The dust has settled, but it had to hurt. It, being San Francisco's World
Series loss to a team from a place that is best known as the home to Mickey
Mouse. This victory symbolized more than a blow to a city's ego; it illustrated
the emergence of Anaheim, and several dozen other overgrown suburbs, onto
the national stage. In fact, major league baseball has been an excellent barometer
of urban growth patterns going back to the days when three of New York City's
five boroughs had teams.
Big league ball teams were traditionally located within the large cities of
the Northeast and Midwest. But by the 1950s, California at last entered the
major leagues by drawing the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants to Los Angeles
and San Francisco respectively. No longer were teams limited to roughhewn
industrial cities, now they were relocating to the comparatively antiseptic
Sunbelt. People have grown comfortable with the idea of big Sunbelt cities
capturing professional franchises. But the victory by Anaheim offers a new
twist-have the Sunbelt's suburbs grown so large they are now home to the majors?
The answer is yes. Go ask Arlington, Texas, home to the Texas Rangers. Anaheim
and Arlington are now so big that they match Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in
population. Imagine the horror of the once mighty Yankees.
Arlington and Anaheim are part of an emerging family of super suburbs that
we call "Boomburbs," which have over 100,000 residents and have
been growing by double digits for each census since 1950. There are over 50
such places, many of which surround the big Sunbelt cities. The biggest Boomburb
is Mesa, home to football's Arizona Cardinals. Mesa now has more people than
St. Louis, Minneapolis or Miami. Even many smaller Boomburbs have passed their
older urban peers. For instance, Peoria, Arizona is now bigger than its namesake
Peoria, Illinois. When people now raise the question "Will it play in
Peoria?" you have to ask which one.
These Boomburbs with major league franchises will gain more fame than those
that do not have major league franchises, but will probably not gather more
fortune. Boomburbs are the ubiquitous background noise of the metropolis and
have yet to develop their own distinction. Little town blues can melt away
in New York and hearts can be left in San Francisco, but who sings about making
it to Mesa or croons over Arlington?
Anaheim, like Brooklyn during the industrial era, is an evolving network of
employment centers, shopping areas and a mix of residential neighborhoods.
Certainly not obscure, but not a singular destination for tourists or multinational
corporate headquarters. Another reason that Boomburbs have stayed somewhat
anonymous is that they do not match the traditional concept of a city. They
have no soaring skyline, no grand public spaces. Boomburbs instead represent
the new drive-by city--comprised of office parks, highways and shopping malls.
Faced with this non-traditional urban form, Anaheim's leaders had to stop
and think for a moment-where could we possibly hold a World Series victory
Disneyland gives Anaheim perhaps the highest national profile of any Boomburb.
Yet Anaheim today is worlds away from the young suburb where Walt Disney built
his first theme park in the 1950s. Back then, Anaheim was the quintessential
Orange County community-white, Republican, and middle class. Today it is home
to a significant population of immigrants and is one of the most diverse cities
in the nation. These new Americans are the 21st century equivalent of the
southern and eastern European immigrants who cheered for the Brooklyn Dodgers
during their 1955 win over the Yankees. So take heart San Francisco. You did
not lose to a theme park parading as a city. You lost to the new Brooklyn.