From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / June 12, 1999

Baseball has always been slow to change. It’s a game that prides itself ontradition and the traditionalists that are often in charge feel that if something has been good in the past why change it? Take interleague play for instance. It only took the American and NationalLeagues 96 years to decide to play each other during the regular season.

Interleague play was what the All-Star Game and World Series was for.

But with attendance stagnate after the work stoppage in 1994, the higher ups decided that maybe games between the leagues was not a bad idea.

Viola! More fans started going to the ballpark in 1997, the first year the concept was implemented. Here was a chance for fans to see how the otherside played. Here was an opportunity for them to see in person the starsthey had only been able to see on television. Those matchups that fans hadwanted to see – the Yankees versus the Mets, the Cubs versus the White Sox and the Dodgers and Angels – were now made possible.

But now the novelty of interleague play is starting to wear off and it’s time to tweak the concept once more.

Atlanta outfielder Brian Jordan was talking on ESPN radio Saturday about the experience of playing in Fenway Park for the first time and what it meant to him. But at the same time he said he would also like the chanceto play in other ballparks in the other league. Many other players wouldprobably echo Jordan’s comment.

Currently, teams in one division only play their counterparts in the other league. So, NL East teams play AL East squads while the NL Central playsthe AL Central and the NL West the AL West. While this created matchupslike those listed above, it also forces fans to see the same teams year after year.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Sammy Sosa bat in Yankee Stadium? Roger Clemens pitch in the Astrodome? For Ken Griffey Jr. to patrol center fieldin Wrigley? Cleveland, with its lineup of heavy hitters, and Atlanta, with its vaunted pitching staff, would be a classic matchup this year. Or how about amatchup of the latest expansion teams, Tampa Bay and Arizona? And just think what a series between the Yankees and Dodgers might draw.

When St. Louis played at Detroit last weekend, the three-game series drew125,371 fans who came out to watch Mark McGwire. That shows theimpact that certain stars have on the game. Wouldn’t it be good for thegame if that impact was spread out each year? For years American League fans were deprived of seeing the Willie Mayses and the Hank Aarons while The National League missed out on the Mickey Mantles and the Ted Williamses. Inter-league play helped remedy that andlet fans see the stars in both leagues. Now its time to improve on thesystem and spread the wealth so that the young fans of today can see all of the game’s stars.

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