So The Last Post-Season Doubleheader Was…
The latest weather forecast here in soggy New York suggests nothing worse than showers for Saturday night’s resumption of Game One of the American League Division Series between the Tigers and Yankees. Of course, that’s what they said Friday night as well, and the “showers” turned into rain so hard that it was literally bouncing back up off the seats and even the field at Yankee Stadium. From what I can tell, the four key parties – the Yanks, the Tigers, TBS, and MLB – all had forecasts suggesting any rain could be played through (if they hadn’t, you would have expected Jim Leyland and maybe even Joe Girardi to switch starters and hold back their aces – maybe starting relievers with starting experience like Phil Coke – in anticipation of the deluge).
In any event, just in case the game is again delayed until Sunday, MLB is reportedly prepared to play a day-night doubleheader, which is already being portrayed as an all-time historical first. Technically it wouldn’t be. Back in the 19th Century when major league baseball (then comprised of the National League and its junior rival, the American Association) was still experimenting with the idea of post-season championships, their champions played a 15-game “World’s Championship Series” with stops in a mind-boggling ten different cities. Sure enough, on Thursday, October 20, 1887, the NL Champion Detroit Wolverines and the AA-winning St. Louis Browns were scheduled to play a World’s Series game in Washington. They were rained out. So instead, on the 21st, they met up in a game that started at some point in the morning, and then the two teams traveled by train to play in Baltimore the same afternoon.
It’s the only time the same two teams have played two post-season games in the same day, and on top of the bizarre concept, the afternoon game, played at Baltimore’s Union Park, cinched the Series for Detroit. The Wolverines, on a four-hitter by starter Lady Baldwin and a two-run homer by Larry Twitchell, pounded St. Louis 13-3 to win Game 11 and take an 8-to-3 lead in the best-of-15. The concept of ending the series once it was mathematically impossible for the other team to win was not yet locked in place, so the teams got back on the train and played Game 12 anyway the next day in Brooklyn. In fact they played the series right to the end as scheduled, with a game each in Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. Attendance was what you’d expect: they drew 378 fans in Chicago for the meaningless Game 14, and just 659 for Game 15 as St. Louis fans came out to watch their team which had already lost the Series!
When I first mentioned on Twitter that there had previously been a post-season doubleheader – in 1887 – I got a lot of guffaws in return. Baseball has pretty much erased the pre-1903 history of post-season championships. But as the scorecard shows, it was called “The World’s Championship Series” and it pitted the teams that had won the pennant races in each of the two major leagues. It may have been far from a final product, but to my mind it — and the ones that preceded it in 1884, 1885, and 1886, plus the ones in 1888, 1889, and 1890 — count (although the weather turned so bad, and the fans so disinterested, that they abandoned the 1890 series with Brooklyn and Louisville tied at two wins apiece).
So if the Tigers wind up playing a post-season split doubleheader on Sunday, not only won’t it be the first such event in baseball history, it won’t even be the first such event in Detroit baseball history.
History has already been made in this Series, of course: the game is the first to be suspended, rather than canceled, under the policy adopted in the middle of the 2008 World Series after the torrent that hit Philly during Game Five. But also, even as people officially connected to the game were telling each other that MLB had called it a night, a historic and amazing announcement was being made in the Yankee Stadium Club: “We have no information yet about any postponement of tonight’s game! Please do not spread rumors, gossip, or innuendo about a cancellation.”
Seriously? What were they going to do to us? Make us go sit outside? Cancel the game on us? Tape over our mouths? Screw up ticket distribution by turning the scheduled start of Game 2 into the resumption time of Game 1? Was Bud Selig going to slap everybody for innuendo-mongering?
I think they were just trying to sell one more round of drinks.
The suspension announcement came about five minutes later.