MLB History: Looking Back at MLB Teams That Relocated

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With so much buzz over the recent relocations of NFL teams, baseball fans might question how franchise movements have worked out in MLB. Relocation does not occur as frequently in baseball, so the moves that have been made are historic.

First we had the Los Angeles Rams, then the Los Angeles Chargers, and now potentially the Las Vegas Raiders. With three big relocations all occurring within a year of each other, it brings into the limelight the pros and cons of professional sports teams moving cities. The Rams had a pretty bad season – like the Rams do – and the Chargers were met with backlash. Meanwhile, every Raider fan I know has been giddy with joy over their move. However, this is a baseball site, and it is interesting to see how many MLB clubs have packed their bags and moved cities.

In the history of MLB, there have been 12 teams that have relocated to a new city. Honestly, the relocations are kind of hard to track, as teams often moved, changed names, then would move again. Some of the team names we know today were once part of another franchise, which is why it gets tricky. If I’m confusing you now, just wait, it will make sense shortly.

Anyhow, most of these moves came awhile ago when the MLB landscape was shifting to include the entire nation. However, one relocation has occurred this century, as most of you probably already know, but we will keep it a secret for now. Therefore, some of these teams have storied histories in both cities, some only in one. Some of these relocations have brought success and glory, while others have done no more than change the name of the club. Nonetheless, depending what side you are on, relocations are exciting things in the sports world. Let us take a look at the twelve MLB relocations that have happened.

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The First Four

  • 1902: Milwaukee Brewers → St. Louis Browns
  • 1903: Baltimore Orioles → New York Highlanders
  • 1953: Boston Braves → Milwaukee Braves
  • 1954: St. Louis Browns → Baltimore Orioles

So in the first four relocations in MLB history, fans witnessed the Milwaukee Brewers move to the St. Louis Browns then to the Baltimore Orioles that we know today. No, the Baltimore Orioles we know today were not the Baltimore Orioles of 1903. As for the moves themselves, the Orioles failed to win much before they became the Baltimore Orioles. They didn’t win anything as the Brewers, and their lone success as the Browns came with a 1944 AL Pennant. After the move to Baltimore, the Orioles have won three World Series, which are their lone three championships.

As for the original Baltimore Orioles, that team moved to New York City to become the Highlanders. The Highlanders renamed in 1913 to a name we all know, the Yankees. That’s right, the New York Yankees were originally the Baltimore Orioles, which is ironically fitting considering they are now division rivals. Of course, all of the Yankees’ glory has come under the Yankee name. Their 27 World Series and 40 World Series appearances all happened as the Yankees. In a parallel universe I bet Orioles fans wished they remained the Baltimore Orioles.

As for the Boston Braves moving to Milwaukee, that is the Braves team we all know and love today. They, of course, made another move, which we will hold off on for now. As for success, the Braves actually managed to win a World Series not only in Boston but in Milwaukee as well. Those years, 1914 and 1957, are two of three years that the Braves franchise managed to win it all.

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The Next Four:

  • 1955: Philadelphia Athletics → Kansas City Athletics
  • 1958: Brooklyn Dodgers → Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Giants → San Francisco Giants
  • 1961: Washington Senators → Minnesota Twins
  • 1966: Milwaukee Braves → Atlanta Braves

Yes, I know there are technically five relocations on this slide, but the Dodgers’ and Giants’ moves held so many parallels that they will be considered as one. The Dodgers have seen most of their success come in Los Angeles, as they have won five World Series titles there compared to one in Brooklyn. The Giants were largely unsuccessful in capturing World Series gold on the west coast, as their 2010 World Series win was the first since moving cities. We all know that they won three in the next five years, so it can be forgiven.

As for the Athletics, yes, they are the Athletics we know today and they did not become the Kansas City Royals. We all know that the A’s eventually moved again, based on the city they currently play in. Kansas City seemed to be a dud for the Athletics, as all nine of their World Series championships came either before they moved to Kansas City, or when they moved away. The A’s likely prefer to ignore that time frame in history, as Kansas City was not their best venture.

Then there is the Washington Senators moving to the Minnesota Twins. The Twins managed to win one World Series title under the Senators name, and two under the Twins name. With those moves, however, Major League Baseball did not want to rip Washington, D.C. of a baseball team. Therefore, they introduced a new expansion team, also fittingly named the Senators. Those Senators are the ones we are perhaps more familiar with, not the Twins’ old version.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Last Four:

  • 1968: Kansas City Athletics → Oakland Athletics
  • 1970: Seattle Pilots → Milwaukee Brewers
  • 1972: Washington Senators → Texas Rangers
  • 2005: Montreal Expos → Washington Nationals

Yes, there is the move that sent the Kansas City Athletics to their current location in Oakland. This move did not come controversy-free however, as the owner of the A’s broke a lease. There were bonds that were aiding the construction of Kauffman Stadium, and MLB faced serious trouble if they failed to occupy the stadium. This then caused the creation of the Kansas City Royals, who have brought Kansas City championship gold. Sure, Royals fans, your team was only made to prevent any trouble, but they have treated you better than the A’s.

Then, the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee to form our current Milwaukee Brewers. There were previous teams in Milwaukee, one even named the Brewers, but this is the version we know today. The Pilots played a lone season in Seattle in 1969, then moved to Milwaukee. The Brewers of course have not won any gold, which is a misfortune to their franchise. However, this move opened up Seattle for the Mariners in 1977, so Mariners fans, be grateful.

Then, we have the new Washington Senators again leaving our nation’s capital to go play somewhere else. They moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers, a franchise that also has not won any championships. However, in 2010 and 2011 they did make it to the World Series, so that is something for you, Rangers fans.

Then we head to 2005 for the only recent relocation of an MLB team, the Montreal Expos moving to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. Neither the Expos nor the Nationals has even made it to a World Series, so the franchise is lacking in that regard. With two other teams already leaving D.C., wouldn’t it be something to see the Nationals leave as well?

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