Like it or not, the major league baseball fan of today is forced to be monogamous—or to put it another way—faithful to the league of his city's choice. Only in Chicago can a fan be happily polygamous and enjoy the live baseball of both leagues.
Of course, it didn't used to be this way. But there is no point in lingering long over the grand old days when there were two teams in St. Louis, two in Philadelphia, two in Boston and three in New York (if you count Brooklyn). The 1960 major league schedules are published this week, and they spell out these offerings:
The customary 154 games of league play for each team; two All-Star games, on the 11th and 13th of July; a creeping increase of night baseball (602 games out of 1,232 will be at night this year, as compared with 558 out of 1,232 last year).
You will be able to watch a good deal of the schedule on television, though there are some who think that baseball is really too large to squeeze into a TV screen. And you can see live major league baseball in 15 different cities, which is all to the good—if you're satisfied to see the players of just one league (except in lucky Chicago, of course).
Willie Mays will continue to be a stranger to the fan in his old hometown of New York, barring a World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Yankees. Again barring a Series between the Yankees and Giants (or Dodgers), West Coast fans will have no glimpse of Mickey Mantle. And if anyone doubts that the West wants the Yanks, he has only to remember the 93,000 fans who thronged the L.A. Coliseum when Stengel's boys played the Dodgers last season to honor Roy Campanella.
But why shouldn't interleague games become a regular part of the season, with the results counting in each league's own standings, just as they do in professional football? The public would enjoy it. "I kind of lost interest in baseball when Boston became a one-league city," said one Boston fan last week. "If they schedule some interleague games, a lot of us would go back to the ball parks," said another. "It would be the greatest thing in the world," said an advertising man from the Midwest.
And the fans aren't the only ones. In Boston the head man of the American League is himself an enthusiastic proponent of interleague play. Unlike his counterpart in the National League, Warren Giles, who humphs that "The leagues should remain separate entities," President Joe Cronin of the American League even has a plan ready for interleague play. It involves adding one extra team to each league. Then, as Joe says, "With a ninth team in each league there would be one team idle every day of the season, so the idle teams could play each other on those days. In this way every National League team would play every American League team at least one series during the season. It would give fans a chance to see the greats of each league."
Joe's plan may not be the precisely right one. But with or without expansion, the schedule makers should have enough imagination to pair off one National League team with one American for an interleague game, somewhere, every day. Given the glacial pace of change in baseball this is perhaps too much to hope for by 1961. But maybe by 1963....