Yellon: What if the Cubs had been placed in the NL West in the 1969 expansion?

From SABR member Al Yellon at Bleed Cubbie Blue on May 22, 2020:

Here’s something that’s always puzzled baseball fans who weren’t around for Major League Baseball’s first foray into divisional play when the leagues expanded for the 1969 season.

Why were the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, teams located in the Eastern time zone, placed in the N.L. West, while the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, teams definitely located west of Atlanta and Cincinnati, wound up in the N.L. East?

The answer is television. Even as late as 1969, very few teams televised the majority of their games, as the Cubs had begun doing in 1968. The Cubs planned 144 televised games on WGN-TV in 1969, all the home games plus 63 road games, and they didn’t want to have 27 West Coast games instead of 18 under the new divisional schedule. That would have given them as many as nine more games they wouldn’t have wanted on WGN-TV. Back in those days, most night games started at 8 p.m. local time, so West Coast night games began at 10 p.m. CT. WGN didn’t televise weeknight games from the West Coast until 1974.

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Originally published: May 26, 2020. Last Updated: May 26, 2020.