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Gene Autry a Contender in American League Expansion Team

November 19, 2010 |  9:45 am

  Nov. 19, 1960, Sports  

Nov. 19, 1960: Hank Greenberg, former baseball star who was part owner of the Chicago White Sox, was out as the potential bidder for the American League baseball team hoping to start play in Los Angeles in 1961. So who was in?

The Times reported that several people were talking about taking over, including Gene Autry, the former cowboy star described by the paper as a "television tycoon."

Autry got into the ownership sweepstakes only after talking to Greenberg about carrying the new baseball team's games on Autry's radio station, KMPC. Dodger owner Walter O'Malley had moved his team's games from KMPC to KFI. Now Autry was in the mix as a potential owner.

Also mentioned by The Times: Keynon Brown, former Detroit Tigers owner who was called a principal stockholder and executive at Los Angeles television station KCOP; Charles O. Finley, a Chicago insurance broker who would become the flamboyant owner of the Kansas City/Oakland A's; and the National Theaters and Television Inc., which operated 275 theaters on the West Coast and use them as ticket agencies.

Why did Greenberg, whose ownership group reportedly would have included longtime baseball owner Bill Veeck, back out of the L.A. plan?

According to retired Times baseball writer Ross Newhan, whose book "The Anaheim Angels: A Complete History" that documented the start of the franchise, "The obstacle was O'Malley, who argued that existing rules did not permit the American League to move into his territory and he was supported by Commissioner Ford Frick." But there was more.

"The problem really seemed to be one of personality and money," Newhan wrote. "Greenberg and Veeck were not interested in meeting O'Malley's demand for $450,000 … and O'Malley, not anxious to share his chunk of the Gold Coast with anyone, was particularly not anxious to do it with a magnetic showman such as Veeck."

--Keith Thursby