restricted access 4 Shifts in the Bay Area, Part 1: San Francisco
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Chapter 4 Shifts in the Bay Area, Part 1: San Francisco Thinner than a 19-cent hamburger. -San Francisco columnist Herb Caen in 1992, describing the odds of the Giants staying in San Francisco1 Perhaps the most publicized and longest-running relocation saga took place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Curiously, setting aside the former Oakland Raiders for a moment, San Francisco was one of the three cities that were involved in the first "modern-day" relocations. These are referred to as the modern-day relocations because they were the first moves made not simply for financial survival but for greater financial success. The relocation of franchises is not a new phenomenon. In the formative years of professional sports leagues, during the first half of this century , franchises moved frequently.2 Although the moves then were made largely for financial reasons, they were not initiated for greater financial gain but for actual financial survival. In a few cases, franchises relocated in order to join a new league. Large cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Cleveland lost sports teams as did smaller communities such as Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kankakee, Illinois, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Hammond, Indiana, and Waterloo, Iowa.3 The Baltimore Orioles were involved in what was probably the first major franchise relocation. In 1903, the original Baltimore Orioles, which belonged to the National League, moved to New York and became the New York Highlanders.4 The Highlanders eventually became the Yankees. Very few major United States cities have avoided participation in the pursuit of sports franchises. The first major move by a franchise to increase profits was in the late 28 Chapter 4 1950s. The highly successful Brooklyn Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles in 1958, followed that same year by the New York Giants, who went to San Francisco. Indeed, the move by the Dodgers is probably the most infamous relocation of all time. Although early movement of franchises between cities existed in the then-minor sports of football and basketball, baseball had appeared stable. From the 1903 move by the Orioles until 1952, major league baseball teams stayed put.5 However, in 1952, this serenity was disrupted by the Boston Braves. Their move to Milwaukee was the true precursor to modern sports franchise movement. The 1952 Boston Braves finished seventh in the National League, and not many in Boston rooted for them. The franchise drew only 281,278 fans during that year and unsuccessfully competed for fans with the American League Red Sox, Boston's other major league baseball team.6 With the dominating presence of the Red Sox and no upswing in fan support in sight, the Braves realized that successful marketing ofa sports team is determined by the key sales factor cited in the old real estate adage: "location, location, location." The Braves moved the team to Milwaukee , Wisconsin, in 1953, and there was almost an immediate turnaround in fan support and related financial success.7 The 1953 Milwaukee Braves saw their attendance soar from 281,278 fans during their final year in Boston to 1.8 million fans during their first year in their new home, and they also performed better on the field. In 1953, the Braves finished in second place.8 The city of Milwaukee also benefitted, as the Braves reportedly churned an additional $25.3 million per year into the local economy.9 Neither the city nor the franchise could foresee at that point, however, that this success would not go on forever. Little more than a dozen years later, in 1966, the Braves left their Milwaukee home for Atlanta, Georgia. Milwaukee was one of the first cities in this new era to finance the construction of a new stadium to accommodate an incoming franchise. As a result, having lured the Braves and then lost them, Milwaukee and the Braves were the first city-team couple to enter an enchanted partnership that at first seemed to be right out ofCamelot; but, just as in the popular musical of that time, the relationship was doomed once a new suitor arrived . Since then, it has become common for municipalities to finance stadiums to either lure or keep teams, and private ownership of stadiums has become the exception. Other major league baseball teams witnessed this early success and decided to relocate. In 1954, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the new Orioles, and in 1955 the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City for a brief hiatus until their next move to Oakland...


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