Clem's Baseball home

Major League Baseball
Franchises:
Historical overview of cities,
stadiums, and owners



Historical summary timeline

League 1901-
1960
19-61 1962-
1968
1969-
1976
1977-
1992
1993-
1997
1998-
2012
2013-
National League 8 8 10 12 12 14 16 15
American League 8 10 10 12 14 14 14 15

Main historical phases

To see the geographical distribution of franchises from one era to the next, just move the mouse cursor over the appropriate period.

MLB cities 1903

Introduction / overview

From the beginning to the end of the 20th century, the number of Major League franchises nearly doubled, from 16 (eight in each league) to 30 franchises (14 in the AL, 16 in the NL). This growth has been accompanied by a greater dispersion in terms of region, and in terms of numbers of cities. There are only four multiple-team cities now (if you count Anaheim as part of Los Angeles and Oakland as part of San Francisco), and 22 single-team cities. As a result, a much larger proportion of the U.S. population is now able to see Major League games on a fairly regular basis.



Franchise owners

Few subjects in the world of sports business are murkier than the question of who really owns the team? Everyone knows the names of George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner (who seems to be less active with the Braves since the infamous AOL-Time Warner merger), but for other baseball franchises it is very hard to get solid information. Of course, baseball's exemption from anti-trust statutes insulates teams from normal accounting scrutiny, which is one major reason why cities routinely get blackmailed into bogus stadium subsidies, because it is hard to challenge the franchise owners' claims that they are losing money. Anyway, this table represents a first stab at nailing down the ownership status of each team. It probably contains a few errors, and will be revised and updated in the future. It may be useful to note that Commissioner Selig had a financial interest in the Milwaukee Brewers, which he formally transferred to his daughter when he became the permanent commissioner a few years ago. The Seligs sold the franchise in early 2005.

One must not forget that major league baseball is a business enterprise, and in a capitalist system such as ours, franchise owners are entitled to seek higher profits if they so desire. The difference between normal businesses and baseball franchises is that much, if not most, of the team's total value consists of "goodwill," which is the accountant's term for the nebulous but very real factor that generates ticket sales. Time and time again in baseball history, short-sighted and/or tight-fisted owners have shot themselves in the foot by the mistaken application of business principles to sports. Their myopic focus on the bottom line not only detracts from the quality of the entertainment they provide, it erodes their long-term profitability.


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National League franchises

The National League was founded in 1876 as the first true professional baseball league, hence the term "Senior Circuit." (See 19th Century Leagues.) During the early 1900s, the eight NL franchises generally lagged behind the American League in building new stadiums, and two of them (the Phillies and the Cardinals) ended up as tenants in the ballparks owned by the new AL teams across town. During the 1950s the National League "pioneered" in moving westward (Braves, Giants, Dodgers), and it became dominant in southern and southwestern markets in the expansion waves of the 1960s and 1990s. In 1998 the Milwaukee Brewers joined the NL, and in 2005 the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals. In 2012, the Florida Marlins became known as the Miami Marlins, coinciding with the opening of Marlins Park. In 2013, the Houston Astros will move to the American League.

