The Evolution of Interleague Play

Jason LempertCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

FLUSHING, NY - MAY 22:  Hideki Matsui #55 of the New York Yankees scores from first on a hit from teammate Bernie Williams, as Mike Piazza #31 of the New York Mets tries to make the tag, giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning on May 22, 2005 at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

This is the 13th season of Interleague Play, and with all the attention it gets one would think it was still the first season. There are some who despise certain areas of Interleague Play, some who hate the idea in general, and some who love it. I'm here to not give an opinion, but to explore all sides of the new MLB ritual.

When Interleague Play debuted in the 1997 season, it was new, fresh, and exciting. For the first time, fans got to see the "Subway Series," the "Freeway Series," the "South Side vs. North Side" series. Fans in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (among others) finally got the chance to do declare bragging rights, head-to-head.

But real baseball fans also got to see teams and players they never were able to see before. Series like Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh and Detroit vs. Florida gave the fans something new to see.

In its inaugural season, Interleague Play occurred for two series in the middle of June, and then another series in the beginning of July. In contrast, in 2009 there is one Interleague series in the end of May, and then three series in the middle of June—perhaps in an effort to boost the ratings during this time.

After the first few seasons, fans witnessed something even newer to Interleague Play—Interdivision Play. Beginning in 2001 teams were starting to regularly branch out of their leagues and divisions. Series like Orioles at Diamondbacks, Mariners at Reds and Angels at Cardinals were seen. The following season began a rotation of Interleague/Interdivision play (i.e. Yankees at Reds).

But once that rotation came full circle, and it was back to Intradivision play, some fans starting growing tired of Interleague play. The "Subway World Series" which featured the Mets and Yankees in the Fall Classic probably didn't help much either.  

While that series was unique, it wasn't as fresh as it could have been, had the teams not faced each other 18 times prior to the World Series (including the first ever cross-town doubleheader, where the two teams played one game at Shea Stadium, and later that night, played one at Yankee Stadium).

Major League Baseball is not be deterred, however. Interleague Play is still a highlight point on all teams' schedules. It's a landmark of sorts. Fans still get the chance to see players and teams which they may not have been able to see before. And even with the All Star Game now "counting," it seems as if Interleague Play will be a staple in MLB schedules for a long, long time.