MLB Franchises: A Brief History

The National League and the American League were formed in 1876 and 1901, respectively. For much of the 20th century, there were only eight teams in each league. Most of the teams were in the Northeast, and no teams were located west of St. Louis.

Until 1952, teams were only in these 10 cities: New York City (three teams), Philadelphia (two teams), Boston (two teams), Chicago (two teams), St. Louis (two teams), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.

(Note: Most of the country’s population was then in the Northeast. The largest cities in 1950 were #1 New York City, #2 Chicago, #3 Philadelphia, #4 Los Angeles, #5 Detroit, #6 Baltimore, #7 Cleveland, #8 St. Louis, #9 Washington, D.C., and #10 Boston. Pittsburgh was #11, and Cincinnati was #18.)

Today there are 30 teams, and they’re located in all corners of the continental United States. Here are the most important franchise changes since 1952.

1953 – The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee.

1954 – The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore.

1955 – The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City.

1958 – The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and the New York Giants moved to San Francisco.

1961- The Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis. New teams were started in Los Angeles (the Angels, which later moved to Anaheim) and Washington, D.C.

1962 – New teams were started in Houston and New York City (the Mets).

1966 – The Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta.

1968 – The Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland.


Yankee Stadium, New York City
(Photo by Lawrence Fung)

1969 – New teams were started in Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, and Montreal. (The Seattle team moved to Milwaukee in 1970.)

1972 – The team in Washington, D.C., moved to Arlington, Texas (near Dallas).

1977 – New teams were started in Seattle and Toronto.

1993 – New teams were started in Denver and Miami.

1998 – New teams were started in Phoenix and St. Petersburg.

2005 – The Montreal team moved to Washington, D.C.