In 1997, interleague baseball began. As we all know, interleague play sent baseball, and American culture, into an irreversible state of ruin. How did it happen? Why? Let's take a look back over the last 14 years.
Remember when they tried to warn us? In the mid-1990s, many of baseball's most-respected voices dreaded the advent of interleague play. If American League teams were to play National League teams in the regular season, the World Series and All-Star Game wouldn't be special anymore. More importantly, a tradition that was nearly a century old would be violated.
They were absolutely right. Baseball would pay the price, and so, ultimately, would America. Below are several different forms of media -- split into a prologue, three chapters, and an epilogue -- that serve well to chronicle how catastrophe befell us all.
Stay warm out there, wherever you are...
PROLOGUE: THE 35-YEAR GENESIS
The National League officials, holding a post All-Star game session, also unanimously rejected any interleague scheduling of games during the regular season, as favored by the American League.
An idea which has been kicking around baseball for years -- inter-league play -- could be implemented this coming season and is certainly a cinch for 1974 in the face of an announcement by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn today.
"Frankly I don't know where we are going," [Commissioner Bowie] Kuhn said. I have always favored some form of inter-league play -- that's not news -- but if I had to cast the deciding vote right now I don't know what I would do."
[...] Philadelphia Phillies President Bob Giles said interleague play could be the catalyst to bring about baseball's first expansion since Seattle and Toronto joined the AL in 1977.
Baseball owners gave preliminary approval Thursday for expanded playoffs, interleague play and splitting each league into three divisions. The moves could be in place by 1995.
Interleague play, perhaps the most revolutionary change in baseball since the lively ball, was given a unanimous endorsement by the sport's ruling executive council on Tuesday night.
Baseball is fast running out of traditions to bust up -- like old furniture in a blizzard -- and use to spark the fans' imagination. The people who play and own the game are learning the hard way they never should have put the fire out in the first place.
I. THE SEEDS OF RUINATION
White Sox manager Terry Bevington diary entry, July 2, 1997:
Well, that's it. We just completed our first-ever series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It should have felt "special," but for some reason it didn't.
Maybe interleague play was only "special" if it never happened, was "special" because it never happened. But wait ... how could it have been special if it never happened? Did we spoil it by making it actually exist? What kind of horses*** logic is this?
I suppose it doesn't matter. Nothing can derail the freight train that is the Terry Bevington Managerial Dynasty.
Your pal Terry Bevington
Syndicated newspaper article, August 10, 1997:
"It's pretty weird," said one fan. "It's kind of like ... well, okay, when you were kids, you had your friends from school, and your friends from church, and they were completely different circles of friends. Interleague baseball is like when your friend from school is hanging out at your house, and your friend from church comes by, and all of a sudden you're playing Legos with your church friend and your school friend at the same time."
The gentleman paused and gave a long look into the distance before continuing. "To be honest with you ... I don't know how to deal with it."
Telephone transcript, anonymous parties, September 2, 1997:
- Mike, I wanted to talk to you about Brandon.
- Did he tell you we went to the Giants game on Sunday?
- Yes, he did. Tonight, he ... we were sitting at the table with David--
- David's eating there now?
- I'm sorry. It doesn't matter.
- Mike, we were eating, and Brandon just started making a mess. You know how he is. He's just about the most orderly eight-year-old on Earth. But it was so unlike him. He started mixing his green beans in with his mashed potatoes, and then he started pouring milk over it.
- I asked him why he did it, and he said-- you know what he told me? Our son actually said this. He said, "I don't care, Mom. There aren't any rules."
- Michelle, listen. I'm putting him to bed on time. I'm telling him "no dessert" until he finishes his meal.
- It isn't that. Mike, I told him there are rules, and he said, "no, there aren't, because the Giants can play the Angels now."
- I don't know what we should do.
- I mean, he's right.
- The Angels are playing the Padres. It's [EXPLETIVE] up.
- [sigh] ...It is pretty [EXPLETIVE] up.
