The First Baseball Team to Travel by Plane

May 6th Celebrates The First Baseball Team to Travel by Plane

Today on Days to remember we celebrate how on May 6th 1946, The New York Yankees became the first major league baseball team to travel by plane.

The New York Yankees became the first Major League Baseball team to fly on a regular basis after leasing a United Airlines plane nicknamed the “Yankee Mainliner”.

Despite the convenience of a shortened travel schedule, four players, including Red Ruffing, still elected to take the train.

How did this idea to transport ball players on airplane first get started?

In 1876, at the time of the National League’s inception, the only reasonable way for a baseball team to travel from New York (home of the Mutual’s) to St. Louis (home of the Brown Stockings) on a regular basis was by train. Stagecoach was too slow.

Buses and roads good enough to support them, were over half a century away, and jet airplanes over three-quarters.

The “travel day” between series, which today often amounts to a day off, was quite necessary in the era of rail transportation.

At the turn of the century it took over 20 hours to go between New York and Chicago, and well over 24 between New York and St. Louis.

These trips would usually be avoided by strategic scheduling but even a short run like New York City to Buffalo took longer than 7 hours.

On June 8, 1934, Cincinnati GM Larry MacPhail flew 19 of his players to Chicago for a series with the Cubs, making the Reds the first team to travel by airplane.

A dozen years later the Yankees became the first team to do it on a regular basis, chartering a Douglas DC-4 nicknamed the “Yankee Mainliner” during the 1946 season, which occurred on May 6th 1946.

Still, airplane travel was far from a regular occurrence until the 1950s when jet engine technology made traveling longer distances faster, cheaper, and more comfortable.

Professional baseball teams must play in places where fans can go to see them.

Before the 1950s this meant that they played in cities where the population was dense and public transportation available. In the 1950s, however, as cars became affordable and good roads the rule rather than the exception, the growing class of car owners began to move to the suburbs.

It was no longer necessary to locate a ballpark in the city, and it became common practice to build on the outskirts where land was cheaper, parking safer, zoning rules more lax, and events generally less disruptive.

The move to open sites has had profound effects on ballpark design. Most parks built in the 60s and 70s (Candlestick Park, Dodger Stadium, Shea Stadium, Olympic Stadium, San Diego Stadium, Astrodome, Kauffman Stadium, etc.) are round structures with symmetrical field layouts.

Since they are located on the outskirts of their respective towns, the architects weren’t concerned with keeping the buildings within the bounds of city streets (for example, Lansdowne in Boston or Sullivan and McKeever in Brooklyn).

Rather, without restrictions on shape or size they constructed symmetrical fields circumscribed by high, raked seating that places fans farther from the action.

However on May 6th 1946, The New York Yankees became the first major league baseball team to travel by plane, and who’s to say in the next 50 years the Yankees might be involved in time travel?

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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