BASEBALL IN A MINOR KEY
The expansion of the American League is about to become reality. Two minor league clubs will henceforth masquerade as major league outfits in Washington and Los Angeles. We should be clear about one thing: there will not be more good baseball next year, although more people may have the chance to see some good baseball.
The players being made available to the two new clubs by the eight existing ones are mostly men who are either nearing the end of a normal major league career or not yet quite ready to begin one. The fixed price of $75,000 for each of these players is pretty steep. The old owners, having been more or less bullied into expansion, are apparently bent on making the new owners pay through the nose.
There has been some disagreement about the player selections. The dynamic Bill Veeck, among others, has argued that the league would have been smarter to have made greater sacrifices and given up better players to the newcomers. This would have made for more even competition and therefore increased attendance. But it would also have seriously weakened the superior teams. A lower over-all standard would have resulted.
No, we don't see why Yankee fans, for instance, should be expected to consent to the departure of some of their best men just to achieve an even standard of mediocrity in the league. We all have to face the fact that the new owners will have to spend a lot of time and money before they can build a first-class club.
However, there is an air of hasty improvisation about the American League expansion which is unfortunate. The National League, which has decided on its two new clubs but has given them two years to get started, was wiser; it will also be able to profit from the AL's mistakes.
Expansion was supposed to divert the threat of government intervention to make baseball less monopolistic, although the two questions are only tenuously related. We hope that Senator Estes Kefauver and Representative Emanuel Celler, who were most active in pressing for baseball reforms, are real fans. As of now, their efforts are going to be rewarded with the worst team the long-suffering city of Washington has known.
SALMON AND STATESMANSHIP
Conservationists are in full agreement that where natural resources are concerned the public can't be persuaded to pass up a quick buck. But in the state of Washington sportsmen-conservationists have just provided the exception to prove that rule. When a slew of proposed new dams threatened to destroy the teeming salmon and steelhead runs of the Cowlitz River, the powerful Washington State Sportsmen's Council collected 110,000 signatures for an initiative to block the dams, even though in Washington dams mean jobs. The issues at stake were spelled out clearly by both sides to the voters. Now the verdict is in. Washington's citizens renounced their short-term interests, turned conservationists en masse to vote for fish and to wait for power from other sources. As a monument to salmon and statesmanship, they left on the Cowlitz River a $38 million uncompleted dam.
The state has consented to some temporary loss. In so doing, it has recorded a victory for conservation and fishing. Congratulations!