Weighing the merits of day games in October
This is refreshing. When the Tigers and the Red Sox play Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday in Detroit, they'll do so with sunshine hiding behind a slew of Michigan clouds, instead of a sky full of darkness and maybe the threat of a star or two.
Translated: A day game.
You have to love it, because day games once were as common to baseball during the postseason as bunting and pinstripes.
It gets better. Should the Tigers-Red Sox series extend to a Game 6 on Saturday -- and if the National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and Dodgers goes the distance -- you've guessed it, another day game. The setting would be Fenway Park, where nostalgia for such things is represented by a wall that is tall and green in left field. Not only that, the Cards and the Dodgers are slated to meet under the brilliant sunshine of Southern California on Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS.
We need more postseason day games ... or do we?
I'm hesitating, because I'm recalling the so-called glory days, when the majority of baseball postseason games were in the afternoon. Fans from that era have tales of how they smuggled transistor radios into their schools and work places or used other methods to follow the exploits of either their hometown heroes or whomever else was attempting at that moment to snatch a World Series championship.
For me, it goes back to 1968, when I became enthralled with my first World Series while in elementary school in South Bend, Ind. It was a matchup for the ages between the Cardinals and the Tigers, and Game 1 began on a Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis. I did the transistor-radio thing, and so did others. Even one of my teachers interrupted class for a stretch, because he also wanted to hear a few innings of Bob Gibson mowing down the Tigers along the way to a record 17 strikeouts.
At one point, we all gathered near a classroom window, searching for the best radio waves flowing from Missouri to Indiana.
How romantic. How quaint.
I mean, sports history was happening with The Great Gibson on the mound, and it was happening in living color on television, but I couldn't see it. We couldn't see it. Neither could much of the world, since more than a few folks were somewhere working for a living or learning how to diagram sentences between lunch and recess.
Later during that autumn of 1968, my dad was transferred by his company to Cincinnati, where the Big Red Machine expanded cog after cog. By 1970, the Reds were obliterating teams, and I was obsessed. When my two brothers and I weren't attending games at Crosley Field and later Riverfront Stadium, I was keeping track of every inning, every at-bat and every pitch in a scorebook. I rarely missed a broadcast, but then came the World Series with the Reds against the Orioles.
My teeth are clenching. I couldn't watch much of that World Series, because school kept getting in the way. Baseball still played only day postseason games back then, but there was some good news. We were in Cincinnati, and most of the teachers were Reds fans. So they allowed us to listen to parts of the games (and even watch a few innings in the case of one heavenly-sent teacher), but only between learning Pythagoras' Theorem and the essence of the Louisiana Purchase.
There was also 1972. My dad's company transferred him to Milwaukee that spring, but I remained a Reds loyalist when they met the Pirates that October in a decisive Game 5 of the NLCS in Cincinnati. It was an afternoon game -- ugh. Worse, there were few (if any) Reds fans in Wisconsin back then, and none among my high school teachers. I also had football practice after school. Even though it was a particularly grueling practice that day, I didn't feel it much. I was more worried about Pete Rose and Tony Perez than about blocking and tackling.
When practice ended, I sprinted to the showers, got dressed in milliseconds and set a record for racing the mile or so from the locker room to the front of the television set in our living room.
I arrived just in time to see Johnny Bench stroll to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and slam a game-tying leadoff home run. The Reds clinched a spot in the World Series when George Foster scored from third later in the inning on a wild pitch, and I was absolutely exhausted -- by the game, by the practice, by The Sprint and by the fact that I missed most of the Reds' comeback and dash to another NL pennant courtesy of an afternoon game.
So I wasn't totally displeased the year before when baseball did the previously unthinkable. It added the first night game to the World Series, when the Pirates played the Orioles in 1971.
It was just one game, though. Then came another. And then a bunch more by the 1980s. The expansion continued after that, and it was done partly to help those sprinting like crazy from school to the front of their home television set, but mostly to please the networks. Prime-time games generate more viewers, and the bigger your television audience, the more money you can demand as a network from advertisers. Plus, baseball wins big time under such a scenario.
The game's bosses can ask the networks for more billions for the right to broadcast their postseason games.
You know, at night.
In case you're wondering, the primary reason there were several day playoff games scheduled for this October was more out of necessity than nostalgia. It allowed baseball to give fans a chance to see NLCS and ALCS games on the same day in their entirety, as opposed to having them overlap -- as often was the case in previous years.
Which means, if you go by that philosophy, there isn't a need for day games during the World Series, and there won't be any this year. In fact, we probably never will see another "true" day game in the World Series. I say "true," because when West Coast teams are involved, their home games start during the late afternoon to accommodate the prime-time audiences on the East Coast. But to have a World Series game, say, in New York begin at 1 p.m. in the near future, fughitabutit.
The last World Series day game occurred in Game 6 of the 1987 Fall Classic in Minnesota, when the Cardinals came to town. That was during a weekend. The last World Series day game played on a day other than Saturday or Sunday was Game 5 of the 1972 World Series, when my Reds were in Oakland against the A's.
My teeth are clenched again. I only saw highlights of that Game 5, which provided one of the most dramatic moments in World Series history. Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan raced forever from second base to catch a foul pop while on a dead run toward the wide-open spaces of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, and then he whirled to nail the potential tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
I was in school.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.