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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Avoid Cold -- Double-up!
by Hal Vickery

Rambling thoughts on postponed games and their effect on American societyÖ.

Thereís really something wrong when a summer game is scheduled so that the first games are played in sub-freezing weather in many cities, and the championship series has a high probability of being played in similar conditions. The problem is the same one baseball has had since the first expansion in 1961.

Before expansion the baseball season lasted 154 games. It was expanded to 162 in order to accommodate the additional teams so that each team would play the others eighteen times, down from twenty-two in the old schedule. Apparently there was enough additional attendance in those additional eight games to justify continuing that number through each additional expansion.

Still, when you look at the past week, you have to wonder. In the good old pre-expansion days, the season used to start in mid-April. Granted, there was additional travel time, especially before the advent of air travel after World War II, and a lot more doubleheaders played. Still, an additional eight days would move the start of the season back to about April 10, and that reduces the number of postponed games considerably.

Of course reducing the schedule at the beginning does nothing to address the freezing fans in late October. That has a completely different cause, though. Thatís caused by a bloated playoff system resulting from a three-division setup in each league. Only the unlikely addition or reduction in the number of teams could cure that.

Neither the reduction in the number of playoff teams nor a reduction in scheduled games is likely to happen, though, for the simple reason that there is too much money involved. So what can reasonably be done?

Well, one thing that baseball could do immediately is move the start of the season to warm-weather cities and domed stadiums. It seemed that they did this for several years but have gotten away from it, very likely because the teams in warm-weather cities complained about the preponderance of low-revenue April dates.

There has to be some way to get around this. The key is to limit the number of games in cold-weather cities for just two weeks or so during the coldest part of April. After two days of games being snowed out or called due to cold weather in eastern and Midwestern cities, itís obvious something has to be done.

These games have to be made up, and often this is done as part of doubleheaders. That means lost revenue for those teams, just as it does for the warm-weather teams. Of course one exception to that general rule is with teams such as the Red Sox which have taken to making up the lost revenue from postponed games by playing day-night doubleheaders.

This is certainly something we donít advocate at all. There was a time when most Sunday games during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day were doubleheaders. Along with those Sunday events, doubleheaders were also scheduled on those two holidays plus the Fourth of July.

Now doubleheaders are so rare, except for makeup games, that they have to be explained to the younger generation of fans. They have trouble grasping the concept of one ticket getting you into the same seat for two games without having to leave the ball park.

This is really pretty sad when you consider that doubleheaders were once considered to be as American as apple pie and hot dogs. There are certain realities one has to face as the result of baseball turning into a multi-billion dollar business. One of those is the loss of tradition. I guess that has to go by the wayside in favor of keeping the revenue stream flowing to pay off all of those high salaries.

I donít begrudge the players what they make. There are exactly seven hundred fifty people in the world who play in the major leagues. Low supply and high demand justifies every penny they make. And I certainly wouldnít go back to the salaries that players made in my youth. Curt Flood has always been one of my heroes for his bringing the injustices of the reserve clause to the forefront.

But it is sad when you have to play in lousy weather and then canít play doubleheaders without charging for both games in order to make up the games that canít be played because the weather is just too bad. I have to admit that I never made it to many doubleheaders. As a kid I lived too far away from the city to go to very many games, let alone doubleheaders. As an adult, they were a disappearing species, although I have made it to a dozen or so.

Still I can remember my anticipation as a kid when a Sunday doubleheader was scheduled. Mom would have Sunday dinner mid-afternoon, so if you were lucky youíd see the end of game one, be able to eat and watch game two. If momís timing wasnít so great, you might miss the end of game one or the start of game two, but most likely youíd see one full game and most of the other one.

There were disadvantages, of course. I can remember more than once where the Sox had men on base and nobody out or one out, and had a chance to score. My dad would practically have to drag me by the scruff of the neck to the table. When mom called, you came. Period.

But there would be more to see when you finished dinner and did the dishes, and that would be uninterrupted.

Perhaps thatís the solution after all. Bring back a tradition. Give up a few gamesí revenue and schedule some doubleheaders for the warm summer months and eliminate some of those early April games. There would be more open dates during the season to make up those games that are called due to rain, snow, or cold.

Nah, it would never fly. Itís too simple of a solution.

______________________________________________________________________

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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Avoid Cold -- Double-up?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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