Monday, March 01, 2010

Balto, the STL, and the KC

Yesterday, I noticed that Baltimore has been abandoned in three of the four major North American sports.  After some quick research, I learned that no other city has been abandoned four times, but St. Louis and Kansas City each have lost a team in three sports.

First, what you already know.

The New York Yankees were founded as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, but left after the 1902 season to meet their destiny.  This year's Super Bowl runner-up joined the NFL as the Baltimore Colts in 1953, won three NFL championships and Super Bowl V, and left in Mayflower trucks in 1984 after stadium renovation talks fell through.  And the Washington Wizards played ten seasons in Baltimore (as the Bullets) before moving a little west in 1973.

Now for what you might not know.

The (second*) Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis for the 1902 season and began play as the Browns.  Fifty-one years and a pennant later, they moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, reviving the old Orioles nickname.  Angry about that loss, the City of St. Louis responded by luring the NBA's Hawks away from Milwaukee for the 1955-56 season.**  The St. Louis Hawks won the 1958 NBA championship, but couldn't take Mid-American winters.  They skipped town in 1968.***  Finally, the Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960, piddled around for almost three decades, then moved to the desert of Arizona in 1987.

*The first Milwaukee Brewers played 36 games in the American Association in 1891 after Kelly's Killers folded.

**Milwaukee and St. Louis should have bitter rivalries.  What kind of town steals from another town twice?

***Atlanta must have been the place to be in the late '60s and early '70s.  The MLB's Braves moved there (from Milwaukee, believe it or not) in 1966, the NFL's Falcons were founded the same year, the NBA's Hawks moved there in 1968, and the Atlanta (now Calgary) Flames came along in 1972.  To recap: in 1965, Georgians had no local teams; less than 10 years later, they were represented in all four major sports.  Los Angeles is jealous.

And . . .

The Philadelphia Athletics, trying to push Connie Mack into the grave, moved to Kansas City in 1955.  After serving as the Yankees' farm team for 13 seasons, they headed west in 1967.  Five years later, the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City, played their 13 seasons (including 1979, when they won the Midwest Division) and headed for Sacramento in 1985.  The Kansas City Scouts didn't get the 13-year memo.  They joined the NHL in 1974 and moved to Colorado in 1976.  Eventually, they would win a hat trick of Stanley Cups as the New Jersey Devils.

Who will be the next thrice-abandoned city?  Five American cities have been abandoned twice:
  • Philadelphia: Athletics (1954) and Warriors (1962)
  • Minneapolis: Lakers (1960) and North Stars (1993)
  • Seattle: Brewers (née Pilots) (1969) and Thunder (née Supersonics) (2008)
  • Chicago: NFL Cardinals (1959) and Packers Zephyrs Bullets Wizards (1963)
  • Milwaukee: Brewers (1901) and Hawks (1955)
I think it's high time St. Louis stole another team from Milwaukee.  It's been a half-century or so.*

*Or I suppose a team from Philadelphia could make its way west to Oakland, but that would involve making a new joke, and Mrs. Moak always told me never to introduce new material in the last paragraph.  That probably includes a footnote to the last paragraph.  Aw snap.

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