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?