The Major League Baseball schedule begins the first week of April and concludes in late October.
When I was a young boy, I remember enjoying the games on sunny afternoons in the fall—the sort of climate in which baseball was meant to be played.
There was an excitement that filled the air, a static electricity, as we would all gather around a television set in the window of Bennett’s candy store to watch our favorite team take part in the greatest event the Sporting World could offer—the World Series.
Today, the World Series is played in concrete mausoleums decorated with flashing lights spelling out the words D E F E N S E or N O I S E, and some clown in an animal-looking outfit standing on the home team waving a baseball bat, or some other angry-looking device, to entice the crowd to cheer.
Worse still, the World Series is played at night, at a time when most kids are in bed.
The start times, of course, are geared for the TV audience. After all, it’s the commercials that bring in the big bucks.
In the stadium, usually sitting in the best seats, are the politicians and celebrities who wouldn’t know a double play from a double scotch.
And the climate?
Most games are played in arctic conditions that would discourage even a penguin from taking his turn at bat.
One of these years an early blizzard is going to blow into Boston, or New York, or some other northern baseball town and cover the field with 42 inches of snow. The temperatures will hover in the upper 30s during the day and drop to the 20s, or below, at night.
And this is when the World Series will be played.
Or will it?
The 162-game schedule is obviously the culprit here, extending the baseball season into the time when most stores have their Christmas decorations up. It's a time of the year when the leaves are turning bright orange, yellow, red—as are the noses and hands of the players on the field, to say nothing of the fans in the seats.
So what can be done to rectify the problem?
The answer is simple—very simple:
I remember when Sunday doubleheaders were the rule of thumb. Teams all played two on Sundays throughout the season, not just on holidays, and there was one ticket for both games, not separate admissions.
Of course, the Players Association will have none of this.
“Play two games on Sundays, almost every Sunday? I can’t do that, I'll get too tired.”
Baloney, I say.
Major League players get paid outlandish sums of money to play a game. Lord help us if we should ask them to play two of those games in one day.
They might get a hangnail, or something else.
As for the owners—they'd cry about losing revenue. Well, charge $9.00 instead of $8.00 for that buck-and-a-quarter bottle of beer...or jack up the hot dogs to $5.00 instead of $4.00.
Oh wait, they've already done that.
Anyway, by playing doubleheaders on Sundays—say about 10-12 of them per season—MLB could cut two weeks off of the regular season and start the playoffs and World Series well before Santa Claus drags Rudolph out of the stable.
And, if the schedule-makers use their heads, they can minimize travel after these doubleheaders. For example, the Yankees play two in Fenway then hop on their plane and travel to Baltimore for their next series...instead of hoofing it all the way to Seattle.
Another alternative, of course, would be to cut the schedule back to 154 games, or thereabouts.
In any event, the playoffs and World Series need to be moved from the cold into the “almost” cold—or maybe even into Indian Summer.
And the games need to be played in the shadows of the sun, not under moonlit nights...or snow flurries.
Will the owners ever agree to this?
I doubt it.
Will the players ever agree to this?
I doubt that, too.
The “Knothole Gangs”, the 50-cent bleacher tickets, the days of hot dogs and peanuts being all you could get to eat at a baseball game...those are all gone.
And with them went the soul of America’s national pastime.
Instead, the game has been overrun by corporate greed, the seats filled with men and women nibbling sushi and sucking down bottles of Perrier.
Unfortunately, they're all dressed in heavy winter coats, and sitting on ice cold seats that stick to their butts.
It's just a matter of time until this headline shows up on the front of the sports pages:
Early Storm Dumps 38 inches on Fenway, more due tomorrow.
Series Moved to San Juan.
Think it can’t happen? Wanna bet?