Major League Baseball (MLB) has a rich history that spans over a century.
Throughout its existence, the league has undergone several expansions, leading to the formation of new teams and the growth of the sport.
These expansions have not only increased the number of teams in the league but have also brought baseball to new cities and regions, expanding its popularity and fan base.
In this article, we will explore the history of MLB expansion, examining the reasons behind each expansion, the impact it had on the league, and some notable examples of successful expansion teams.
American League Expansion Timeline
The American League (AL) is the other major league in Major League Baseball (MLB) alongside the National League.
The AL was officially founded in 1901, and since then, it has expanded several times to accommodate new teams.
Here’s a timeline of the American League’s expansion:
- 1901: The American League is established with eight original teams: Baltimore Orioles (not the modern Orioles), Boston Americans (later Red Sox), Chicago White Stockings (later White Sox), Cleveland Blues (later Indians and then Guardians), Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers (not the modern Brewers), Philadelphia Athletics, and Washington Senators (the first iteration).
- 1902: The original Baltimore Orioles moved to New York and eventually became the New York Yankees.
- 1954: The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the modern Baltimore Orioles.
- 1955: The original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961.
- 1961: The league expanded from 8 to 10 teams, adding a new Washington Senators team (which later moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972) and the Los Angeles Angels (later renamed the California Angels, then the Anaheim Angels, and finally the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).
- 1969: The league expanded to 12 teams, adding the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots moved to Milwaukee the following year and became the modern Milwaukee Brewers.
- 1977: The league expanded to 14 teams, adding the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.
- 1998: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (later renamed the Tampa Bay Rays) joined the league, bringing the total number of teams to 15.
Throughout its history, the American League, like the National League, has seen teams relocate, change names, or undergo rebranding. The above timeline provides a general overview of the league’s expansion and major relocations.
National League Expansion Timeline
Over the years, the NL has expanded several times to accommodate new teams.
Here’s a timeline of the National League’s expansion:
- 1876: The National League is founded with eight original members: Boston Red Stockings, Chicago White Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Louisville Grays, New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Athletics, and St. Louis Brown Stockings.
- 1880s-1890s: The league underwent several changes in its lineup of teams, with some teams folding and new ones being added. Notable additions during this period included the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (later Dodgers) in 1890 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1887.
- 1953: The Boston Braves move to Milwaukee, becoming the Milwaukee Braves. This was the beginning of a series of team relocations rather than expansions.
- 1962: The league expands from 8 to 10 teams, adding the Houston Colt .45s (later renamed the Astros) and the New York Mets.
- 1969: The league expands again, this time to 12 teams, with the addition of the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos (who later relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals).
- 1993: The league expands to 14 teams, adding the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins (later renamed the Miami Marlins).
- 1998: The Arizona Diamondbacks join the league, bringing the total number of teams to 16.
It’s worth noting that while the National League has expanded several times, it has also seen teams relocate or change names. Additionally, the league has undergone various reorganizations, especially in its early years.
1. The Early Years of MLB
When MLB was first established in 1903, it consisted of just two leagues: the National League (NL) and the American League (AL).
The NL had been in existence since 1876, while the AL was founded in 1901 as a competitor to the NL.
The two leagues operated independently until they merged in 1903 to form MLB.
During the early years of MLB, there was no concept of expansion as we know it today.
The league consisted of a fixed number of teams, and any changes in the number of teams were a result of franchises relocating or folding.
However, as the popularity of baseball grew, so did the demand for more teams and the need to expand the league.
2. The First Wave of Expansion
The first wave of MLB expansion occurred in 1961 when two new teams, the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers), were added to the league.
This expansion was driven by several factors:
- Population Growth: The post-World War II era saw a significant increase in population in many cities across the United States. This population growth created new markets for professional sports teams, including baseball.
- Television Revenue: The rise of television as a popular medium provided a new source of revenue for MLB. The league saw the potential for increased revenue by expanding into new markets and attracting larger television audiences.
- Competition with Other Sports: Baseball faced increasing competition from other sports, particularly football. By expanding into new cities, MLB aimed to capture the attention of fans in these areas and establish a stronger presence.
The addition of the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators marked the beginning of a new era for MLB.
These expansion teams brought baseball to the West Coast and the nation’s capital, respectively, expanding the reach of the sport and attracting new fans.
3. The Expansion Boom of the 1960s and 1970s
The success of the first wave of expansion led to a boom in MLB expansion during the 1960s and 1970s.
Several new teams were added to the league, including:
- 1962: New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (now the Houston Astros)
- 1969: Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers), Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), and San Diego Padres
- 1977: Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners
These expansions were driven by similar factors as the first wave, including population growth, television revenue, and competition with other sports.
Additionally, the success of the first expansion teams demonstrated the viability of adding new franchises to the league.
The expansion teams of the 1960s and 1970s faced various challenges, including building new stadiums, establishing a fan base, and assembling competitive rosters.
However, many of these teams went on to achieve success both on and off the field, becoming integral parts of their respective communities and contributing to the growth of MLB.
4. The Expansion of the 1990s and 2000s
After a period of relative stability, MLB experienced another wave of expansion in the 1990s and 2000s.
This expansion was driven by similar factors as the previous waves, as well as some new considerations:
- Market Potential: MLB recognized the potential for growth in certain markets and sought to capitalize on it. This led to the addition of teams in cities like Miami (Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins), Denver (Colorado Rockies), Phoenix (Arizona Diamondbacks), and Tampa Bay (Tampa Bay Devil Rays, now the Tampa Bay Rays).
