Sports Business Changed 65 Years Ago Today

Lou Perini changed the game.




Sixty five years ago today, Lou Perini moved his Boston Braves National League baseball team to Milwaukee and changed how sports operated. Perini took his business to a stadium that was funded by taxpayers complete with a generous lease. Major League Baseball and sports owners found out that cities would pay to get their businesses into their towns. In 1950, Milwaukee politicians approved funding for the construction of a park with taxpayers’ money. The idea was simple. The stadium would be used in an attempt to land a Major League Baseball team and keep the Green Bay Packers National Football League franchise in town for a couple games a year. Milwaukee had hoped to get the Packers permanently. Green Bay put up money for a Packers stadium in 1956. In 1952 Perini’s Boston Braves sold only 281,278 tickets to 77 home games. Perini lost money and considered moving to Toronto but settled on Milwaukee after St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck planned to move his Browns to the city. The American League blocked Veeck’s move. Perini had a business tie to Milwaukee, he owned the American Association’s Milwaukee Brewers, his Triple A farm team. On March 13, Perini announced his intentions to take the Milwaukee offer. On March 18, the National League owners approved the transfer.

All of a sudden, Perini was making money. Small market Milwaukee outperformed big market Brooklyn in attendance and that started the wheels in motion that eventually would lead Walter O’Malley to Los Angeles. O’Malley concluded that Brooklyn could not compete with Milwaukee if his Dodgers team was stuck in Ebbets Field. Milwaukee lost the NBA Hawks to St. Louis after the 1955 season. The Braves would move to Atlanta in 1966. Milwaukee would get an NBA team in 1968 and baseball in 1970. Milwaukee would eventually build taxpayers funded venues to keep those teams in town.

Milwaukee politicians forced Green Bay to fund a stadium for the NFL Packers.