Friday, June 21, 2019

Montreal sharing Tampa Bay ballclub reminiscent of when Milwaukee ‘borrowed’ White Sox as a home team

It’s intriguing to learn that Major League Baseball is pondering a plan by which the financially-struggling Tampa Bay Rays may use the Montreal market as a part-time home – playing in the two cities in hopes of some financial success.
A scorecard from days when Sox called Milwaukee home

Some suspect that if this plan occurs, it’s just a scam by which Montreal (which lost its ballclub to Washington, D.C. following the 2004 season) can reclaim a slot in the major leagues.

WHILE OTHERS CLAIM it would be unprecedented chaos. Total mayhem would be wracked upon baseball operations. Where will the ballplayers live? Envision the massive taxation that will be incurred by the players?

What would you even call the team? What would their identity be?

All of which I find to be silly, largely because baseball has something of a precedent in this area. Think back to the late 1960s just after the Braves fled Milwaukee for Atlanta.

For 1968 and 1969, the old Milwaukee County Stadium that once had star players like Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn (all Hall of Famers) at their peak, the home team became our very own Chicago White Sox.

WHERE EVENTUAL BREWERS owner Bud Selig (a Hall of Fame executive) convinced the White Sox to transfer a share of their home games to Milwaukee. Literally 9 games in ’68 and 11 in ’69 – or one game against each of the other home teams in the American League those two seasons.

It literally meant ballclubs in Chicago had to take a bus trip one day each season to Milwaukee to play a ballgame. With Seattle Pilots pitcher Jim Bouton recalling in his 1969 book “Ball Four” about his confusion over which city he was playing in – and him making it out to the ballpark that night only a half-hour before an evening game time.

Some were convinced it was part of a scam to get the White Sox to move to Milwaukee – although the Sox remain in Chicago, and it became the Pilots, a 1969 expansion ballclub, that wound up making the move to the land of cheese heads.
What coudda been; da Sox in Tampa!

For the White Sox, they kept their home identity, representing the Sout’ Side of Chicago even for those 20 games (out of 162) they played in Wisconsin those two seasons.

SO I EXPECT it would be that the Tampa Bay Rays would keep their identity, even while playing games at the old Olympic Stadium in Montreal – which would be the interim facility used until a permanent ballpark could be built.

As for those who think that people of the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area would be getting cheated out of their team, I sort of find their attendance woes amusing.

Yes, it seems that Florida people like spring training baseball, which is played at a cheaper cost. But the actual expense of supporting a major league ballclub during the season seems to be over their heads – so to speak.

And that is the market, in fact the very ballpark, that the White Sox themselves were prepared to leave Chicago for back in 1988 – which only failed to come about when then-Gov. James R. Thompson managed to pull off a political deal that still leaves some Illinois legislators miffed. The one that resulted in the state picking up the cost of building the structure now known as Guaranteed Rate Field.

WITH A LEASE offering up favorable-enough financial terms that the White Sox manage to meet their bills – even in those years when their attendance levels plummet. And when they do draw, they make “big bucks” off their fan base.
Le stade that housed Bruce Jenner's Olympics greatness would like another taste of Major League baseball
I wouldn’t mind it if Montreal were to return (they had the Expos from 1969-2004) to the ranks of baseball. The city would add a certain level of sophistication that you just wouldn’t get by putting a new ball club in a place like Charlotte, N.C., or Nashville, Tenn.

In fact the only good thing that came about by the demise of the Expos was that it meant the return of baseball to the national capital – which went from 1971 to 2005 without a team of its own. Unless you regard nearby Baltimore is a part of D.C.

Although it has me wondering if an eventual move from Tampa/St. Pete means an opening of that market – with some fans clamoring nostalgically for a return of the Rays. Although I’d argue the name would have to be restored to its original full “Devil Rays” – the trim truly was one of the silliest moves that baseball ever made.


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