Baseball scribes proclaimed the 2017 World Series as one for the ages. You can’t prove it by me, an Eastern Time Zone fan unable to meet his modest three-inning goal. Still, FOX included me as one of its 106 million viewers. The math is dicey, however. Anyone who watched “part of” a single game counted in FOX’s final tally.
On behalf of workers, 55 million school-age children, and another 55 million U.S. senior citizens, I’m circulating a petition to start the weekend games during daylight hours. My constituency was disappointed to miss the latter innings of the Houston Astros championship run over their valiant but vanquished challengers, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Major league baseball is a $10 billion industry, and bean-counting MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the multimillion dollar owners he represents, and the television networks can afford the advertising hit they’d absorb from afternoon starting times. Eight of the 30 owners are billionaires, and the others are just a couple of bank deposits away from reaching 10-figure status.
Not that Manfred would do anything but toss my petition when it reaches his desk. MLB is raking in money almost as fast as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing cranks it out. The league has posted 14 consecutive years of record revenue, driven mostly by local franchises’ television ratings, and a decade of ever-higher post-season viewing.
Alas, for the working public, kids, and old folks, the last day outdoor World Series game was played in 1984, 33 years ago when the Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres. Technical clarification: three years later, in 1987, the St. Louis Cardinals played the Minnesota Twins during afternoon hours. But since the Twins hosted its games in the dreary Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, I can’t call it daylight baseball. I’ve been in the Metrodome, Houston’s Astrodome, and Seattle’s Kingdome, all were dark, dank, dungeons. I’m talking about baseball under the sun and on green grass, not beneath roofs and on synthetic turf.
To be sure, the 1984 World Series was a snoozer as the Tigers steamrolled the Padres, four games to one. Since the Tigers started its season 9-0, and won 35 of its first 40 games, the outcome surprised no one.
On the other hand, the 1971 World Series that included the first night game thrilled. On October 13, in Pittsburgh’s old Three Rivers Stadium and in front of 51,000 fans, the lights went on during the fourth game between the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles. With the Orioles leading two games to one, the O’s jumped off to a quick first inning 3-0 lead as the first three batters singled, and scored on a passed ball and two sacrifice flies. But for the next eight innings, the O’s managed only one hit as the Pirates won the game, 4-3, and eventually captured the series in seven games.
Series MVP Roberto Clemente went three for four under the lights, and batted .414 for the series, his last ever. Tragically, on January 1, 1973, Clemente died in a plane crash off his native Puerto Rico.
Day baseball may never return to the World Series. Since televisions became must-have household items after World War II, I should be happy that I was lucky enough to watch so many sunlit games for so many years.
Joe Guzzardi is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Internet Baseball Writers Association. Contact him at email@example.com.