Charley Johnson was the sports editor of the Minneapolis newspapers. He wrote columns for the afternoon Star. He also was a leader of the task force attempting to bring Major League Baseball to Minneapolis.
When the Dodgers and the Giants left for the West Coast in 1958, New York Mayor Robert Wagner put prominent attorney William Shea to work in an attempt to bring a National League team back to New York.
Shea talked to baseball Commissioner Ford Frick and owners about “expansion.” It was a novel thought at the time and Shea ran into a brick wall. In November 1958, Shea announced plans to form a new league — the Continental League — that would either be absorbed as whole by Major League Baseball or compete with MLB.
Shea said New York was definite for a franchise, and other locations would be Houston, Denver, Toronto and the Twin Cities. The leading cities to fill out the league were Atlanta, Buffalo and Dallas-Fort Worth, Shea said.
In late July, Johnson was summoned to New York for an announcement that he wrote was a “well-kept secret.” Reading the clips, it’s apparent that Charley knew exactly what would be announced July 27:
A formal launch of the Continental League, with owners of the first five franchises identified.
The Twin Cities ownership was revealed to have 11 “top-level people,” wrote Johnson. The spokesman for the group was Wheelock Whitney, a 33-year-old who was not yet well-known in Minnesota sports circles.
“We are going all the way with this project,” Whitney told Johnson at the New York event.
That would continue to be the public message from the Continental League — until MLB agreed to expansion.
Dan Daniel, a veteran baseball writer from New York’s World Telegram, had it wired immediately: He wrote on July 28 that the NL would wind up with new teams in New York and Houston, and the AL with teams in the Twin Cities and Los Angeles.
That’s what happened in October 1960, and we can thank the late, great Mr. Whitney, as well as Charley Johnson, for going along with the Continental League party line before then.