This Day in Marlins History: Task force for MLB expansion

Doug Benc

On this date in Marlins history, back in 1987, U.S. Senators from eight states formed a task force to investigate baseball expansion that eventually led to the formation of the Marlins.

Twenty-six years ago, on Halloween, some of the early steps were taken that eventually led to South Florida baseball fans receiving a treat of having their own Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise.

On October 31, 1987, U.S. senators from eight states, which included Florida, announced that they had organized a congressional task force to research the possibility of expansion within MLB. This came a little over a couple years after MLB`s new basic agreement permitted the National League to increase its number of teams by two, in order to match the total number of teams in the American League. At the time, the National League had a total of 12 teams, while the American League had a total of 14 teams.

The task force was organized by then-senator, Tim Wirth of Boulder, Colorado. It included 14 senators as well as the District of Columbia's representative in the House. All members of this task force were from states that were seeking to have a major league franchise.

The goal of the task force was to expedite or force MLB into expanding, rather than allowing the league to just sit on expansion without moving forward. Amongst the strategies that the task force was prepared to use, was to challenge MLB's antitrust exemption. Amongst the reasons for the aggressive effort was the belief that, based on MLB's previous history, the league tended to lean toward not expanding, unless forced into it. There were also issues with many MLB officials not being in favor of expansion at that moment, for various reasons - among them being a preference to relocate a franchise or two. As a whole, the task force was organized to confront everything that stood in the way of or delayed MLB expansion.

The creation of the task force had a positive effect on the talks of MLB expansion. Since MLB owners and leadership did not want to risk losing the precious immunity that they enjoyed under MLB's unmatched antitrust exemption, they were willing to cooperate. While there were many hurdles to overcome by the task force, eventually MLB did move forward with making expansion a reality, rather than leaving it as a false promise. Even though the process was tedious, the efforts of the task force led to MLB expanding at a faster pace than the league would have without the aggressive push.

In the end, the fruits of the arduous labor of the task force are the creation of both the MLB franchise in Denver, Colorado, along what is now our Miami Marlins. While the teams may have still eventually been created, the main fruit of the efforts by the task force is that these two franchises started play in 1993 rather than 1998 or a later date. Their hard work should be remembered, honored, and appreciated by Marlins fans everywhere.

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