Hot Stove #252 – MLB Expansion and Relocation (No, not the Royals and Chiefs)

Breaking News – What a Catch!: A good win for the Royals yesterday. Salvy’s 2-run homer held up for a rain-shortened 2-1 victory. The defensive gem of the game was Kyle Isbel’s amazing catch in the pouring rain. Click here for the TV feed and here for a cool video capturing the rainfall at that moment (by Sam Lutz of the Royals). And this photo from Jason Hanna of the Royals…

 Kyle Isbel leaps and reaches to make a spectacular catch against the Blue Jays. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Kansas City Royals)

 MLB Expansion: The recent vote on the stadiums raised the issue of team relocation. My take: The Royals and Chiefs will be playing in the Kansas City area for decades to come. Exactly where in the area, I don’t know. But I’m confident that the teams and most fans, voters and politicos will work toward that goal.

All this talk about relocation made me think of a related issue. EXPANSION. MLB currently has 30 teams. There is a strong interest in expanding to 32 teams, and several cities are standing in line to vie for the two new franchises.

MLB has been hesitant to expand until stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved. The Oakland situation has been partially resolved with the A’s planning to relocate to Las Vegas, although that move has its own stadium issue. The Rays of Tampa Bay have announced plans for a new stadium, and final governmental approvals are pending.

Below are some numbers for the cities most often mentioned as expansion candidates:

Area Population

1. Montreal – 4.38 million

2. Charlotte – 2.80 million

3. San Antonio – 2.70 million

4. Portland – 2.51 million

5. Sacramento – 2.42 million

6. Las Vegas – 2.32 million

7. Nashville – 2.10 million

8. Salt Lake City – 1.27 million

Perspective: Cincinnati (2.27), Kansas City (2.22), Cleveland (2.16) and Milwaukee (1.56).

Nielsen Media Market Rating

1. Sacramento – 20

2. Charlotte – 21

3. Portland – 23

4. Nashville – 26

5. Salt Lake City – 27

6. San Antonio – 31

7. Las Vegas – 40

[Montreal not ranked by Nielsen]

Perspective: Cleveland (19), Kansas City (34), Cincinnati (37) and Milwaukee (38).

The map below shows a long-term proposal for six new franchises, adding one team to each of the existing divisions. But in the foreseeable future, only two are expected.

This MLB Expansion Map Just Makes Sense | by Chris K | Medium

Nashville Stars: Some of the prospective cities are working to attract an expansion team, and one of the most active is Nashville where “Music City Baseball” was established in 2019 to bring an MLB team to the city. The organization has selected “Stars” as the team name to pay homage to the Negro Leagues team that played in Nashville. It would be the first MLB team to adopt a name of a former Negro Leagues team.

The Stars were part of the Negro Leagues in the 1940s and 1950s. “Nashville has always had great Black baseball history…the Nashville Stars are little known…but their presence in Nashville was significant,” says Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Bob (below) serves on the board of Music City Baseball

Bob Kendrick: Unmatched Leadership and Expertise

Good luck Nashville!

1969 MLB Expansion and Relocation: In 1969, four expansion teams joined the major leagues.


In the American League, the new teams were the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots. The Royals remain where they belong, but Seattle had the Pilots for only one year. They relocated to Milwaukee in 1970.

The new National League teams were the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos. The Padres almost relocated to Washington DC. The Expos did.

The two relocations and the one that almost happened created baseball card oddities.

After the Pilots 1969 season, the team filed for bankruptcy. Just days before the end of spring training, Bud Selig bought the team out of the bankruptcy and moved it to Milwaukee. The 1970 baseball cards by Topps had already been printed, so the Milwaukee cards for that season show the players in their Seattle uniforms. Below, the 1970 Topps card for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Tommy Harper.

Picture 6 of 9

After the 1973 season, the faltering Padres franchise was under contract to a buyer who planned to move the team to Washington DC. The sale got tied up in litigation, giving McDonald’s entrepreneur Ray Kroc the opportunity to buy the team and keep it in San Diego. Some 1974 Topps cards had already been printed showing the move to Washington (e.g., Willie McCovey), while others came later and showed the correct city (e.g., Dave Winfield’s rookie card).

