Baseball Goes West
Like the Westward expansion that preceded it by a century, the migration of franchises has observed the logic of Manifest Destiny: Baseball is America's pastime, and where the land is open, the soil fertile and the sky wide, the game must take root. (In the only eastward relocation in the last 35 years, the Seattle Pilots, 64-98 during their lone season, in 1969, fled only to be reborn as the not-much-better Milwaukee Brewers.) We saw the California transplantation of the Dodgers, Giants and Athletics, and the creation of new clubs in Texas, in the Rocky Mountains and in the Arizona desert, the last in 1998 when Jerry Colangelo unwrapped the expansion Diamondbacks in Phoenix and opened a ballpark that featured a swimming pool. At the end of Arizona's fourth season, the fledgling franchise won the World Series, dethroning the East Coast, old-guard New York Yankees. Meanwhile, Chicago remained home to the team that has stayed in the same place the longest: the Cubs, who were founded as the White Stockings in 1871 and were also known as the Colts and the Orphans before changing their name to the Cubs in 1903.
A wave of expansion in the early 1990s added nine franchises in areas such as Florida, Atlanta and Nashville. In the last 11 years four teams (the North Stars, Nordiques, Jets and Whalers) relocated to nontraditional hockey cities Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Raleigh, respectively. Hockey may be Canada's game, but just six of the 30 franchises are in Canadian cities.
Before 1985 the league had not gone more than five years without a team switching cities. Since David Stern became commissioner in '84 he has preferred expansion to relocation, adding seven teams since '88. From '85 to 2001 there were no franchise shifts. In '94 he blocked a proposal to move the Timberwolves from Minnesota to New Orleans, and in '99 the Grizzlies from Vancouver to St. Louis.
No team had relocated in 19 years when Al Davis took the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982. That opened the door for other moves, and six teams have switched cities since, including the Raiders, who went back to Oakland in 1995. L.A. has gone nine years without a team, but that could change soon, as the Chargers, Saints and Vikings have expressed interest in moving there.