The formation of the World Baseball Association
is formally announced at a news conference in
Washington, DC. The WBA will play games in the United
States, Mexico, Central America, South America and Asia. Play is to begin in
late January of 1975. Franchises have already been awarded to Columbus (OH),
Jersey City (NJ), Birmingham, Memphis, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Washington, DC and
Mexico City (Mexico). Plans are to quickly expand to Central America, the
Caribbean, Hawaii, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines since baseball is very
popular in both Latin America and the Orient, and both regions produce many
Each franchise will cost $150,000 and two-and-a-half
percent of all gross revenues annually. All money collected will go to the WBA,
a profit-making corporation that will direct all activities of the league,
including the hiring of players, coaches, managers and umpires.
A player and manager draft is scheduled for the middle of June in an American city to be decided later. Sean
Morton Downey, Jr., president
and one of the league's founders, said the league has plenty of money and will go after
established, front line ballplayers. "We'll better the American and National League
salaries, yet our players will have to play less than half the number of games the current
major league teams expect of their players. I do not expect any trouble signing good
players. We will attract them with the same sort of salaries that brought players into the
new football, basketball and hockey leagues. And we feel sure the courts will permit
players to make moves when their current contracts expire. We do not believe baseball
players can be bound for life any more than football players can. More than seventy
established players have been in touch with us already, including six members of the World
Champion Oakland A's. They are definitely interested," Downey said.
The league will consist of 32 teams that will be
split into 4 divisions. a 72 to 84 game schedule is planned, compared to the 164 game
schedule of Major League Baseball.
Rule changes will include the use of 5 designated hitters to replace
defensive players who will remain in the game, the use of one designated
runner per game, the pitcher will be required to throw a pitch within 20
seconds, 3 balls instead of 4 for a walk and stealing home after the sixth
inning will count 2 runs. Downey added, "Baseball as presently played and
structured is a bore. We will introduce innovations which will breathe new
life into the game. We're going to help the American public fall in love
with the game all over again," Downey said. Another change rumored for
consideration is a fluorescent orange ball for night games.
Downey was involved
early on with the American Basketball Association in 1967, which later
merged with the National Basketball Association in 1976. Downey doesn't plan
to stop with the WBA. "I'm also considering a
team boxing league. I have big plans on many fronts," Downey said.
Glynn West, general manager of the Birmingham Athletics, said he has
not heard of anyone who might be interested in bringing major professional baseball to
Birmingham. "If someone (other than the A's) is interested in playing at Rickwood I
don't know anything about it," West said.
It is also rumored at this time that Gary Davidson,
founder and president of the
World Football League, is planning to organize his own
baseball league, the World Baseball League.
The World Baseball Association never made it past the planning stages.
In a related note, Sean Downey, Jr's World Team Boxing actually made it
off the ground, but only for one match. The season opened on January 17,
1975 with four teams. Four other teams were set to debut in later months.
The first, and only, league match featured the Portland Nor'easters versus
the Montreal 76'ers with Portland winning handily 13-4. The next day three
franchises were suspended for alleged financial mismanagement, Portland,
Providence and Boston, all of which were owned by Frank Opie. The league's
future was in the air for a week before folding for good.
Downey was also one of the owners of the American Basketball
Association's New Orleans Buccaneers, although he did not remain so through
their first season in 1967.
But ultimately Downey did all right for himself. He eventually worked his
way into broadcasting, where he went by the name Morton Downey, Jr. and had
a talk show in New York and has since appeared in numerous motion pictures.