Stumbling around the Bases
The American League's Mismanagement in the Expansion Eras
From the late 1950s to the 1980s, baseball's American League mismanaged integration and expansion, allowing the National League to forge ahead in attendance and prestige. While both leagues had executive structures that presented few barriers to individual team owners acting purely in their own interests, it was the American League that succumbed to infighting—which ultimately led to its disappearance into what we now call Major League Baseball. Stumbling around the Bases is the story of how the American League fell into such a disastrous state, struggling for decades to escape its nadir and, when it finally righted itself, losing its independence. The American League's trip to the bottom involved bad decisions by both individual teams and their owners. The key elements were a glacial approach to integration, the choice of underfinanced or disruptive new owners, and a consistent inability to choose the better markets among cities that were available for expansion. The American League wound up with less-attractive teams in the smaller markets compared to the National League—and thus fewer consumers of tickets, parking, beer, hot dogs, scorecards, and replica jerseys. The errors of the American League owners were rooted in missed cultural and demographic shifts and exacerbated by reactive decisions that hurt as much as helped their interests. Though the owners were men who were notably successful in their non-baseball business ventures, success in insurance, pizza, food processing, and real estate development, didn't necessarily translate into running a flourishing baseball league. In the end the National League was simply better at recognizing its collective interests, screening its owners, and recognizing the markets that had long-term potential.
Andy McCue is the author of Mover and Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, and Baseball's Westward Expansion (Nebraska, 2014), winner of the Seymour Medal from the Society for American Baseball Research, and Baseball by the Books: The Complete History and Bibliography of Baseball Fiction. ? ?
"As integration and expansion pushed baseball into the modern era, it's a wonder the bumbling American League owners could even open their gates. With comprehensive research and a clean, crisp style, Andy McCue chronicles all the behind-the-scenes stumbling and scheming that was just as fascinating as the play on the field."?Tyler Kepner, New York Times national baseball columnist and author of K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches