Boomers Watched the World Series In Early October

They say timing is everything. It doesn’t seem to matter if “they” are talking about comedy, planting crops or running for political office; timing is certainly near the top of the list. Yet, to paraphrase Einstein, timing is relative. A case in point is the timing of Major League Baseball’s World Series. Mister Boomer noticed that in the schedule for this year, if there is a Game 7 required, it will be played on October 31. Halloween!

If games had been played on Halloween in our boomer years, there would have been a lot of young boys carrying transistor radios and peering into living rooms for a glimpse of the score as they went trick or treating. Back then, the Series was played earlier in the month. Before 1961, MLB had a 154 game schedule. After 1961, 162 games were played, the same as now. Nonetheless, then as now, the season officially ended on September 30. So what changed? The playoff system in the post-season pushed it further back on the calendar.

In our boomer years, the team from the American League with the best record would meet their counterpart from the National League in the World Series. That system had been in play for decades. In 1961, the Leagues expanded by two teams each, but the post-season schedule remained. In 1969, each League expanded again, this time to 12 teams each. The expansion of the number of teams meant divisions were necessary, making it far more likely that the teams with the best records would not necessarily face each other in the World Series. It was decided that Division Playoffs would give the fans more chances to see their favorite teams in action, and be a more equitable method for determining the best, all the while enriching the coffers of Major League Baseball. In 1994, the Wild Card system was instituted, paving the way to where we are today.

The last members of the Boomer Generation arrived in 1964. That year, The New York Yankees faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Series was a battle that required a Game 7. That determining game was played in St. Louis on October 15, 1964. And so it was throughout the boomer years. By October 15, it was all over except for the bragging rights of the winning city and the sweeping up of the fallen leaves of defeat.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1964 World Series. Notice how the players are wearing short sleeves on October 15. Will players be able to do that on Halloween this year?

Mister Boomer was a big baseball fan in his preteen years, visiting the ballpark several times during each season. His state had a Major League team, and his father was a big fan. Mister B went to games with his father and, a couple of times per year, with his Little League team. However, post-season games were not among the games he attended. His enthusiasm waned by the time he was old enough to drive to the stadium. Perhaps it was the rigors of high school and his first jobs, or that kids in the neighborhood began heading off to different high schools, but his love of the game faded along with the neighborhood pick-up games.

Boomers, however, do appear to still love the game. Though its popularity has waned since the decades of the Boomer Generation, half of the fans of the sport are now over age 50. The World Series now receives about one-eighth the viewing audience of the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, there is a strange dichotomy in that baseball enjoys more live attendance than any other sport. Recent years have put live attendance records at over 70 million. And audience for the televised World Series, though down appreciably from the boomer heyday of the 1950s and ’60s, still wins the night over other broadcasts.

Younger kids are not playing baseball in the same numbers they once did, and the proliferation of multiple sources of viewing entertainment cuts into the possible viewership for baseball. The popularity of baseball, no longer considered the national pastime, continues to slowly fade. Yet there used to be a season for each thing. It was predictable and helped define the calendar, giving people something to look forward to between events. Today, at this writing, football season has begun before baseball has finished its regular games. If timing is everything, then somebody should look into that Halloween Game 7 problem.

Did you attend post-season games at your MLB stadium, boomers?

Boomer Mothers Smoked While Pregnant

Mister Boomer spied an endangered species this past week. This scene was something that we commonly saw in our Boomer Years, but now sightings are rare. Heading to work one day, Mister B saw a woman in a dress, by all appearances herself heading to work. What was unusual about her was she that was very pregnant — and smoking a cigarette.

World War II had secured a steady stream of nicotine-addicted GIs for the tobacco companies. On returning home, many of their soon-to-be-wives picked up the habit — if they hadn’t already during the war. Yet all was not perfect for Big Tobacco.

By the early 1940s there were rumblings among the medical community about the potential harm that could be done to the human body by smoking. Further, these science-minded individuals knew that whatever the pregnant mother ingested was going to find its way into the baby’s bloodstream. Big Tobacco was not going to take this information lightly.

The companies reacted forcefully, with counter ad campaigns, and by 1954 they were funding “scientific” studies of their own, intended to show that smoking had no effect on mother or baby. Camel cigarettes ran a series of ads promoting their product as “the brand most doctors choose.” Philip Morris published ads quoting their own studies with a drawing of a mother and her child, flanked by the headline of, “Mother and Baby Are Doing Fine.” Still, resistance was building with both consumers and doctors.

The U.S. government stepped into the fray and in January of 1964, the Surgeon General released the results of the very first government study on smoking and health. The study concluded that smoking while pregnant increased the risk of premature birth, birth defects, lower birth weight and ectopic pregnancies, where the egg grows outside of the uterus — and, oh yes, risk to the mother of heart disease, stroke, gum disease and cancer. The study stated that as the mother took smoke into her lungs, nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar passed through the placenta and umbilical cord into the baby’s bloodstream.

Congress attempted to establish warning labels on packaging, but Big Tobacco fought back, getting key Congressmen to agree that the wording of the proposed labeling was too harsh. In 1965, Congress passed a modified version of their original warning label with the Federal Cigarette Advertising Act. This was followed by more restrictive wording in advertising and packaging with the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969, which also banned cigarette advertising on television and radio.

Mister Boomer’s mother, and most of the mothers of his friends, smoked while pregnant. “It hasn’t hurt me yet,” was the phrase his mom often spoke when, in later years, Mister B and his siblings tried to get her to quit. Boomer mothers could be heard from coast to coast saying how they smoked (and drank, but that is a story for another time) while they were pregnant, and we boomers turned out OK. We were living proof that nothing bad happened. They were addicted, but times were changing and attitudes with them.

In 1973 Congress passed the most restrictive labeling to that date, requiring wording on each pack that said cigarettes contain “toxic substances.” Congress would continue to modify labeling into the 1980s and beyond.

As he has stated before, Mister Boomer always hated smoking (read: Boomers First Accepted Smoking, Then They Rejected It). Maybe his exposure to the toxic substances in the womb turned him away from the habit throughout his life, but his brother and sister were also crusaders in their fight to get their parents to quit. They finally did in the 1980s, when Brother Boomer had his first child, followed by another. The grandparents were not allowed to smoke in his house or near the grandkids. After a couple of years of smoking outside, they relented and gave it up.

Did your mother smoke while she was pregnant with you, boomers?