(Photo: Bill Menzel)
A little clarification, please…
Apologies of sorts are on the menu, today, as a little clarification is needed for something this column offered recently.
As the Royals were headed to their all-time second World Championship on Sunday night, it was noted that the Mets, Blue Jays, and Twins were the only expansion clubs prior to such with two World championships.
Sorry, kids, but listing the Twins as an expansion team was incorrect. An expansion “era” team, yes, but expansion franchise, no.
The Twins are actually the original Washington Senators in disguise. And shame on these eyes for such basic baseball history, especially from one who lived through the era and transition.
The Twins’ legacy actually includes the likes of Walter Johnson, Bucky Harris, and the legendary comment about Washington, D.C.: “First in peace, first in war, and last in the American League.”
One of the elements that led the AL to expand in 1961 was the Senators’ desire to move to Minnesota. That was approved, but that left the Nation’s Capitol without a ballclub. That void was immediately filled by an expansion team which adopted the abandoned nickname, and the Senators were reborn.
That new Senators franchise eventually relocated to the Dallas suburb of Arlington and was redubbed the Texas Rangers in 1972. They took the great Ted Williams with them, but that didn’t improve their fortunes and they languished near the bottom rungs of the AL for many years.
Washington was again without a team, and that vacancy lasted until 2005 when the Montreal Expos headed South and immigrated to the U.S.
The Senators that become the Twins brought a Hall of Famer with them as well when they relocated to the twin-city region of Minneapolis-St. Paul area (hence the nickname): Harmon Killebrew. And that club, which became infused with the talents of All-Stars like Jim Allison, Rich Rollins, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Jim Kaat, and Camilo Pascual eventually had their moments in the Fall Classic, but fell to the LA Dodgers in a seven-game classic confrontation in 1965.
So the actual four expansion teams from the ‘60s include the Los Angeles Angels (as they were originally known) and Washington Senators in the AL in 1961, and the New York Mets and Houston Colt 45s (as they were originally known) in the NL in 1962.
Guess it would have been quite bizarre had Houston overcome Kansas City and Toronto to make it to the World Series and face the Mets as opponents since they both entered the NL at the same time. But with the Astros (rechristened in 1965 to appeal to the nation’s love affair with the space program and NASA’s base in Houston) having joined the AL just a few years ago, that matchup might someday actually take place.
So it is the Royals who now join the Mets (’69 and ’86, as if you didn’t know) and Blue Jays (’92 and ’93) as two-time winners as expansionists. But it is the Mets who still hold the lead with five appearances in the Big Dance amongst newbies.
Quick, name the only baseball club to relocate by heading East, not West, when many teams were headed to the West Coast in the 1950s?
We won’t keep you in suspense too long. It was the St. Louis Browns, who headed east and became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.
Some might think the answer is also the Milwaukee Braves, originally from Boston, but who went to Atlanta in 1966, actually headed South and somewhat East, but we qualified the question by saying the 1950s.
The “new” Orioles actually were replacing a franchise that had played in Crab Cake Land until 1903. That franchise moved to New York, and eventually were named something that rhymes with Hankees…oh, yeah, the Yankees! Their first nickname…the Highlanders, and they weren’t even from Scotland!