SJ Merc's article on territorial rights details
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| By chris_d on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 01:00 pm:|
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/10948133.htm (reg. required)
For A's, way to San Jose paved with uncertainty
GIANTS' TERRITORIAL RIGHTS BIG OBSTACLE
By Barry Witt
Of the many hurdles facing San Jose in its pursuit of a major league baseball team, none is so poorly understood as the ``territorial rights'' that the San Francisco Giants hold over the South Bay, ostensibly preventing the Oakland A's from ever moving to the city.
Recent developments in baseball -- including the Expos' relocation from Montreal to Washington, D.C., in proximity to the Baltimore Orioles, and the pending acquisition of the A's by Lew Wolff, a developer who once tried to get the Giants to move to San Jose -- have created renewed optimism among the South Bay faithful that someday they'll get a team. In his recent State of the City speech, Mayor Ron Gonzales established landing a baseball team as one of his priorities.
But fulfillment of San Jose's baseball desires hangs in significant part on whether control of the region can be shifted from the Giants to the A's. Baseball gave the Giants those rights just 15 years ago, with the full consent of the A's owners who were hoping the Giants would leave San Francisco.
Territorial protection -- a means of avoiding unwelcome competition in baseball -- dates to 1876, when the first National League constitution stated each team ``shall have exclusive control of the city in which it is located, and of the territory surrounding such city to the extent of five miles in every direction.''
``It was understood somebody wouldn't come into an area and compete,'' said G. Edward White, a professor of law and history at the University of Virginia and author of ``Creating the National Pastime.''
But White notes that the territorial principle ``isn't a rule of law, it isn't a response to a legal decision, it's just a practice, so changes from the practice, exceptions from the practice, could always be negotiated by owners and people seeking to become owners.''
As teams have moved and baseball has expanded, territorial definitions have changed. The expansion Angels, for instance, moved to Los Angeles in 1961, with the consent of the Dodgers.
Significantly for the Bay Area, baseball owners approved a revision of the Giants' territory in 1990, when then-owner Bob Lurie was contemplating a move to Santa Clara.
Before then, the N.L. constitution defined the Giants' territory as San Francisco plus 10 miles beyond the city limits. The American League constitution didn't define formal territories, but instead said that no league member could move to within ``one hundred air miles of the home plate of the park'' of another team without a three-fourths vote of all teams in the league.
The constitutions, however, didn't govern teams in the other league. Instead, all clubs were party to what was known as the Major League Agreement.
How it started
Those joint rules established the ``circuits'' of each league, with each circuit defined as the cities in which teams played. One league could move a team into the circuit of another league only with the consent of a three-quarters vote of the owners in the other league.
For decades, most teams had no territorial control over the activities of the other league beyond their city's ``corporate limits.'' When American League owners in October 1967 approved the A's move from Kansas City to Oakland, there was nothing that then-Giants owner Horace Stoneham could do but grouse about it, as he did to the San Jose News. ``Certainly, the move will hurt us. It is simply a question of how much and if both us can survive,'' he said.
In spring 1990, the Giants were negotiating with a consortium of Santa Clara County cities over a funding plan for a stadium near Great America Parkway and Highway 237 in Santa Clara. Team executive Corey Busch said he realized that under a technicality of baseball's rules, it would be easier to get owners to approve an expansion of the Giants' territory -- meaning no vote would be necessary later -- than to get approval for a relocation into a new territory after a ballot measure was approved.
So, at a meeting in Cleveland on June 14, 1990, baseball owners voted unanimously to expand the definition of the ``city'' of San Francisco to include San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Voters in November 1990 rejected the Santa Clara stadium plan.
The territorial change came with the support of the Haas family, then the owners of the A's. Looked at from the lens of 1990, it made sense.
While Lurie desperately wanted to get out of Candlestick Park, the A's were in the middle of their third consecutive run to the World Series, having drawn nearly 2.7 million fans in 1989 on their way toward a club record 2.9 million in 1990.
Most significantly, a Giants move to Santa Clara County would have benefited the A's, because many fans and corporate ticket buyers in San Francisco and the North Bay would choose the Coliseum over the long drive down Highway 101.