City (state, area) Team Franchise origins Current principal owner Year bought Purch. price Franchise value
(2008 Forbes est.)
Stadium Stadium owner Attend. in 2011
Atlanta Braves Boston (1876-1952), Milwaukee (1953-1965) John Malone / Liberty Media 2007 $450m $497m Turner Field City, County 2.4m
Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati since 1876; never moved Robert Castellini 2006 $270m $337m Great American Ballpark County 2.2m
Chicago Cubs Chicago since 1876 ("White Stockings" until 1893); never moved Tom Ricketts
Sam Zell / Tribune Co.
2009
1981
$845m
$21m
$642m Wrigley Field Team 3.0m
San Francisco Giants Troy (1879-1882); New York (1883-1957) Peter Magowan 1993 $100m $494m AT&T Park Team 3.4m
Los Angeles Dodgers Brooklyn (1884-1957) Magic Johnson, et al.
(Frank McCourt went bankrupt.)
2012
2004
$1.1b
$355m
$694m Dodger Stadium Team 2.9m
Philadelphia Phillies Worcester (1880-1882) William Giles 1981 $30m $481 Citizens Bank Park City 3.7m
Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh since 1887; never moved Robert Nutting 1996 $92m $292m PNC Park City 1.9m
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis since 1892; never moved William Dewitt Jr. 1995 $150m $484m Busch Stadium III Team 3.1m
New York Mets Expansion franchise (1962) Fred Wilpon
(???)
2002 $391m $824m Citi Field City 2.4m
San Diego Padres Expansion franchise (1969) John Moores 1994 $94m $385m PETCO Park Team, City 2.1m
Washington Nationals Expansion franchise:
Montreal Expos (1969-2004)
Theodore Lerner 2006 $450m $460m Nationals Park City (D.C.) 1.9m
Miami ! (Florida) Marlins Expansion franchise (1993) Jeffrey Loria 2002 $158m $256m Marlins Park City / County 1.5m
Denver (Colorado) Rockies Expansion franchise (1993) Charles Monfort 1992 $95m $371m Coors Field Dist. Auth. 2.9m
Phoenix (Arizona) Diamondbacks Expansion franchise (1998) Ken Kendrick, et al. 2004 $238m $379m Chase Field County 2.1m
Milwaukee Brewers Expansion franchise: AL Seattle Pilots (1969);
moved to National League in 1998
Mark Attanasio 2005 $223m $331m Miller Park Team, District 3.1m

SOURCES: Forbes SportsMoney - Baseball (2008), Fodor's Four Sport Stadium Guide (1996)

NOTES: "Dist. Auth." means "District Authority," referring to a special-purpose public entity responsible for overseeing and financing the operations of sports facilities, etc. Some are called "commissions" or other names.

Braves were called "Bees" from 1936 to 1941.
Dodgers were called "Superbas" until 1912, and "Robins" until 1920s.
Cincinnati Reds were called "Redlegs" until 1950s.
The Houston Astros were (called the "Colt 45s" from 1962 to 1964) were originally in the National League. They will move to the American League in 2013.


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American League franchises

The American League was founded in 1901, with three outcast former National League franchises (Baltimore, Cleveland, and Washington) and five new teams. Two of those teams relocated in the first two years, amidst great uncertainty, but the victory of the Boston Red Sox in the first-ever World Series confirmed the status of the AL as a true major league. Seven of those "upstart" franchises built new stadiums for themselves between 1909 and 1912; the AL team last to do so was the New York Yankees, in 1923. Ironically, the St. Louis Browns and Philadelphia Athletics, which became "landlords" of the Cardinals and Phillies in the 1920s and 1930s, gradually lost fan support and relocated elsewhere in the 1950s. The expansions and relocations of the 1960s and 1970s tended to accentuate the AL's northern geographical orientation. From 1977 until 1993, the AL had two more teams than the NL (14 vs. 12), but after the Brewers transfered to the NL in 1998, the AL had two fewer teams (14 vs. 16). In 2013, the Houston Astros will move to the American League, thereby restoring parity, with 15 teams in each league.

