Coast A.L. team, the L.A. Angels.
In 1962 the N.L. got the Houston Colt 45’s. Thanks to the efforts of Bill Shea, New York got a much needed N.L. franchise, the Metropolitans, who became known as the Mets. The Mets would name their new Stadium Shea Stadium in his honor. He was not only responsible for a new New York, N.L. team but for baseballs overall expansion.
These proposals instantly killed the Continental League, and the other cities had to wait. Atlanta got the relocated Milwaukee Braves in 1966, Dallas/ Fort Worth would have to wait until 1972, when they got the Senators franchise that became the Rangers. Toronto waited until 1977 for the Blue Jays when the A.L. expanded again. Denver waited 30 years until the Colorado Rockies were born in 1993.
The next expansion was in 1969. The N.L. got the Montreal Expos, (the first team outside the US), & Southern California, San Diego got the Padres. The A.L. got the Kansas City Royals (replacing the A’s who moved to Oakland), & the Seattle Pilots, who after one season would move to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. Their effort to move to Wisconsin was headed by a guy named Bud Selieg.