This Day in Baseball History: March 9th, 1995

He and Fred McGriff with the Rays and Matt Williams with the Diamondbacks.

On March 9, 1995:

Major League Baseball owners decide unanimously, 28-0, to expand the MLB to 30 teams by adding the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The MLB Expansion Committee decided on January 24, 1995 that the MLB should continue with plans to expand. Plans were made to add two teams immediately and add two more teams when appropriate. Among the four cities left in consideration to be the first two were Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Orlando, and Northern Virginia. After the two are chosen (Tampa and Phoenix were the front-runners), a whole new slew of applicants will apply for the last two spots, but the timetable for that to occur was never established.

From 1940 to 1990, Phoenix went from a small city to the ninth-largest in the country. Since 1946, Arizona had been a prime location for Spring Training, and Phoenix was a popular name thrown around in expansion talks. In the late 1980’s, a AAA owner tried to convince the football St. Louis Cardinals to move and share a dome in Arizona, but instead, the Cardinals owner chose to use Arizona State University’s field when his team made the move. Jerry Colangelo, the owner of the Phoenix Suns, would be the next man to take a stab at bringing a team to Arizona, and he was so confident that he held a naming contest, which “Diamondbacks” won. With the support of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Colangelo’s bid won, and construction on then Bank One Ballpark began. “Arizona” was chosen to appeal to the region, although it did cause some controversy in Phoenix. When it came time to decide AL or NL, NL won due to Phoenix’s proximity to other NL West teams (especially Denver) and the popular AAA team Phoenix Firebirds (a Giants farm team).

Like Phoenix, Tampa had grown up quite a bit but wasn’t quite as big as Phoenix. Tampa tried to lure teams such as the Mariners, Rangers, Giants, and Twins to Tampa, but none were successful. In 1990, the Florida Suncoast Dome (now Tropicana Field) was built to lure a team, and when expansion occurred in 1993, many thought Tampa was guaranteed to have a team. They, however, were mistaken as Denver and Miami won. In 1992, Giants owner Bob Lurie almost moved the team, but the MLB nixed it at the last moment. Three years later, Tampa finally got its baseball team, but the stadium already needed an upgrade after the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) and Tampa Bay Storm (AFL) had been using the stadium in the meantime. Called the Tunderdome by that time, the stadium would be sold to Tropicana for $70 million.

Both franchises were valued and sold for $130 million.

So when are those new teams coming? Probably not any time soon in this economic climate, but should there be expansion anyway? Is the MLB already too big? Should New York get a third team to balance out the market there? Where are the other prime locations (Las Vegas, Portland, San Jose)?

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