A league of his own

A league of his own

Historian and former minor league first baseman Russ Buhite has a unique perspective on baseball’s last serious attempt to form a third major league, the Continental League. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Before he became an author and a history professor, Russell D. Buhite was a minor league first baseman and outfielder for the New York Giants, the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Senators.

Russ Buhite

Russ Buhite, right and center left.

In 1960, Buhite signed a contract with the newly formed, and ill-fated, Continental League. He wrote about his experiences and about the history of the last serious attempt to form a third major league in his latest book, The Continental League, A Personal History.

“A group of wealthy team owners in several cities without major league baseball, and in New York, which had lost the Giants and Dodgers to the West Coast, decided that the best way to expand major league baseball, which many people thought necessary, was with a third league,” says Buhite, a professor emeritus of history and political science at Missouri S&T.

“At first the National League and American League owners and the commissioner agreed, but then they worked very hard to undercut the new league.”

They succeeded in undercutting the league in the summer of 1960 by agreeing to expand the National League and the American League to other cities, Buhite says.

Buhite baseball memorabilia

A collection of memorabilia from Buhite’s minor league days.

According to Buhite, the Continental League, championed by baseball legend Branch Rickey, was based on an innovative approach to evaluating and developing talent and offered a new economic model for baseball. The Continental League played a significant role in building a thriving minor league and forced the expansion of major league baseball.

Buhite is the author of 11 previous books and numerous articles on American foreign policy. His most recent book, Douglas MacArthur: Statecraft and Stagecraft in America’s East Asian Policy, was published in 2008.

by Mary Helen Stoltz