1974 Week kicks off with the Willie McCovey Washington “Nat'l Lea.” card |  The Shlabotnik Report

1974 Topps Baseball #456 Dave Winfield Rookie Card at Amazon's Sports  Collectibles Store

In 2005, the Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals. The announcement was after the first printing of Topps cards that year, so many of the 2005 cards show the players as Expos. Later editions switch to the Nationals. Some players, (like Livan Hernandez below), had one of each.

2005 (EXPOS) Topps 1st Edition #36 Livan Hernandez - Picture 1 of 2

2005 Topps Update #57 Livan Hernandez - Picture 1 of 2

 1969 Expansion Report Card: The Royals are top of the class.

Kansas City – Winner of four pennants and two World Series

Seattle/Milwaukee – Winner of one pennant and no World Series

Montreal/Washington – Winner of one pennant and one World Series

San Diego – Winner of two pennants and no World Series

Kansas City to Sacramento – Part 1: In 1972, the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals relocated to Kansas City. Since we already had a pro team with that name, our new NBA team became the Kings. Fans were rewarded that first year with the great play of Nate “Tiny” Archibald who won the NBA titles for both scoring and assists.

A fine parade of superstars came through Kansas City. Wilt. Kareem. Oscar. Dr. J. Walt Frazier. Pistol Pete. Rick Barry. Iceman Gervin. Isaiah. Earl the Pearl. Bill Walton. Magic. Bird. Etc.

In the late 1970s, I started sharing season tickets with Rich Ellison, Ray Webb and Preston Cain. Great seats at reasonable prices. Enjoyed a lot of halftimes talking in the concourse with Jim Fitzpatrick.

But the crowds were small, which led to the team being sold and relocated to Sacramento after the 1984/1985 season (the year Michael Jordan was Rookie of the Year).

The Reason Why The Kansas City Kings Moved Their Franchise To Sacramento -  Fadeaway World

Kansas City to Sacramento – Part 2: Soon, another former Kansas City team will be playing in Sacramento, but in a less direct move. The Kansas City A’s, which had been relocated from Philadelphia in 1955, moved to Oakland in 1968.

Oakland Athletics Logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG, brand

The A’s are currently playing their 57th season in Oakland, but have been given permission by the American League to move to Las Vegas. But there is a problem. No place to play in Vegas. So, as the team and Sin City work out the timing and location for a new stadium, the A’s plan to play the next three years in a minor league park in Sacramento. It’s a mess.

Sacramento Athletics Of Las Vegas shirt, hoodie, sweater, long sleeve and  tank top

Come 2025, our former baseball team will be playing in Sacramento. Just like our Kings. Déjà vu.

Whitey Herzog (RIP): Whitey Herzog died earlier this month at the age of 92. He had connections with three Kansas City teams, playing for the minor league Blues (1952) and the major league A’s (1959-1961), and managing the Royals (1975-1979). He led the Royals to AL West titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, but lost the ALCS in each of those years to the Yankees.

Whitey Herzog | Hall of Fame | Kansas City Royals | Kansas City Royals

Whitey moved on to manage the St. Louis Cardinals from 1980 to 1990, winning pennants in 1982, 1985 and 1987, and the World Series in 1982. His managerial talent with the Royals and Cardinals earned him induction into the Hall of Fame.

RIP Whitey.

[Some video clips on Whitey: George Brett memories; Vin Scully story on Satchel and Whitey; and Busch Beer ad.]

Carl Erskine (RIP): Carl Erskine died earlier this month at the age of 97. Erskine was a steady pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s, a team chronicled in Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer. After many losses to the Yankees in the World Series, the team finally beat the Yankees in 1955. Erskine was the last surviving Dodger who played in that 1955 Series.

Picture 6 of 13

Erskine threw the only MLB no-hitter that I have seen in full. It was on TV’s “Game of the Week” (May 12, 1956). I was 14 at the time and loved watching Dizzy Dean broadcast the Saturday nationally televised games.

I don’t remember seeing the post-game interview, but I read later it went like this:

Dean: “Who signed you?” Erskine: “Branch Rickey.”

Dean: “Cheapest man who ever lived, I played for him in St. Louis. He paid peanuts, about two bags a week.”

Erskine confessed that he previously received two bonuses from Rickey. Dizzy then turned to the camera, “Folks this here young man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Not because he pitched two no-hitters, but because he got two bonuses out of Branch Rickey!”

RIP Carl.

Home Run Derby: On the day after Opening Day, nine gray-to-no-hair guys and one young guy with good hair met on Zoom to draft eight players each for our 2024 Home Run Derby.


