MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, according to USA Today, is the most influential person in baseball.
USA Today nearly got it all wrong about the most influential people in baseball in the paper’s top 100. Number 100 was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and she is the one who can find money to build a baseball park for the A’s in the city. Politicians not industry personnel hold the key to success and it has been that way since 1950.
Lou Perini owned the Boston Braves until March 17, 1953. On that date, Perini’s Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves . Perini was a baseball pioneer in this sense. He wanted greener pastures and broke his ties to New England by announcing his move on March 13, 1953 but he still needed to get National League owners permission to go five days later.
It was Perini who first took his team elsewhere and profited by moving his team into a stadium that was funded by taxpayers and took advantage of a generous lease. That move opened up Major League Baseball to new cities and new possibilities. Attendance was great in Milwaukee and Perini was making money.
It was Perini’s move in the very late winter of 1953 that is arguably the most important franchise shift in baseball’s economic history. The details are pretty well known surrounding the move. Milwaukee civic and elected officials in the late 1940s were looking for a Major League Baseball team to replace the long departed Milwaukee Brewers, a team that lasted just one year in the American League. The Milwaukee team moved to St. Louis in 1902. Ironically enough St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck wanted to bring his Browns back to Milwaukee for the 1953 season but was blocked by American League owners. That action gave Perini the opening he needed.
The city put aside funds for a new park that could seat 28,000 people and with improvements bump the capacity to 36,000 seats. In 1950, construction started on Milwaukee County Stadium. The ballpark would be used in an attempt to land a Major League Baseball team and was the first ever publicly funded baseball park. Perini’s Braves franchise was faltering badly at the gate. The 1952 Braves, a team that featured Warren Spahn and Eddie Matthews, could only attract about 281,000 people to 77 home games. Perini on one hand claimed to be committed to Boston but on the other hand, baseball teams in the 1950s depended just on gate receipts with little TV money coming in. Perini’s team simply was not generating money in Boston .
Perini had a business tie to Milwaukee ; the Braves top farm club was the American Association’s Milwaukee Brewers.
In March 1953, O’ Malley brought a motion before National League owners asking them if Perini could move the Braves from Boston to Milwaukee . The owners unanimously approved the relocation despite the fact that the season was just weeks away and Perini had to immediately set up a ticket selling apparatus and get radio and TV coverage for his team in Milwaukee. .
Small market Miwaukee outperformed big market Brooklyn in attendance and that started the wheels in motion that eventually led O’Malley to Los Angeles . O’Malley concluded that Brooklyn could not compete with Milwaukee if his Dodgers team was stuck in Ebbets Field.
The Milwaukee city government changed the rules for stadium and arena funding and signaled the start of competition between cities for sports franchises. Cities were now willing to put up money for venues which was something unheard of until that time.
Baseball leaders take a backseat to politicians