Looking Back at the Dodgers and Giants Move from N.Y. to California – SportsLogos.Net News

Looking Back at the Dodgers and Giants Move from N.Y. to California

On May 28, 1957, the National League approved one of the most significant relocations in the history of professional sports: the simultaneous move of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to California. The decision marked the beginning of a new era of baseball, bringing the sport’s top talent to the West Coast for the first time.

The Dodgers and Giants already had storied histories. Both clubs were founded in the same year, 1883, seventy-five seasons earlier — this would be like two teams that had been around since 1950 both relocating today. The Dodgers, affectionately known as “Dem Bums,” had just won their first World Series title two years earlier, and the Giants had won over a dozen National League pennants and five World Series titles during their time in New York.

The National League’s desire to move to the West Coast was pretty simple: to expand the league’s reach and tap into these promising new markets before the American League could get the chance to do so, and the rapidly growing populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco presented opportunities too lucrative to ignore.

For many years, the Giants were one of baseball’s top franchises, with many of those early seasons under the helm of manager John McGraw. The team won nine pennants from 1905 to 1924, including three World Series titles. However, the team’s fortunes declined due to poor management decisions, resulting in lower attendance and financial struggles. Despite a World Series title in 1954, the attendance at Upper Manhattan’s Polo Grounds had plummeted to an NL-worst 8,500 per game by 1957, leading Giants owner Horace Stoneham to explore relocation options out of basic economic necessity.

Initially, Stoneham considered moving the Giants to Minneapolis, inspired by the Boston Braves‘ successful relocation to Milwaukee. However, logistical challenges and the opportunity to move to the West Coast in tandem with another team made San Francisco a much more attractive option for him.

The Dodgers, unlike the Giants, were financially stable, thanks to their star players and their recent World Series victory in 1955. However, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was determined to replace the outdated Ebbets Field with a new stadium. His ambitious plan for a state-of-the-art domed stadium in Brooklyn faced numerous obstacles, including opposition from powerful city planner Robert Moses. Frustrated by the need for more progress in New York, O’Malley began exploring opportunities in Los Angeles, a city eager to welcome a Major League team and willing to provide substantial support.

The Brooklyn Dodgers wanted a new domed stadium for them to stay in NYC

Following the league’s approval to shift the teams, New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner vowed to keep the Giants and Dodgers in the city. “I will do everything I can to keep the Dodgers and Giants in New York,” he said, planning to take the matter up in an emergency meeting with other city officials. The political and public efforts were in full swing, with local government figures working tirelessly to retain the teams. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn predicted the Dodgers would make their move to Los Angeles official within days.

O’Malley maintained a cautious stance, stating, “No decision has been made [by the team] to move yet, and no decision will be made until October.” Stoneham echoed this sentiment, adding, “We have all summer to think about it.” Despite these assurances, the groundwork for the move was clearly being laid. Both owners stressed that they asked for permission to transfer “reluctantly” and left the door slightly ajar for New York City officials to change their minds.

San Francisco Mayor George Christopher expressed optimism about his city’s chances of acquiring a major league team. “I am happy San Francisco is being considered as a possible home city for the Giants and I am certain this city eventually will have a major league baseball team, although the matter is not yet fully decided,” he said. While surprised at the speed of the decision, Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson was naturally pleased.

The San Francisco Seals and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League

Concerns about the impact on the Pacific Coast League were immediately voiced by Fred David, president of the Sacramento Solons. He said, “It’s tough enough as it is,” noting that losing Los Angeles and San Francisco to the major leagues would likely spell the end of the PCL. “It would be tougher, probably too tough for the league to continue in operation if our two biggest cities dropped out.” The financial implications were significant, with David pointing out the substantial investments in real estate, including a new $500,000 grandstand (nearly $5.6 million in 2024) that would suddenly become useless if the league folded.

The decision ignited reactions from other PCL teams as well. Dewey Soriano, general manager of the Seattle Rainiers, predicted legal battles. “Seattle will sue for $3 million while Sacramento probably will ask for $1,700,000,” he said, emphasizing the financial ramifications of the major league invasion. Jerry Donovan, president of the San Francisco Seals, acknowledged the difficulty but focused on the season: “There’s nothing we can do about it from here. We’ll just keep trying to win the Pacific Coast League pennant this year.”

Willie Mays outside San Francisco’s Seals Stadium with the marquee welcoming the Giants

An interesting development in this saga was the possibility of the Cincinnati Reds shifting to New York to fill the void left by the Giants and Dodgers. While Gabe Paul, the Reds’ general manager, did not ask permission to move, an unnamed top baseball official indicated that the Reds would indeed move to New York if the Giants and Dodgers left. Of course, this never happened.

The proposed move was not just a relocation of teams but a shift in the very landscape of professional baseball. The steadfast willingness to end the iconic Subway Series between the Dodgers and Giants was a poignant reminder that no tradition, no matter how ingrained, couldn’t be changed in the future. “There are always certain conditions that could change the present status,” O’Malley hinted, leaving a faint sliver of hope for fans, which ultimately never came to fruition.

The Dodgers would officially announce their move to Los Angeles after the conclusion of the 1957 season, while the Giants made their decision public in late September, allowing their final game of the season—a 2-0 win over the Pirates—to be a proper farewell. The Dodgers and Giants retained their identities in their new homes, keeping their names and uniforms mostly unchanged. The city names and cap logos were their only updates, which were changed to reflect their new homes, the Giants cap changing from a “NY” to an “SF,” and the Dodgers from a “B” to an “LA.”

The Dodgers and Giants changed their caps appropriately to reflect their new homes

In the years that followed, Major League Baseball continued to expand on the West Coast, with the addition of the Los Angeles Angels in 1961 and the relocation of the Athletics to Oakland in 1968. The San Diego Padres joined the National League in 1969, solidifying California as a solid hub for the two leagues. This series of expansions and relocations firmly established Major League Baseball’s true nationwide (and later, continentwide) presence.

The Pacific Coast League never did fold following the arrival of the Major Leagues; it remains active today as a Triple-A member of the MLB-managed Minor League Baseball, serving as the top developmental tier of major league talent. The PCL’s Los Angeles and San Francisco teams weren’t as lucky as the league itself; the Los Angeles Angels were effectively replaced by MLB’s team of the same name in 1961, while the San Francisco Seals folded after the Giants arrived in 1958.

Within eleven years of the shift, there were five Major League Baseball teams in California

New York eventually welcomed a new National League team with the establishment of the New York Mets less than five years later in 1962. The Mets filled the void the Giants and Dodgers left, quickly becoming a beloved franchise in their own right. The “Miracle Mets” clinched their first World Series title in 1969, in just their eighth season, and more than forty years before the San Francisco Giants would win their first title in their new West Coast home.