``We were reasonably happy and would have been reasonably happier if the Giants had moved to San Jose. Why would we get in the way?'' said a member of A's management from that era who asked not to be named.
The Giants and San Jose tried another stadium ballot measure in June 1992, but it failed, too, and Lurie put the team up for sale. Peter Magowan and his group bought the Giants in early 1993, saying it was in part because they knew no team could move to San Jose and directly exploit Silicon Valley.
In December 1994, baseball overhauled its territorial definitions by redefining the circuits of all clubs. Every city was defined by a set of counties, later referred to as their ``operating territories.''
In three markets in which two teams play -- New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- the teams adopted an identical set of counties, meaning they shared territories.
Only in the Bay Area did the two teams adopt distinct territories, with the A's getting Alameda and Contra Costa counties and the Giants getting San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin counties.
Earlier in 1994, with Walter J. Haas in declining health, the A's were put on the market.
Steve Schott, a Santa Clara housing developer, and his partner, Ken Hofmann, were recruited by Oakland civic leaders, and in January 1995 -- a month after the new A's territory was established -- they signed a tentative agreement to buy the team and extend their lease in Oakland until 2004.
But in June 1995, Oakland also signed a deal to bring the Raiders back from Los Angeles and renovate the Coliseum, leading Schott to demand an escape clause, which he got before signing his final purchase agreement with the Haas family that July.
While the Giants were building their prized new ballpark at China Basin, Schott became increasingly disenchanted with attendance in Oakland and in the late '90s began exploring stadium possibilities in Santa Clara and San Jose. At times, he was dismissive of the Giants' territorial claims, calling them ``bogus'' last fall.
Through a spokesman, Schott declined to be interviewed for this article.
Wolff, the future A's owner, seemed to endorse Schott's view of the territorial issue last summer when he submitted a written report to Schott on stadium options, referring to the ``MLB alleged District (territory) issue.'' Wolff, who now is seeking approval from baseball owners to buy the team, said recently that he used the term ``alleged'' because ``Steve told me to, but I don't feel that way.''
Holding out hope
South Bay baseball boosters say that if Wolff fails to reach a stadium deal in Oakland, he will attempt to negotiate with the Giants, either directly or through Selig, on compensation for giving up the territory.
Absent that, they believe he can persuade three-quarters of baseball's other owners to overturn the Giants' rights because a move to San Jose -- assuming local voters were willing to subsidize a ballpark -- would be a better option for all teams than moving the A's out of the Bay Area.
Contact Barry Witt at email@example.com.
| By pachyderm on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 11:42 am:|
South Bay baseball boosters say that if Wolff fails to reach a stadium deal in Oakland, he will attempt to negotiate with the Giants, either directly or through Selig, on compensation for giving up the territory
Where did Wolff "say" this, South Bay baseball boosters? Also, SJ Merc cut the A's beat writer for budget reason according to my sister who works there.
| By bparkjamo on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 12:05 pm:|
More SJ Murky News fodder for the wishful thinkers.....
BTW- would anyone know how much sales tax revenue was collected in Alameda County last Year?
| By deajay on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 12:06 pm:|
And the beat goes on.
Blez (athleticsnation) noted late last season that the mercnews would have no A's beat reporter this season. Does anyone care? That is probably about the only online paper I RARELY read anymore, anyway.
Speaking of beat reporters, looks like Contra Costa Times has replaced Rick Hurd (no surprise) with Joe Roderick (former Giants' beat reporter, I believe).
| By eyleenn on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 03:01 pm:|
I noticed that, too, deajay. The Times couldn't find anyone else???
| By deajay on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 03:13 pm:|
Well, maybe he is a closet A's fan? Anyway, I had heard he was going to be replaced by a former Giants' beat writer, so that looks to be the case.
| By eyleenn on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 06:12 pm:|
Josh Suchon of the Trib was just on KNBR with Ted Robinson (filling in for Ralph and Tom). Apparently he used to cover the Gnats, too, and also wrote a book about Bonds' 73-run season. And now he's a beat writer for the A's!