City (state, area) Team Franchise origins Current principal owner Year bought Purch. price Franchise value
(2008 Forbes est.)
Stadium Stadium owner Attend. in 2011
Boston Red Sox Boston since 1901 ("Pilgrims" until 1907) John Henry 2002 $380m $816m Fenway Park Team 3.1m
New York Yankees Baltimore Orioles (1901-1902),
N.Y. "Highlanders" until 1912
Trust of George Steinbrenner (died 2010) 1973 $10m $1,300m Yankee Stadium II City 3.7m
Oakland Athletics Philadelphia (1901-1954),
Kansas City (1955-1967)
Lewis Wolff 2005 $180m $323m Oakland Coliseum City, County 1.5m
Minneapolis (Minnesota) Twins Washington Senators (1901-1960) Carl Pohlad 1984 $44m $328m Target Field Dist. Auth. 3.2m
Cleveland Indians Cleveland since 1901
(various names until 1915)
Lawrence Dolan 2000 $323m $417m Progressive (Jacobs) Field Dist. Auth. 1.8m
Detroit Tigers Detroit since 1901 Michael Ilitch 1992 $82m $407m Comerica Park Dist. Auth. 2.6m
Chicago White Sox Chicago since 1901 Jerry Reinsdorf 1981 $20m $443m U.S. Cellular Field Dist. Auth. 2.0m
Baltimore Orioles Milwaukee Brewers (1901),
St. Louis Browns (1902-1953)
Peter Angelos 1993 $173m $398m Camden Yards Dist. Auth. 1.8m
Houston Colt 45s / Astros Expansion franchise (1962);
in National League until 2012
Jim Crane
Robert D. McLane Jr.
2011
1992
$610m
$103m
$463m Minute Maid Park Team, Dist. Auth. 2.1m
Arlington (Texas) Rangers Expansion franchise:
Washington Senators (1961-1971)
Thomas Hicks 1998 $250m $412m (Rangers) Ballpark in Arlington City 2.9m
Los Angeles / Anaheim (California) Angels Expansion franchise (1961) Arturo Moreno 2003 $184m $500m Angels Stadium of Anaheim City of Anaheim 3.2m
Kansas City Royals Expansion franchise (1969) David Glass 2000 $96m $301m Kauffman Stadium Dist. Auth. 1.7m
Toronto Blue Jays Expansion franchise (1977) Ted Rogers / Rogers Communications 2000 $137m $352m Rogers Centre Team 1.8m
Seattle Mariners Expansion franchise (1977) Howard Lincoln / Nintendo 1992 $100m $466m Safeco Field Dist. Auth. 1.9m
St. Petersburg
(Tampa Bay)
Devil Rays Expansion franchise (1998) Stuart Steinberg 2004 $200m $290m Tropicana Field City 1.5m

SOURCES: Forbes SportsMoney - Baseball (2008), Fodor's Four Sport Stadium Guide (1996)

NOTES: "Dist. Auth." means "District Authority," referring to a special-purpose public entity responsible for overseeing and financing the operations of sports facilities, etc. Some are called "commissions" or other names.

Yankees were called "Highlanders" until 1913.
Senators were a.k.a. "Nationals" in 1930s.
The Houston Astros were were originally in the National League. They will move to the American League in 2013.


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The Federal League, 1914-1915

The Federal League was a bold venture in the days when baseball's future (and the nation's) seemed limitless. Several entrepreneurs took advantage of resentment toward the restrictions on players imposed by the reserve clause, and many American League and National League players signed up with the new league. In two cases, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, stadiums had recently become available after major league teams vacated them in favor of newer facilities. (These were the boom years of stadium construction, after all.) In another case, Baltimore, a stadium had become vacant when the Orioles relocated to New York (and changed their name to the Highlanders) in 1903. Half of the eight franchises were located in cities that already had major league teams, and the established leagues viewed the upstarts as a dire threat to their existence. The Indianapolis franchise moved to Newark in 1915.

Failing to draw big enough crowds in a saturated sports market, the Federal League folded after two seasons. Nevertheless, it did leave an enduring legacy: the Chicago Whales owner Mr. Weeghman purchased the Cubs as part of the deal with the two established major leagues, and he moved his new team into the Whales' Weeghman Park, which eventually became known as Wrigley Field, one of the last true shrines to the national pastime.

CityTeamStadium name CapacityOther major league use
Baltimore Terrapins Terrapin Park ("Oriole Park V") 16,000* Negro American League Elite Giants, 1938-1944
Brooklyn Brook-Feds Washington Park III 18,800 National League Superbas ("Dodgers"), 1898-1912
Buffalo Buf-Feds Federal League Park 20,000  
Chicago Whales Weeghman Park14,000 National League Cubs, 1916- (Wrigley Field)
Indianapolis (1914) Hoosier-Feds Federal League Park 20,000  
Kansas City Packers Gordon & Koppel Park 12,000  
Newark (1915)* Peppers* Harrison Park* 21,000*  
Pittsburgh Rebels Exposition Park III 16,000 National League Pirates, 1891-1909
St. Louis Terriers Federal League Park ("Handlan's Park") 15,000  

NOTE: In cases where there was a discrepancy between the two sources, or lack of data, the latter (Lowry) was used, as indicated by asterisks.

SOURCES: Lowry (1992), Gershman (1993).


