Is William Shea a Hall of Famer?
I know you're thinking that I've finally lost it. Why should a lawyer from NY who had a stadium named after him be enshrined in the Hall of Fame?
The reason: He changed the game.
After the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left New York in 1957 Mayor Robert Wagner charged Bill Shea with bringing a National League team back to New York City.
Shea contacted Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati but was turned down by every team.
Refusing to give up in 1959, Shea teamed up with Branch Rickey and announced the formation of the Continental Baseball League. The league would be the first serious challenge to the National and American League since the ill-fated Federal League in 1914-15.
The proposed league would place teams in New York, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Toronto, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Dallas. With the exception of New York, none of these cities at the time had a major league level baseball team.
Shea was able to line up owners and financing for the league in fairly quick order, including Bob Howsam, who was the original owner of the Denver Broncos, and Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Kings.
Realizing that the challenge was serious, the NL and AL approached Shea and offered expansion teams in three of the Continental League cities, which were NY, Minneapolis, and Houston.
With his original goal in hand, Shea agreed to disband the league.
Shea's legacy is more than just getting those three teams. Seven of the eight Continental League cities would eventually support a major league franchise, with the sole exception being Buffalo.
He engineered the first expansion of major league baseball since the American League and National League agreed to work together in 1903.
There are 29 members of the Hall of Fame that are designated as either executives or pioneers.
William Shea may not have played the game, nor did he manage or own a team, but there can be no doubt that he changed the game by initiating expansion and is a true pioneer of the game.
For that he deserves recognition in Cooperstown.
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