- Revenue Sharing: The introduction of revenue sharing in MLB provided financial incentives for existing teams to support expansion. The revenue generated by new teams helped to offset the costs associated with expansion and benefited the league as a whole.
The expansion teams of the 1990s and 2000s faced similar challenges as their predecessors, but many of them have become successful franchises in their own right.
For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in just their fourth season of existence, demonstrating the potential for success for expansion teams.
5. Notable Expansion Success Stories
Throughout MLB’s history, several expansion teams have achieved remarkable success both on and off the field.
These success stories serve as examples of how expansion can be a catalyst for growth and contribute to the overall success of the league.
Here are a few notable examples:
a. The Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels, who were part of the first wave of expansion in 1961, have become a beloved franchise in Southern California.
The team has had its share of success on the field, including winning the World Series in 2002.
The Angels have also established a strong fan base and have consistently ranked among the top teams in attendance.
b. The Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays, added to the league in 1977, have become one of the most successful expansion teams in MLB history.
The team won back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, becoming the first non-US team to win the title.
The Blue Jays have also consistently drawn large crowds and have a passionate fan base.
c. The Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks, added to the league in 1998, achieved rapid success by winning the World Series in just their fourth season.
The team’s victory in 2001 was particularly memorable, as they defeated the New York Yankees in a thrilling seven-game series.
The Diamondbacks have since become a fixture in the Phoenix sports scene and have a dedicated fan base.
2001 World Series, Game 7: Yankees @ Diamondbacks
Q&A – History of MLB Expansion
1. When was the first wave of MLB expansion?
The first wave of MLB expansion occurred in 1961 when the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) were added to the league.
2. What drove the first wave of expansion?
The first wave of expansion was driven by factors such as population growth, television revenue, and competition with other sports.
3. How many teams were added during the expansion boom of the 1960s and 1970s?
Several new teams were added to MLB during the expansion boom of the 1960s and 1970s, including the New York Mets, Houston Colt .45s (now the Houston Astros), Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers), Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners.
4. What factors drove the expansion of the 1990s and 2000s?
The expansion of the 1990s and 2000s was driven by factors such as market potential and revenue sharing.
5. Which expansion team won the World Series in just their fourth season?
The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in just their fourth season of existence, in 2001.
6. How many World Series championships have the Toronto Blue Jays won?
The Toronto Blue Jays have won two World Series championships, in 1992 and 1993.
7. Which expansion team has consistently ranked among the top teams in attendance?
The Los Angeles Angels have consistently ranked among the top teams in attendance since their inception.
8. What was the first non-US team to win the World Series?
The Toronto Blue Jays became the first non-US team to win the World Series, in 1992.
9. How has expansion contributed to the growth of MLB?
Expansion has brought baseball to new cities, expanded its fan base, and created new success stories, contributing to the overall growth and popularity of MLB.
10. Will there be further expansions in MLB?
While there are no immediate plans for expansion, it is likely that MLB will continue to explore opportunities for growth and expansion in the future.
11. Who were the original teams of the AL and NL?
Here are the original teams for both the American League (AL) and the National League (NL):
American League (AL) – Founded in 1901
- Baltimore Orioles (This original team would later become the New York Highlanders and then the New York Yankees. This is not the same as the current Baltimore Orioles.)
- Boston Americans (They would later become the Boston Red Sox.)
- Chicago White Stockings (They would later be known as the Chicago White Sox.)
- Cleveland Blues (This team underwent several name changes, eventually becoming the Cleveland Indians and, more recently, the Cleveland Guardians.)
- Detroit Tigers
- Milwaukee Brewers (This original team would move and become the St. Louis Browns and then the current Baltimore Orioles. This is not the same as the current Milwaukee Brewers.)
- Philadelphia Athletics (They would later move to become the Kansas City Athletics and then the Oakland Athletics.)
- Washington Senators (This team would later become the Minnesota Twins. A different Washington Senators (1961-1971) are the modern-day Texas Rangers.)
National League (NL) – Founded in 1876
- Boston Red Caps (They underwent several name changes and relocations, eventually becoming the current Atlanta Braves.)
- Chicago White Stockings (This team would later become the Chicago Cubs. This is not the same as the AL’s Chicago White Stockings/White Sox.)
- Cincinnati Red Stockings (Now known as the Cincinnati Reds.)
- Hartford Dark Blues (The team folded after the 1877 season.)
- Louisville Grays (The team folded after the 1877 season.)
- New York Mutuals (The team was expelled after the 1876 season.)
- Philadelphia Athletics (This team was expelled after the 1876 season and is not the same as the AL’s Philadelphia Athletics or the modern-day Oakland/Las Vegas Athletics.)
- St. Louis Brown Stockings (They would later become the St. Louis Cardinals.)
It’s worth noting that the early years of professional baseball saw a lot of team movement, name changes, and league shifts, so many of these original teams have complex histories.
The history of MLB expansion is a testament to the growth and popularity of the sport.
From the early years of fixed teams to the waves of expansion in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, MLB has continuously evolved to meet the demands of fans and capitalize on new opportunities.
Expansion has brought baseball to new cities, expanded its fan base, and created new success stories.
As MLB continues to grow and evolve, it is likely that we will see further expansions in the future, bringing the joy of baseball to even more fans around the world.