The 1950s was a decade of change.
Elvis Presley spearheaded the introduction of rock and roll, television replaced radio as the preferred mass medium for news and entertainment, and several baseball teams migrated westward—way westward for two teams, mid-westward for two others.
With a pedigree dating back to 1871, the Braves resided in Boston until moving to Milwaukee after the 1952 season. Milwaukee offered abundant parking spaces, a welcoming fan base, and a new stadium. When the Braves went on the migration warpath from Braves Field to Milwaukee County Stadium, it ignited Midwestern pride throughout a minor league city elated at graduating to the next level of professional baseball. Boston still had the Red Sox, though.
Until it lost the Athletics to Kansas City, Philadelphia was also a two-team town. After the 1954 season, the A’s said goodbye to Shibe Park, bolted the City of Brotherly Love, and left the Phillies behind for the folks from the Liberty Bell to the Main Line suburbs.
Once a bedrock of baseball, the Philadelphia A’s racked up nine National League pennants and five World Series championships. Connie Mack managed the A’s from 1901 to 1950. It is the longest managerial tenure in Major League Baseball.
After the 1967 season, the A’s left Kansas City for Oakland.
New York City suffered the loss of two teams when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants moved to California after the 1957 season. The Giants played in the cavernous Polo Grounds, with a distance of 483 feet between home plate and the center field fence. The distances down the foul lines were 279 feet for left field and 258 for right field.
As manager of the Giants, John McGraw defined a pugnacious approach to early 20th century baseball at the Polo Grounds. It was, indeed, a site synonymous with baseball history. Bobby Thomson hit his Shot Heard ‘Round the World to win the 1951 National League pennant against the Dodgers. Willie Mays made his famous catch of a Vic Wertz drive in the 1954 World Series with his back to home plate while sprinting toward the center field fence.
San Francisco inherited the rich history of the Giants, opened its arms, and helped further set the Manifest Destiny mentality of baseball.
When the Dodgers left Brooklyn, they found an exploding southern California population base ready to move up the ranks of professional sports. In their first 10 years with “Los Angeles” as part of the team’s full name, the Dodgers won three National League pennants and two World Series championships.
From 1958 to 1961, the Dodgers played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In 1962, Dodger Stadium débuted in Chavez Ravine once a massive abyss in the middle of Los Angeles.
Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley thought about staying in Brooklyn, albeit with a new stadium to replace aging Ebbets Field. He evaluated proposals, but ultimately chose to move 3,000 miles west of the baseball nirvana where Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and several others became, as author Roger Kahn knighted them, the boys of summer.
Not all migrating teams planted their flags in the Pacific time zone. After the 1953 season, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on May 15, 2014.
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