 There is a little bit of money involved, plus the winner receives the traveling trophy at the annual awards breakfast (below, clockwise from bottom left, Lonnie, Steve Roling, David Matson, Jeb Bayer, Tom Grimaldi, Bob White and Joel Poole; not pictured, Todd Hoppe, Tim Sear and Jim Heeter). Jeb, our 2023 commissioner, is handing the trophy to David Matson who is accepting on behalf of his son-in-law Todd who took first place in his inaugural year in the derby.

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 Although each of us would like to win, there are two overriding factors that hold our attention during the season. One is the hilarious email traffic after each week’s stats are released. The second factor is that no one wants to come in last. The player with the lowest home run total must serve as commissioner and do the weekly stats the following season.

The commissioner for 2024 is Bob White. Bob has promised a new “benefit” for the participants – he’s going to improve our vocabulary. Soon after the awards breakfast, he suggested some new rules for our contest and found a way to weave in blatherskite, bumfuzzle and defenestration. Some follow up emails, “My motives are purely benignant. No cupidity. I will not deturpate our Derby…As always, playful persiflage is welcomed by my office.”

As we readied for the draft, “Good luck. May your picks prove to be insuperable and absent any oneiric qualities.”  After the draft, “It’s too early to call any team insuperable, and I don’t mean to interrupt anyone’s April phantasmagoria, but here are the stats for the first week of play…”

And we get this weekly.

 Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Commissioner Bob White Edition: Commissioner Bob is a serious rock ‘n’ roll fan, and I asked him for a Lonnie’s Jukebox playlist. I expected some classic rock ‘n’ roll from his high school and college days. This would have been consistent with his appearance at a Golden Oldies party in the 1980s when he wore his rock ‘n’ roll outfit (red pants!) and rearranged his then-thick-dark hair into his teenage ducktail mode. Bob is watching the future editor and writer of Hot Stove dance their way down the middle of the stroll line.


But Bob instead surprised me with an eclectic list covering five decades. He has kept up with rock ‘n’ roll better than I have. I recognized most of the artists and a couple of the songs, but otherwise the selections were as familiar to me as Bob’s Home Run Derby vocabulary words.

But I listened, and you know, they are good.

“Friday on My Mind” by Easybeats (1967)

“White Room” by Cream (1968)

“Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young with Crazy Horse (1969)

“China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers (1973)

“Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top (1983)

“Jealous Again” by the Black Crowes (1990)

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1993)

“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet (2003)

Thank you, Bob.

Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Nashville Star: While awaiting MLB’s Nashville Stars, you might want to watch Nashville star Connie Britton. She portrays singer Rayna Jaymes in a TV drama series about the country music scene in Nashville. Good music plus an inside look at the music industry. All six seasons streaming on Hulu. Trailer here.

Nashville' Star Connie Britton Talks New Season

Lonnie’s Jukebox (3) – Elton John/Bernie Taupin – Gershwin Prize: For the last three years, Lonnie’s Jukebox has covered the PBS showing of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Garth Brooks, Lionel Richie and Joni Mitchell).

Elton John & Bernie Taupin = 2024 Gershwin Prize | Timeless

This year’s recipients were singer Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. The two combined for over 50 Top-40 hits, eight of which went to #1. The honorees sat at the front of the audience and were treated to a series of artists performing covers from the John/Taupin catalog (Garth Brooks, Joni Mitchell, Metallica, Brandi Carlile, Annie Lennox and more).

Two of the best. Please watch. You will thank me.

“Bennie and the Jets” by Jacob Lusk. I did not know this artist, but now I won’t forget him.

 “The Bitch is Back” by Billy Porter. He also served as emcee of the show. This artist I did know and had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway a few years ago in his Tony Award-winning role in Kinky Boots.

The show also included clips of the honorees describing their songwriting process. In John’s acceptance speech, he acknowledged the influence of American artists on his career, especially those who showed that the piano was a rock ‘n’ roll instrument as much as a guitar (Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino). Elton then performed, and his finale was…

“Your Song” by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Their first Top-10 hit (1970).

You can stream the entire show on PBS Passport and online here.

Nature Moment: A sure sign of spring is a new gaggle of goslings in the pond at Loose Park. The six goslings and their parents are joined here by orange koi in chasing breadcrumbs tossed by park visitors.