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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqa7k3axEC0
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?

Boomers Helped Make Super Bowl Commercials Super

This week Super Bowl LI (51) was played. If the final tally of viewership turns out to be anything like the last three years, more than 110 million people tuned in to watch the Big Game, the commercials and the halftime show.

Here are some fun facts for you:
• Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest food consumption day in the US — only Thanksgiving tops it
• The game wasn’t televised before a true national audience until 1972; before then, the telecast was blacked out in the participating teams’ home cities
• The cost of airtime for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl I in 1966 cost $37,500; this year it will top $5 million for the same 30 seconds

Speaking of commercials, Mister Boomer has previously delved into the boomer-era history of the Super Bowl (Boomers Got Super-Sized), but have you ever wondered how the TV commercials got to be an attraction in and of themselves?

Most sports historians point to Super Bowl III as the turning point. That game, played in January of 1969, pitted the New York Jets against the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts. A brash young quarterback, Joe Namath, guaranteed a win for the Jets. He was derided and ridiculed for his cockiness, but his prediction held true, with the Jets posting a 16-7 victory over the Colts. Interest in the game skyrocketed and viewers loved every minute of it, especially boomers. Namath became something of a folk hero among young boomers for his off-field antics, which earned him the nickname “Broadway Joe,” as well as his on-field play.

Namath’s celebrity status landed him a commercial for Noxema Shave Cream that aired during the 1973 Super Bowl. In it, Namath says, “I’m about to get creamed,” as a young Farah Fawcett covers his chin with the shave cream. It was quite a sensation, causing a sharp increase in sales for Noxema, and opening the door for memorable commercials in years to come.

In the years that followed, the country’s top businesses — including General Motors, Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, IBM, Xerox and a host of others — spent increasing amounts of money producing commercials that, in many cases, were intended to run only once. Viewership of the game steadily increased, as did the cost of the commercial airtime. Nonetheless, it took until Super Bowl XXIX (29) in 1995 before the cost of a 30-second spot topped $1 million. Of course, the entire reason for advertising during a Super Bowl is the size of the viewer audience. Two years ago during Super Bowl XLIX (49), an all-time high was reached with more than 115 million viewers.

For marketers, the game is truly a dream come true because it reaches every demographic from Baby Boomers right through the current generation, and many boomers will tell you they have watched them all. In addition, the number of women watching the game — and the commercials — has risen to just under half the total viewers at this point.

Some commercials were more memorable than others, and boomers all have their favorites. Here are a few of what most boomers regard as truly memorable:
1977 — A monks uses a Xerox copy machine to make manuscript copies with the tagline, “It’s a miracle.”

1979 — Mean Joe Greene, defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers starred in this one-minute spot for Coca-Cola. As Greene limps back down the tunnel to the locker room after an injury, a young boy (Tommy Okun, age 9) calls to him and tells him he thinks he is the best. Mean Joe doesn’t respond, and the boy hands him his Coke, which he downs in its entirety. As the kid turns and says, “See ya around,” Greene calls out to him, “Hey kid, catch!” tossing his game jersey to him. In 2011, Advertising Age voted it the number one Super Bowl commercial of all time.
1984 — Apple introduced the Macintosh computer with a memorable 1984-themed ad. In a play on the year and the George Orwell novel, the narrator announced, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
1986 — The Budweiser Clydesdales made their Super Bowl commercial debut trotting through a snowy landscape. The iconic horses have since reappeared in numerous years.

There have been many more memorable commercials since then, but for boomers, the early days will always be the best. Mister Boomer sides with those who think the Apple Macintosh commercial was the best ever. The direction by Ridley Scott, dystopian theme and boomer-like revolutionary spirit propels that one to the top of his list.

What is your favorite Super Bowl commercial from our boomer heyday?