BASEBALL WAKES ATLAST
Like a slept-out,latter-day Rip Van Winkle, major league baseball last week opened its othereye, yawned widely and admitted it was time to get up out of the 1920s.
A lot hashappened to the world and to the U.S. since those halcyon years, years that nowlive only in sentimental memory-The 5¢ cigar, the 5¢ subway ride and the 5¢telephone call have vanished forever along with the 10¢ ice cream soda and the25¢ haircut. There are nearly 100 million more Americans now than there werethen, and the number of U.S. cities with populations exceeding 400,000 (i.e.,big enough to support a major league ball club) has just about doubled. But inspite of all these changes, there is one relic of the 1920s that endures: thetwo-league, 16-team setup of organized big-time baseball. This anachronismsurvives because those who preside over it have been content to let sleepingdogs sleep—particularly dogs that are not only somnolent but solvent.
For the last twoyears, however, a new and wide-awake pup called the Continental League has beenyapping at the door of the big league bedroom. A year ago the barking brieflyroused the American League, which admitted—at its owners' meeting—that maybe itwas time to get going on the road to expansion. But when the American looked toits senior partner for endorsement of this daring thought, it found the oldNational League still snoozing peacefully, unaware of any need to do anythingabout anything. So what, asked the AL with a shrug as it returned to slumber,can we do all by ourselves?
The yapping ofthe newcomer, however, has continued in the year since then, arousing manyangry neighbors to a consciousness of baseball's tight-shut monopoly. Largelybecause of the noise these outsiders made, the National League at its meetingin Chicago last week admitted that it was time to open the door. It appointed acommittee to meet with the Continental League to test its viability. Then, inthe words of the official announcement, "if it develops that a new leagueis impracticable, the National League has voted unanimously to expand itsmembership to 10 clubs."
This decision mayhave been, as many claimed, only a gesture of irritation—-a warning to theContinental League to put up or shut up. As such alone it could have a strongaccelerating effect on the Continental's efforts to solve its franchisedifficulties. But even if its intent was only to harass, the NL decision servesto put all of organized baseball on permanent record as favoring expansion.Having made this admission, the present leagues can scarcely back away from it.There will be expansion in one form or another.
What is the rightform? Proponents of two 10- or 12-club leagues contend it would be years beforea third league achieved true major status with the fans. Proponents of a thirdleague claim it would foster a greater degree and variety of interleague andintraleague competition, whereas expansion of the old leagues would simply meanmaking their cellars bigger. Who, they ask, cares about the fight for seventh,eighth, ninth and 10th places in any league?
To this questionwe say: a good many people, if the high quality of baseball is maintained. Wedoubt that eight new teams can be created immediately without severely dilutingthat quality. In consequence, we favor two 10-club leagues, partly for thereason just stated, partly to preserve the World Series in its present dramaticform. But whatever direction it takes, we are for expansion as such, and wewelcome the long overdue admission of the National League that the time formore big league ball is now.