Houston Astros Move to American League
By Keith Antigiovanni
November 16, 2011 will be remembered in Houston, Texas as the day the Astros were moved from the National League to the American League. Houston will be placed into the American League West with in-state rivals Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels, Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.
Major League Baseball’s decision was brought on in order to balance the NL and AL at 15 teams each which had been out of balance since 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays joined as expansion teams.
Houston’s move make sense in order to balance the two leagues but why the Astros? Why not the Milwaukee Brewers which had been in the AL until 1998? Houston was an original NL expansion team in 1962 along with the New York Mets. Granted, the Astros have never been a powerhouse but they have a half a century in the NL and have been one of the more consistently winning teams the past 30 years along with a World Series appearance in 2005.
The move clearly shows MLB’s bias against the city of Houston which is a big market but not a northeast or upper Midwest market which MLB tends to favor. There is no doubt that the New York, Boston and Philadelphia markets are more important to MLB despite Houston’s history and market size but what doesn’t make sense is how a small market like Milwaukee would get seniority over Houston.
Houston’s professional baseball history did not begin in 1962 it actually began in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the Houston Buffaloes of the South Texas League . The Buffs spent four years in the South Texas League until they joined the Texas League in 1907.
In 1920 Houston became the first modern affiliated “minor league team” when St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey bought the Buffaloes to create a pipeline of talent for the small market franchise where they can grow players “on the farm”. The result was 40 of 50 winning seasons, 12 pennants and 8 World Series titles between 1920 and 1970 for St. Louis as many of the Cardinal greats began their professional careers in Houston.
For almost 6 decades Houston became a dominant team by winning pennants 16 times between 1905 and 1956, qualified for 9 league finals, won 7 league playoff titles and 4 Dixie Series titles (1928, 1947, 1956 and 1957).
After the 1958 season Houston went into the AAA American Association to position themselves to join Branch Rickey’s proposed third major league, the Continental League in 1960. When MLB expanded in 1961 and 1962 the Continental League never came to fruition as the Astros became an expansion team in 1962.
After 106 years of professional baseball 50 of which were in the NL the Houston fans will begin their AL years in 2013 barring any last minute changes.