Could MLB’s antitrust exemption be threatened by the proposed move?
On October 1st, 1967, Charles Finley’s Kansas City Athletics’ baseball franchise played its final home game in the Missouri city. Finley was taking his club to Oakland. Finley’s relocation set in motion a great number of events which still resonate 56 years later. The Oakland move never produced the results Finley wanted as the team almost ended up in Denver after Finley sold it to Colorado interests in 1978. The American League blocked the transaction. But that is getting ahead of the story. Finley’s move to Oakland got the attention of Missouri Senator Stuart Symington who decided if Kansas City no longer had a team, then it was time to review baseball’s antitrust exemption. The American League owners took Symington’s threat seriously and immediately expanded into Seattle and Kansas City for the 1969 season. The National League followed suit, placing teams in San Diego and Montréal.
But the Seattle team had financial problems and the owners went bankrupt at the suggestion of a suitor named Allen “Bud” Selig. Milwaukee lost the Braves franchise in 1965 as the business moved to Atlanta. But Milwaukee was passed over in the expansion process and Selig wasn’t necessarily wanted by baseball barons. His bid to buy the Chicago White Sox business was rejected. He got the Pilots franchise in a bankruptcy proceeding in 1970. Seattle and King County sued baseball and the settlement was to place American League teams in Seattle and in Toronto in 1977. John Fisher wants to move this baseball business to Las Vegas. So far there is no Symington like Senator that has emerged as a thorn in the side for MLB. A Symington-like figure could threaten MLB’s antitrust exemption. Another problem, will someone in Oakland’s government file a lawsuit against MLB and Fisher charging them with bad faith bargaining? The Athletics’ saga continues.
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