II. THE RECKONING
Associated Press game recap, April 21, 1999:
On Wednesday evening, the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins did some things and then a thing happened. And quite a thing it was.
Preston Wilson struck first for the Marlins, hitting the ball and making it go somewhere or another. Meanwhile, on ABC, the series finale of "Home Improvement" gave us one last look at a Taylor family that has given us so many memories over the years. They showed Wilson's face! It wasn't behind a fence!
When that was over, the Cubs' Mickey Morandini started running around the field, going this way and that, and was probably accomplishing something in some regard. Steve Butthead eventually came on and picked up the save as the Cubs won 1,000 to negative-4. It's the third loss in as many games for some ass-face whose name I didn't care to note. Also, lknsvkldnsvk 8089ghrpoawrghpoabg34bvoueb
I think this is it, Joe. Consider this my formal letter of resignation. I no longer have any passion for baseball, a once-wonderful sport that was ruined by the decision to make two sets of teams interact more often than they normally do. My position may as well be filled by someone who actually enjoys the game.
Good luck finding anyone who does anymore.
P.S. make sure not to run this.
Transcript from Phillies-Orioles radio broadcast, July 9, 1999:
HARRY KALAS: And now Jeff Conine digs in against Schilling. Just a terrific performance from Curt so far tonight. Through seven, he's allowed one run and scattered five hits. Of course, we've come to expect such a --
HARRY KALAS: Well, there seems to ... home plate umpire Wally Bell has called time. This is odd, folks. In left field, Ron Gant appears to be attempting to address the crowd. This is ... we have seen several bizarre things over the last few seasons, since interleague play was introduced, but I haven't quite seen anything like this. Do we have a microphone out there? Can we pick him up at all? ... Let's listen in.
RON GANT: It has become a rudderless game! Look! To match the Phillies and Orioles in the regular season is to store your milk in the cupboard. The game is curdling. It has already curdled! What once was special a special pastime is now a soulless contrivance, set far apart from the light of God, without grace or guilt. HEAR ME!
HARRY KALAS: Gant is ... he's rending his garments.
RON GANT: This is not a "field"! Do you know what a field is? Well, it isn't this! I'm going to leave. I want to plant an orchard. It will be tiresome and tedious work, and I will still stand in a field, but in that field, something will actually be accomplished.
HARRY KALAS: Bell is calling for a rain delay. Folks, it isn't raining.
RON GANT: I will do what sets my heart free! I will play as many pepper games as I want! Does anyone know how to play pepper? Can someone show me?
Messages displayed on ticker inside of Turner Field during Braves-Red Sox game, July 9, 1999:
!!!ATTENTION!!! PLEASE REFRAIN FROM THROWING ITEMS ON FIELD! ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
BRAVES FANS: CEASE RUNNING ON THE FIELD IMMEDIATELY ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
THOUGH INTERLEAGUE PLAY MAY EXIST, YOU ARE STILL BOUND BY THE SOCIAL CONTRACT. BEHAVE ACCORDINGLY. ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
INTERLEAGUE BASEBALL DOES NOT NECESSARILY HAVE TO MEAN AN ABSOLUTE ABDICATION FROM A SOCIAL SYSTEM WE HAVE CULTIVATED OVER TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS, OKAY? KNOCK IT OFF. ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
STOP MESSING AROUND WITH THE TARP, DON'T ROLL IT OUT PLEASE ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
STAY OUT OF THE MAINTENANCE SHED!!! SERIOUSLY!!! ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
OKAY PLEASE STOP PROPPING UP THE TENT WITH LAWN IMPLEMENTS AND DECLARING THE FOUNDATION OF "TENT CITY" ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
ALL RIGHT, FINE, THE GAME IS CANCELED. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? IT'S CANCELED. WE WENT THROUGH A LOT OF TROUBLE TO BRING YOU THIS GAME, AND TO BE HONEST YOU ARE KIND OF HURTING OUR FEELINGS HERE. ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
KERRY LIGTENBERG, TAKE OFF THAT RIDICULOUS TOP HAT AND DECLARING YOURSELF THE MAYOR OF "TENT CITY", YOU ARE SO NOT THE MAYOR OF "TENT CITY" ALWAYS COCA-COLA *** CAN'T BEAT THE REAL THING ***
Letter drafted by Bud Selig, March 11, 2000:
Fellow baseball fans,
It is my sad duty to announce that Major League Baseball will be forced to shutter its doors indefinitely. Our efforts to introduce interleague play to the game were pure in intent, but I will be the first to admit that the decision was a foolhardy one. In having certain teams occasionally play baseball against certain other teams, we have rent the very fabric of the game.