The Continental League (aborted in 1960)

In response to the relocation of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to the West Coast in 1958, New York lawyer William Shea joined with businessmen in several cities to found a third major league: the "Continental League." It was to include teams in New York, Houston, Toronto, Denver, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and play was supposed to begin in 1960. However, the American and National Leagues quickly foiled the initiative by pledging to expand their rosters to ten teams each, and the whole concept quickly died.


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Relocated franchises

Since the early 20th century, Major League franchises have relocated to different cities a total of 13 times, but in three of those cases, the team had only been in existence for one or two years, so it wasn't such a big deal. Three of the franchises moved twice (the Brewers/Browns/Orioles, the Braves, and the Athletics), but the latter two kept the same name all along. In contrast, five of the eight franchises that relocated only one time changed their name, and thus their team's very identity, including both incarnations of the Senators. Two cities gained teams via relocation and subsequently lost them: Milwaukee and Kansas City. Two cities lost teams because of relocation twice: Milwaukee and Washington.

Every instance of relocation after 1950 involved either a commitment by the new host city to help build a new stadium, or else an existing stadium that was already built or renovated -- often "on speculation." In three cases, the teams played in old stadiums on a temporary basis while the new stadiums were built.

Year League Prev. years From: To: Road miles apart Owner
(year bought)
"New" stadium
(condition, age)
First post- season
(years lapsed)
Notes
1902 A.L. 1 Milwaukee Brewers St. Louis BROWNS 367   Sportsman's Park II
renovated?
1944
(43)
Shared St.L. with Cardinals;
51 year wait for new team in Milwaukee.
1903 A.L. 2 Baltimore Orioles New York HIGHLANDERS
(later the "Yankees")
192   Hilltop Park
NEW
1921
(19)
Shared N.Y. with Giants & Dodgers;
51 year wait for new team in Baltimore.
1953 N.L. 77 Boston BRAVES Milwaukee 1,100 Lou Perini (1942) County Stadium
NEW (on spec.)
1957
(5)
"New" MLB city;
Boston kept Red Sox.
1954 A.L. 52 St. Louis Browns Baltimore ORIOLES 841 Clarence Miles (1953) Memorial Stadium
SEMI-NEW (4 years)
1966
(13)
"New" MLB city; SECOND MOVE;
St. Louis kept Cardinals.
1955 A.L. 54 Philadelphia ATHLETICS Kansas City 1,141 Arnold Johnson (1954) Municipal Stadium
RENOVATED (22 years)
1972
(#)
New MLB city;
Philadelphia kept Phillies.
1958 N.L. 75 New York GIANTS San Francisco 2,929 Horace Stoneham (1936) Seals Stadium
OLD (27 years), temporary
1962
(5)
New MLB city; N.Y. kept Yankees.
4 year wait for new team in N.Y.
1958 N.L. 69 Brooklyn DODGERS Los Angeles 2,820 Walter O'Malley (1950) Memorial Coliseum
OLD (45 years), temporary
1959
(2)
New MLB city;
despair in Brooklyn.
1961 A.L. 60 Washington Senators (Minneapolis-Bloomington)
Minnesota TWINS
1,115 Calvin Griffith (1955) Metropolitan Stadium
SEMI-NEW (5 years)
1965
(5)
New MLB city;
immediate consolation team in D.C.
1966 N.L. 13 Milwaukee BRAVES Atlanta 813 William Bartholomay (1962) Atlanta Stadium
NEW (1 year, on spec.)
1991
(26)
New MLB city; SECOND MOVE.
4 year wait for new team in Milwaukee.
1968 A.L. 13 Kansas City ATHLETICS Oakland 1,814 Charlie Finley (1960) Oakland Coliseum
NEW (2 years, on spec.)
1972
(5)
Shared S.F. with Giants; SECOND MOVE.
1 year wait for new team in K.C.
1970 A.L. 1 Seattle Pilots Milwaukee BREWERS 1,991 Dewey & Max Soriano (1969; bankruptcy) County Stadium
SEMI-OLD (17 years)
1982
(13)
7 year wait for new team in Seattle.
1972 A.L. 12 Washington Senators (Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington)
Texas RANGERS
1,362 Bob Short (1968) Arlington Stadium
SEMI-NEW (7 years)
1996
(25)
New MLB city;
33 year wait for new team in D.C.
2005 N.L. 36 Montreal Expos Washington NATIONALS 600 MLB (from Jeffrey Loria, 2003) RFK Stadium
OLD (44 years), temporary
2012
(7)
Blocked for many years by Peter Angelos.
Joy in D.C.; tristesse in Montreal.

