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Hans Remembers- Tuesday April 8, 1969- 50 years ago today. Major League Baseball unveiled on the baseball field their four new expansion teams- expanding MLB from two- ten team leagues to two leagues with a dozen teams. Also a radical change. Up until 1969- there was the American League and National League- the winner of each league played in the World Series. In 1969- with a dozen teams in each league- two six team divisions were introduced. There would be East and West divisions with six teams each and the winners of each leagues divisions would play a seven game playoff with each winner advancing to the World Series.

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Three of the four new cities that got expansion teams- in the National League the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres- and in the American- the Seattle Pilots were new to MLB- the cities had never had teams- Kansas City- had in the 50’s and 60’s had the Athletics- who had moved there from Philadelphia before moving to Oakland. The A’s moved to Oakland in 1968- and the next year KC got the new franchise. This year will be the 51st season for these teams- Montreal would move to Washington, D.C in 2005. There is now talk of baseball expanding again and if Montreal can come with a new ballpark they are a front runner to get a new team. That franchise- The Expos/ Nats have never been to a World Series. The San Diego Padres have been to a couple World Series but have lost both. Kansas City has been the most successful of these four teams-having gone to four World Series and having won two in 1985 and in 2015. The Seattle Pilots only lasted one season in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. They went to the World Series in 1982 but lost. The Pilots are immortalized though- due to one of their pitchers- Jim Bouton- who published his memoir of the 1969 season in which he spent most of it- with the Pilots- “Ball Four”- one of my favorite books ever- certainly the one I have read most often- I will soon write a little tribute to that groundbreaking book.

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Anyway- at the ballparks on April 8- an odd thing happened- all four of the new teams- although they would be in for long seasons- would win their Opening Day game.  Seattle beat the California Angels in Los Angeles 4-3, Kansas City playing at home beat Minnesota by the same 4-3 score, Montreal went to Shea Stadium in New York and in a real slug fest beat the Mets 11-10. San Diego playing at home won a pitchers duel- beating the Houston Astros 2-1.

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For the season San Diego and Montreal both ended up 52-110 finishing in last place in their divisions. Kansas City was the most successful first year franchise 69-92 and finishing 4th in the AL West ahead of Chicago White Sox and Seattle Pilots who did escape losing 100 games -going 64-98.

A note- baseball in 1969 was in a state of decline. Attendance was down- interest was down. The NFL seemed more in tune with the times. You would think the opening games in those cities would be a hard ticket to get but in San Diego they only had 23,370 for the opener and in Kansas City the stadium was half empty with only 17,688 in attendance. One thing about baseball and I have been a fan all my life- at times its popularity declines but it always seems to come bouncing back.


  1. I’m re-reading Sparky Lyle’s book The Bronx Zoo right now. Jim Bouton took a lot of heat for a long long time for his book…Sparky’s book didn’t seem to bother a lot of people. Maybe it was because Bouton was more intellectual and not one of the guys?

    • It sure sounds- in re-re-re-re reading Ball Four- that Bouton thought of himself and saw himself as being an outsider. He writes about trying to fit in more. I wonder how times have changed in the last 50 years as far as ballplayers go? I wonder what a Ball Four would be like in 2019? I would recommend that book to anyone baseball fan or not- there is really not that much baseball on the field stuff on the book- more a book about people. I love that book. I read Sparky’s book when it came out I still have it- maybe I should give it another read- I remember it being funny. …. I forget which Yankee book it was in- maybe in a couple ones- I won’t tell the story unless you didn’t hear it- but the story about Mickey Mantle taking Billy Martin hunting on a friend of Mickey’s farm? That was classic.

    • Yes wasn’t that story in the Jane Leavy book about Mantle? The one about the cow…it was classic. Funny I read that book but not the Koufax book yet.

      I remember Bouton took heat from that book for years and years. Munson even mentioned it at one time years later. There was a lot of hate toward him.

      Sparky’s is funny and he paints Reggie and George pretty bad. He respects Billy to a point…I read a recent interview with him and he said he didn’t like that Billy would lie to them at times. He picked the perfect season to write about.

      Ball Four is classic. Now I think baseball has changed so much because it’s so business like now almost corporate. The closest thing you would get to it now is a minor leaguer writing a book. Back then the coaches were colorful and the stories were great…I could be wrong but I would think they are more focused now.

      You have made me want to read Ball Four yet again.

    • I have been slowly reading it this past month while reading other stuff. Read a few days in the book every day or two… I think the players today probably don’t spend the time together that they did back then off the field–and i think you are right -todays players are more focused. … come on now you have to read that Koufax book- its her best book.

    • You would think I would have read that one first! I almost got “The Big Fella” audio the other day…I need to get the Koufax book… The Sparky book is one I just open and start reading where ever I land.

    • The thing I liked about her Babe book is she had some things about him that I had never heard before- especially about his growing up/ family life. She recognized she was taking on a well known subject and approached him in a different way… another difference in players today -50 years ago- I think overall they are more intelligent today- more college players today. back then most of the players signed out of high school. …and of course it is a much smaller world today. back then some of those guys were from rural areas and never got off the farm much. It was clear in that book that a lot of those guys just didn’t understand Bouton. He read books and he played chess with Mike Marshall- another ‘freak’ who didn’t fit in.

    • Yea they were outcasts and considered snobs by players. Anything different back then was wrong. MLB still won’t’ listen to Marshall’s pitching techniques which I don’t understand. You would think now someone would try.

      I’m about to download the Babe book…I should have the other day. You said the key thing learning other things about him. Alot of books about him are recycled from Robert Creamer…which that is fine but I this sounds great.

      The book that shocked me the most was again…I sound like a broken record…. Tune In… I was shocked and couldn’t believe it…sorry to switch to the Beatles but have you heard any news on a release date for the new one?

    • The Creamer book remains the standard but I enjoyed Leavy’s take on him…. I haven’t heard a single thing about the next Tune In- I am sure he’s still working on it though! Looking forward to it to say the least!

  2. Baseball is my primary source of therapy to block out the presidential disaster our country is now facing. And then Trump abolishes the deal to allow refugee Cuban ball players to be eligible to play MLB.

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