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On This Date in Sports March 3,1953: Brave New World

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A proposed move by St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck to move his team to Milwaukee is blocked by Boston Braves owner Lou Perini. Perini claimed he had territorial rights having their top farm club there. Two weeks later, it would be Perini himself making a move to Milwaukee, as he gets approval to move the Braves. The Braves are the first Major League Baseball team in 50 years to relocate.

The American and National Leagues have long been the most established sports leagues in the United States. After the turn of the century saw the National League go from 12 to eight teams, nothing had changed as the same eight cities had made up the National League for a half-century. The American League formed in 1901 had two early moves, with the Milwaukee Brewers becoming the St. Louis Browns in 1902 and the Baltimore Orioles becoming the New York Highlanders in 1903. After that, the same eight cities represented the junior circuit.

As the postwar boom saw Westward expansion with increased air travel and superhighways, traveling across the country became less burdensome. For baseball, a sport that had all 16 teams east of the Mississippi, a change was bound to happen due to growing western metropolises, while cities that shared teams soon would see the survival of the fittest.

In St. Louis, it was clear the Cardinals were king. The Browns, who were residents of the American League basement more often than not, had tried to evict the Cardinals from their shared stadium Sportsmen’s Park without success. After beer giant Auggie Busch purchased the Cardinals, the writing was on the wall for Browns, who Bill Veeck bought in 1951. Veeck began actively looking for a new home for the forlorn team. His first choice was Milwaukee, where Veeck had previously run Brewers' minor league. However, Lou Perini, owner of the Boston Braves, held the territorial rights to Milwaukee, where a new state-of-the-art stadium was set to open in 1953.

Despite being the oldest team in baseball with roots dating back to the early days of professional baseball, the Braves attendance had come upon hard times as the Boston Red Sox of the American League were considerably more popular thanks to players like Ted Williams. Like the Browns, the Boston Braves were wilting in the shadow of another team. With Milwaukee making overtures to the Browns, owner Lou Perini who blocked the Browns' moves, decided relocation was a good idea and announced on March 18th plans to move to Milwaukee.

When the relocation plan was announced, the Braves were already in the middle of Spring Training.  As they wore Boston hats and uniforms the rest of the exhibition season, players and club employees needed to scramble and make living arraignments in Milwaukee. At the time, teams in the National League had divided schedules with the four easternmost teams and the four westernmost teams. After the move, the Braves traded schedules with the Pittsburgh Pirates and began the season on April 13th, beating the Cincinnati Redlegs 2-0 in the traditional Queen City season opener. A day later, they opened County Stadium with a 3-2 win in ten innings over the St. Louis Cardinals as Warren Spahn went the distance before a crowd of 34,357. The Braves, who finished in seventh place with a record of 64-89 in the final season in Boston, finished in second place with a record of 92-62 in their first year in Milwaukee.

The Braves' move to Milwaukee would trigger a decade of seismic shifts in the baseball map. The Browns blocked from their move to Milwaukee in 1953 became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. The Philadelphia Athletics, who lost a battle for the city with the Phillies, moved to Kansas City in 1955. However, the most stunning moves came in 1958 when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles while the New York Giants moved to San Francisco. This would later pave the way to expansion and even more growth for Major League Baseball.