Reds, Indians also threatened to move in the 1960s


The suggestion last week by the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays that they are considering a plan to play half their games in St. Petersburg, Fla. and the other half in Montreal sounds weird but isn’t unprecedented.

For example, the Chicago White Sox played nine “home” games in Milwaukee in 1969 and 1970 after the Braves had abandoned Wisconsin to move to Atlanta and before Seattle’s first major league franchise moved to Milwaukee.

And before the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C, they played 22 of their 81 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004.

Baseball franchises moving was much more of a thing in the 1950s and 1960s than it has been recently.

In the 20 years between 1953 and 1972, 10 major league teams relocated, with the Dodgers and Giants leaving New York for California being the most earth-shaking of those moves. Since 1972, Montreal’s move to D.C., in 2005 is the only time it has happened.

Older fans might remember there were threats to move both of Ohio’s major league baseball teams in the 1960s. Or maybe the Reds and Indians just wanted people to believe they were exploring other options.

In Cincinnati, the Reds owner Bill DeWitt – already monumentally unpopular because of the Frank Robinson trade – was campaigning for new stadium. In Cleveland, the Indians wanted significant improvements made to Municipal Stadium and other concessions from the city.

DeWitt kept hinting at the possibility of moving the Reds to San Diego or selling them to someone who would move them to some unnamed but still ominous sounding other location.

When the city of Cincinnati proposed a downtown stadium along the Ohio River, DeWitt insisted that he wanted it to be in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati.

As someone who grew up two hours north of downtown Cincinnati that sounded like a fine idea, even if it was coming from a guy who had traded a superstar outfielder for two ineffective pitchers and a bag of batting practice baseballs.

But DeWitt eventually sold the team to a local ownership group in 1967 and the stadium ended up on the riverfront, which if nothing else made naming it a whole lot easier.

The Indians also looked west for a new home or something they could use to prod the city of Cleveland into action in the mid-1960s.

According to a lengthy 2016 story on mynorthwest.com, a Seattle website, the Indians were in discussions with officials from that city during much of 1964 about moving to the Pacific Northwest.

Indians officials, including then-general manager Gabe Paul, met with Seattle’s mayor and King County commissioners about possibly moving.

If there was a stumbling block, it was that there was no adequate temporary site to play and no guarantee a new stadium would be built.

Or maybe the Indians just wanted a better deal from Cleveland. When the team’s board of directors voted in October 1964 whether to stay in Cleveland or move to Seattle, the vote was unanimous to stay where they were.

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