FEBRUARY 8, 1957 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA • There was a time when baseball teams, and other professional teams, traveled with the rest of us – first by train, then by air. A new age was ushered in on this day in baseball history. The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that the team brought a 44-passenger twin-engine airplane for $800,000, becoming the first major league baseball team to own their own plane.
Teams began flying in 1934, but not for every trip. Expansion to the west coast made air travel a necessity.
Travel has always been a major consideration for professional sports. Early on it restricted major league baseball to a relatively small section of the country. Before the late 1950’s major league baseball was entirely in the northeastern part of the country. When the National League was established in 1876 that’s where most of the population was.
These maps show the locations of major league franchises at various times. National League teams are in red. American Association (after 1901, American League) teams in blue.
It took too long to travel outside that area in the late 1800s. It took 20 hours to travel from New York to Chicago by rail. Smart scheduling kept teams from having to do that, but even New York to Buffalo was a 7-hour train ride, making travel days necessary.
“How the automobile ruined ballpark design,” by Alex Reisner, March 22, 2006 (also published in The Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)