UPPER CASE letters in the "To:" column denote a change in team name.
# = First postseason appearance was not until after subsequent relocation elsewhere.



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Expansion franchises

From the 1960s through the 1990s, the Major Leagues expanded from 16 to 30 teams, bringing baseballl to new regions of the U.S.A. and to Canada. Four of the ten expansion franchises that were awarded during the 1960s and 1970s were meant as a consolation to cities that had recently lost franchises due to relocation. Three of the 14 expansion franchises ended up failing (after only one year for the Pilots, after ten years for the second Senators, and after 35 years fot the Expos) and relocated elsewhere.

In most cases of expansion, the new team played in an old stadium on a temporary basis, with the understanding that a new stadium was to be built. In some cases, however, that took many years. Four new teams started with a new (or unused) ballpark on Day One.

Year City Team League Price Original owner Temporary stadium
(years waiting)
New stadium First post- season
(years lapsed)
Notes
1961 Washington Senators (II) * A.L. $2.1m Bob Short Griffith Stadium
(1)
RFK Stadium
(relocation after 10 years)
1996
(#)
Consolation after Senators (I) left;
Became Texas Rangers in 1972.
1961 Los Angeles / Anaheim (CA) Angels A.L. $2.1m Gene Autry (L.A.) Wrigley Field (1)
+ Dodger Stadium (4)
Anaheim Stadium 1979
(19)
Shared L.A. with Dodgers.
1962 New York Mets N.L. $1.8m Joan Payson Polo Grounds
(2)
Shea Stadium 1969
(8)
Consolation after Giants and Dodgers left; shared N.Y. with Yankees.
1962 Houston Colt 45s/Astros N.L. $1.8m Judge Roy Hofheinz Colts Stadium
(3)
Astrodome 1980
(19)
New MLB city.
1969 Kansas City Royals A.L. $7.3m Ewing Kauffman (K.C.) Municipal Stadium
(4)
Kauffman Stadium 1976
(8)
Consolation after Athletics left.
1969 Seattle Pilots * A.L. $7.3m Dewey & Max Soriano Sick's Stadium
(1)
NONE
(relocation after 1 year)
1982
(#)
New MLB city;
Became Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.
1969 San Diego Padres N.L. $12.5m C. Arnholt Smith NONE Jack Murphy Stadium 1984
(16)
New MLB city.
1969 Montreal Expos * N.L. $12.5m Charles Bronfman Jarry Park
(8)
Olympic Stadium
(relocation after 28 years)
1981
(13)
New MLB city;
Became Washington Nationals in 2005.
1977 Seattle Mariners A.L. $6.5m Danny Kaye, et al. NONE Kingdome 1995
(19)
Consolation after Pilots left.
1977 Toronto Blue Jays A.L. $7.0m Labatt Breweries Exhibition Stadium
(13)
Rogers Centre 1985
(9)
New MLB city.
1993 Denver (CO) Rockies N.L. $95m John Antonucci and Michael Monus Mile High Stadium
(2)
Coors Field 1995
(3)
New MLB city.
1993 Miami (FL) Marlins N.L. $95m Wayne Huizenga Dolphin Stadium
(20)
Marlins Park 1997
(5)
New MLB city.
1998 Phoenix (AZ) Diamondbacks N.L. $155m Jerry Colangelo NONE Chase Field 2001
(4)
New MLB city.
1998 St. Petersburg / Tampa Devil Rays A.L. $155m Vince Naimoli NONE Tropicana Field 2008
(11)
New MLB city.

NOTES: * = Name changed after subsequent relocation.
# = First postseason appearance was not until after subsequent relocation elsewhere.
Franchise entry price is adjusted to include mandatory spending on player acquisition, television revenue exclusions, etc.


SOURCES: Forbes SportsMoney - Baseball (2008), Information Please, Andrew Zimbalist, Baseball and Billions (Basic Books, 1994), Doug Pappas's Business of Baseball, Fodor's Four Sport Stadium Guide (1996), Washington Post

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