One of the saddest days in New York baseball history happened 63 years ago today. But without it, there would be no New York Mets.
Those New York National League baseball fans who lived through it will never forget the date May 28, 1957. On that day, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were officially permitted to relocate their teams to Los Angeles and San San Francisco, respectively. Their fans were devastated. Without this event, however, the New York Mets would never exist.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were one of the few MLB teams that made money at the time. Owner Walter O’Malley realized to thrive; his team needed a new stadium. In an era of changing technology, Ebbets Field was outdated and had limited parking. He had the money to build a new ballpark (rumors were he wanted a dome), but the city wouldn’t let him acquire the land to put it on. Los Angeles was willing to give him all the land he wanted for a stadium, on the cheap.
As for New York’s other National League team, the Giants, they were having a tough time. The former National League powerhouse played in a deteriorating ballpark (The Polo Grounds). As the building fell apart, attendance plummeted. They were no longer financially competitive in a three-team market. To stay afloat, the Giants had to move.
O’Malley, realizing his team needed a natural rival, convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to move west with him. San Francisco was a baseball town. The city’s minor league team, the San Franciso Seals of the Pacific Coast League, drew well. At one point, Joe DiMaggio played there. It was an excellent place to take the Giants. Both teams headed west for the 1958 season.
We live in an age where sports teams pick and move seemingly on a whim. It’s not a new thing, teams have relocated throughout the history of sports. Back in 1957, however, players were more a part of the local community and often lived near the ballpark. There was no free agency in that era. Players stayed with a team until they were traded or retired. When the Dodgers and Giants moved, it was like losing a neighbor to their supporters.
New York might not have been able to support three teams, but two teams made sense. Plans were set in motion to add another team to the city. Major League Baseball wanted to expand as well, so it was a perfect match.
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