SABR

Moore: Baseball's air travel game-changer in 1958

From Jack Moore at The Score on November 21, 2013:

In June of 1989, the monthly baseball history magazine “Great Moments In Baseball” wrote the following as the introduction to an article, “The Front Office: Baseball and the Bottom Line:”

Once upon a time, so they tell me, baseball was a game played on the field. Nothing else counted. You could depend on it. Winning or losing depended strictly on the players themselves… and the managers. In the really old days the managers and the owners were the very same people. And the players, bound by the most regimented contracts since the middle ages, stayed put, year after year after year. The fans could watch and discuss their local heroes from the time they broke into organized baseball, follow them up through the minors and then watch them succeed or fail as they hit the big time.

And then came 1956.

It began slowly. The Dodgers said goodbye to Brooklyn and the Giants gave their farewell to Manhattan and both took off for the greener pastures of California. Green says it all. Green as in money. More space; bigger stadiums holding more paying customers. Damn the fans. Damn the loyalties. Baseball is a business and the only thing that counts is the bottom line.”

The refrain here is a common one, particularly from traditionalist fans. The idea of a lost purity in baseball manifests itself yearly in the form of Hall of Fame votes, and it’s a mythology MLB seems to have every interest in maintaining. No wonder the World Series audience skews so old (median viewer age: 53.4)

But such a view, naturally, ignores the actual history of the league and of the country as a whole. Specifically it ignores a simple logistical impossibility: travel from New York to San Francisco and back would have been untenable by rail within a major league schedule. 

In post-World War II America, air travel was just beginning to catch on. Baseball Magazine — a typically progressive magazine, such as when F.C. Lane essentially invented wOBA in 1915 in its pages — was right on the case. In July 1946, a writer named Daniel M. Daniel (no, seriously, that was his name) published a story titled “Yankees, Red Sox Take To Air: Baseball Visions Vast Implications.”

Read the full article here: http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2013/11/21/primary-sources-the-air-travel-gamechanger/

This page was last updated November 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm MST.

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