EXPAND BASEBALL, DON'T DILUTE IT
Increased population and income, television saturation, thruways and jets have brought strong demands from cities without major league baseball teams for a chance to participate in the national sport. More good baseball is fine, for the game and for the fans; more mediocre baseball merely waters the wine. The sudden decision last week by American League owners to expand their league from eight to 10 teams next season (an expansion we welcome in principle) has created some confusion and caused some inequities.
Here is how the cities fared:
1) Washington lost a good and colorful team when its owner, Calvin Griffith, picked up the Senators and made Minneapolis-St. Paul Millers out of them. Washington fans will have to develop a new allegiance, to a team of inferior players, and they are entitled to be resentful. Minneapolis-St. Paul fans are to be congratulated.
2) The Los Angeles that belonged to Walter O'Malley will now be shared with a new American League club. This annoys O'Malley as much as it titillates old Dodger fans in Brooklyn. But the new, weak L.A. club will have a tough time competing with the National League's Dodgers—Angelenos like a winning team.
3) Dallas-Fort Worth, large population centers with plenty of money and enthusiasm, and Toronto, eager for baseball, were supposed to get preference in expansion after the league owners stifled the Continental League movement, in which all three cities were involved. Now those Texas and Canadian fans will have to choose between major league baseball on a 21-inch screen and minor league games in the sunshine.
Where are the new clubs going to get players, and how good will they be? Each of the present eight American League teams will relinquish to the new clubs (at a fixed price) a limited number of its regular players. Obviously, the new teams will get the discards. Their only other sources of talent will be the colleges, free agents and those minor league teams not already in major league investment portfolios.
Expansion, long resisted, should not now go too far too fast. There already is talk of 12-team leagues in the two majors. We would welcome more and more expert players in the game, but the controlling word is "expert." Baseball lovers tire of mediocrity faster than some proprietors think. Four new, quasi-permanent second-division clubs in each league would not help baseball, the public or—in the long run—the owners.
VOTE FOR FUN AND GAMES
New York and California have the chance November 8 to provide themselves with badly needed sports land, whatever these states may think of policy on Quemoy or Castro. In New York, voters should and probably will approve a $75 million bond issue, to be matched by another $10 million in local communities, for recreational land. In California, voters can and should approve tax assessments on golf courses based on their recreational use rather than their market value. If these two constructive steps are taken, other densely populated states probably will follow suit. Both money and land are needed to meet a demand for sports and recreation facilities that is greater than ever before.