LOS ANGELES, April 22, 2013 — There have been three doubleheaders played this year and there are four more scheduled for later in the year. Games have been postponed due to rain, snow, cold and windy weather, as well as bombing suspects on the loose in Boston.
Games being cancelled was not always the only reason for doubleheaders to be played. Doubleheaders started as a way to generate more fans, kind of a gift to the fans from the team. You could buy one ticket and see two games, with Memorial Day and Independence Day being the most popular days.
The doubleheader trickled into prominence and May 30, 1883 was the first day where every team played a doubleheader on the same day. By the end of the 19th century, National League teams played over a quarter of their games as doubleheaders. There were even two tripleheaders in the 1890s.
As more fans flocked to baseball games over the decades, there became less of a need for a doubleheader, except in the cases where weather intervened. The owners were tired of losing money needlessly. Players and managers did not like playing them either as it was taxing on most players, especially the bullpen.
In 1979, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to not schedule a doubleheader. In 1983, the Seattle Mariners became the first team to not play a doubleheader the entire season. This was partly due to their domed stadium and partly due to the luck of not having a road game rained out.
Just as the doubleheader trickled into existence, the scheduled doubleheader faded from baseball in the late 70s and early 80s. Owners no longer needed to give fans that incentive to get them into their stadiums. The popularity of the game itself took care of that.
Today, the only way you have a doubleheader is from a postponement of a game that needs to be rescheduled. There have been rumblings from people that the baseball season, with its expanded playoff format, stretches too far into the fall.
If Major League Baseball wants to keep the playoff schedule as it is and also keep the 162 game season, which they should, there is a way to bring the season to a close earlier. You obviously are not able to start games earlier in the year unless all teams agree to play in the south or on the west coast because of weather.
Enter the rebirth of the scheduled doubleheader. You start slowly and make teams schedule five doubleheaders throughout the summer. Whether it is a day-night double header, in which a separate ticket is required for each game, or classic doubleheader, in which one ticket lets you see both games, should be left up to the home team.
Five doubleheaders per year would allow the season to end one week earlier than normal. Then you slowly increase the number of scheduled doubleheaders each year until you have each team scheduling 10 to 15 doubleheaders each season. Doing so, would effectively end November baseball.
There are a lot of obstacles in the way on the road to bringing back the scheduled doubleheader. For starters, the conversation for such a thing has not even been brought up. However, if that conversation were to start, other roadblocks would include the owners possibly losing revenue, always a tough conversation, and the reluctance of the players to want to play in doubleheaders.
Until there is a blaring need to have the baseball season end earlier or there is a need to get fans to come out to the stadiums, the scheduled doubleheader conversation will be limited to talking about the past. Getting fans back after the 1994 strike when there was no World Series would have been a great time to talk about scheduled doubleheaders returning. Apparently turning a blind eye to the rise of steroids worked just fine.
From a fan’s perspective, who would not want the opportunity throughout the summer to see two games in one day? The absence of a scheduled doubleheader, however, will not keep fans from going to the stadium. This is a fact of which both the owners and players are well aware.Chicago great, Ernie Banks, once said, “It’s a great day for baseball, let’s play two.” It is sad that most players and today do not feel the same.
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