Baseball's newest ol' friend, interleague play, made it's first stop on the 1998 season last week as the debate on whether this new experiment on the game continues to rage on like a rabid dog in heat.
Last year, interleague play made its debut under a firestorm of critical controversy and fans flocked to the stadiums, many of whom were finally able to see players in their own towns instead of only being able to watch ESPN.
In its first year, opponents of interleague play moaned and groaned and griped and complained about how this was going to be the overly dramatic ulogy in baseball's perpetual funeral. Many felt the game would simply never be the same. It would destroy the sanctity and integrity of a sport whose major stars in the game's infancy like to drink, gamble, visit prostitiutes, get into fights and play with guns on a regular basis. And this was all during the Yankees' pre-game warm-ups.
Yep. With such a rich and beautiful past to build on, how could baseball in the 90's destroy that by having the audacity to allow the Cubs and White Sox play each other in a three game series in June?
For those of us who don't consider baseball a history lesson every time we go to a ball park or tune into a game on television and don't care much about Bob Costas telling us the story of Mudflap McGhee and his twelve consecutive bunts for basehits in the 1903 season, interleague play has put some interest back into a game that seemed to be slipping out the American psyche. Finally, fans in Atlanta can see Cal Ripken, Jr. add another game to his consecutive game streak. Fans in Houston can see Juan Gonzalez and the Texas Rangers play in the Astrodome and Mets fans and Yankees fans can beat the crap out of each other in their respected stadiums.
There were many problems with baseball after the strike several years ago and many of them still exist. However, one of the main problems was the lack of people in the stands. That was the one thing the critics and owners could all agree with. Get people to come back to the stadium. So it seems with interleague play that baseball got something right. Fans started showing up. However, many of those baseball historians thought it was a terrible idea. Many of these same people agreed baseball needed to attract a new breed of fan. In other words, get people to show up, just don't make any changes to the game.
Brilliant planning, isn't it?
I like interleague play, but it might just be a temporary fix. Fans are bound to get bored and in another ten years baseball will be searching for another idea to duct tape the game back together.
What will that next change be?
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