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Tuesday the leagues met in joint session and spent the morning voting down the minor league request that TV and radio be limited. The owners began leaving town Tuesday afternoon.
Some player trades had been made. With so many baseball men so close together, trades invariably evolve. While the owners met in conference rooms, managers and lesser officials spilled into the lobby, talking baseball and setting up deals, as they stood under team flags displayed by the Commodore in honor of the clubs that stop at that hotel on trips to New York during the season.
But the story of the major league meetings was not, as it had been in other years, somewhere in the lobby. It was not, as it has been, in the conference rooms. It was not even in George Trautman's suite. Rather, the story unfolded in many places; a story of baseball galloping off in two directions at one time.
The minor leagues are vanishing. Twenty-six leagues have disappeared since 1949, the minors' peak year, and holes have opened in the U.S. baseball map like the holes in a well-aged chunk of Swiss cheese.
There was the Mountain States League and the Central League, the Inter-State League and the Sunset League, the Lone Star League, the New England League, and, to break the meter, the K.O.M. League ( Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri) and the Wisconsin State League. All have blown away. With them have gone some of baseball's notable minor league towns: Sheboygan, Wis., Nashua, N.H. (where the Dodger battery of Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella broke into organized baseball eight years ago), Ponca City, Okla., Flint, Mich., Zanesville, Ohio. They get baseball only by radio and TV now.
Meanwhile the major league owners talk of spreading talent, already spread thin, still further.
That's pretty much what George Trautman discussed while the rulers of baseball discussed other things eleven floors below. "We have not yet met present conditions with progress," Trautman said. "That's the trouble."
It is possible the collapse of so many minor leagues is a reflection of a change in American habits—a preference for network TV talent to minor league baseball talent. If that be so, then only direct major league subsidy can enable the minors to survive and preserve the present structure and caliber of baseball. Without subsidy, all that can be asked is neat chisel work on minor league monuments by the man who carves: Requiescat in pace.
According to Trautman, neither a chisel nor a subsidy is needed. "We just have to make our product more attractive," he said.
"After the war," Trautman explained, "we had our boom. At one time there were 59 minor leagues. That's more than there should have been because we got careless. Almost any eight men who came to see us with cities got a league. We didn't consider financial stability. That's one thing we're paying for now."