The Love of the Game

How two men helped turn Denver from a minor-league outpost into a major-league city.

April 2007

The arrangement with the Yankees lasted only three seasons before the team decided to move its AAA players closer to New York, forcing Howsam to align with the Detroit Tigers. But by the close of the decade, Howsam had his sights set on two much bigger goals. He and some partners were trying to start a third professional baseball league, the Continental League, which they conceived as a way to get pro baseball into new cities. But Major League Baseball derailed this plan by poaching some of the towns the Continental League organizers had in mind and expanding by four new teams in 1962. By this time, Howsam's efforts were spread even thinner, because in 1959 he'd also joined forces with Lamar Hunt, Bud Adams, and others to start the American Football League. In 1960, the Broncos set up shop in Bears Stadium, almost immediately relegating their more senior co-tenants to permanent second-class status and throwing a stranglehold around Denver's sports consciousness that still endures. Before embarking upon a stunning run of baseball success in St. Louis and Cincinnati, Howsam had the foresight to hire Jim Burris, who, after Howsam left town, joyfully toiled away, laying the groundwork for Denver's eventual ascent to the majors.

New Kid in Town

After helping revive minor-league baseball in Denver and introducing the city to its beloved Broncos, Howsam left for St. Louis in 1964. Over the next 13 years, he would be the general manager of a World Series-champion Cardinals team, and he later was one of the key architects of the famed Big Red Machine, the 1970s Cincinnati Reds dynasty that included such legends as Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.