Perhaps we can return to the game of baseball someday, but as attendance dips below 1,000 per game, and as more and more players desert their teams, the game is no longer a worthwhile enterprise. I wish you all the very best.
Commissioner, Major League Baseball
P.S. Everyone was on steroids. Hahahahaha you guys are so dumb.
III. THE RUINATION
Letter from deputy chair Dmitri Medvedev to Russian President Vladimir Putin, October 22, 2006:
After meeting with our assets in Washington, it is my opinion that a full-scale invasion of the United States would be an ill-advised operation.
It is true that once their game of baseball was discontinued, the nation's culture, and in turn its overall emotional climate, has regressed dramatically. It is also true that President Bush, along with a majority of the American Congress, has publicly requested that we govern them, and polls seem to suggest that Russian forces would encounter little to no resistance.
But as much as it may break our hearts to see our American brothers and sisters fall into ruin, our country simply does not have the resources to govern another. It is my judgment, then, that this is an American problem that requires an American solution.
Your pal Dmitri
Document stored on the computer of entrepreneur Mark Cuban, last saved January 14, 2007:
LIST OF IDEAS FOR A NEW SPORT I COULD INVENT TO REPLACE BASEBALL AND SAVE AMERICA
by Mark Cuban (age 39)
1. You have to throw a ball as far as you can
2. You have to throw a ball for as short a distance as possible
Golfgolf already exists
Recipe posted on foodnetwork.com, July 17, 2009:
Here's a great way to sustain yourself with some level of nutrition, however negligible, without spending too many of your gold doubloons/jugs of water/blankets/whichever form of currency is being circulated within the tyrannical city-state to which you were forcibly relocated. Thanks to our thoughtless ways, baseballs are in abundance, and quite easy to find. Enjoy!
Three baseballs (can often be found in abandoned baseball stadiums or memorabilia shops)
1/2 c. vinegar
3 tbsp. salt
Bring a pot of water to a boil. (Remember to not build too large a fire, lest the Forest People find you.) Slice the baseballs into quarters and throw them into pot. Stir in the vinegar and salt. Allow to boil for two hours, or until the yarn completely unravels and separates from the cork. Preserve cork as a garnish. Plate the yarn and set the hide on top. Serve.
Diary entry of Eric Hosmer, May 2, 2011:
Inventory: five cans of chicken soup, three cans of beans, a can opener, two jugs of water, a map, a compass, a pocketknife.
Found today, adding to inventory: a cigarette lighter, a bar of soap. May be able to sneak back into town after dark and exchange the bar of soap at the commissary, perhaps for a candy bar.
Cabin half-finished. Would like to finish it by October. Not sure whether I can.
P.S. Found a book today. "Men at Work" by George Will. A fine book so far. Baseball seemed like quite a terrific game ... so much to love about it. So many different skills exhibited. It's either an athletic chess match, or an impossibly cerebral game of tag.
I remember being taken to a game as a young child, before interleague play was instituted and the game fell into ruin. I must have been ... six, perhaps? The sky was bright, and the crowd cheered. I wish I could remember more.
Lord, I wish this game were alive today. I think I would have really enjoyed it.
EPILOGUE: WELL YEAH, I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY
Interleague play in baseball has a vocal opponent.
On Tuesday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland blasted it.
The appeal of interleague play, Leyland said, "has worn off for me. It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it has run its course."