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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Atlantic: Requiem for Baseball’s Memorial-Day Doubleheader

To be blunt, holidays are no longer big deals at the ball park. Perhaps the same might be generally said of the shift of Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, a triumph of convenience over commemoration.

The death knell of the Memorial Day doubleheader was first sounded, perhaps, by the expansion of major-league baseball beyond the northeast quadrant which bounded it until Boston’s Braves left for Milwaukee in 1953. Before then, half of the National League’s teams were located between Boston and Philadelphia. We could label it somewhat anachronistically as an Acela Circuit, as we could for all of Major League Baseball at that time, with the American League’s Washington Senators at the end of the line and “quiet cars” in the increasingly deserted stands at Braves Field, the Polo Grounds, or Shibe Park. It was then not uncommon for a team to make a one-day trip to a nearby city for a doubleheader to fill out the schedule in an era when each team played the others 22 times a season before moving on to a new city or returning home.

But more than that, expansion across the country and especially to the Pacific coast, simply cut the heart out of what Memorial Day meant in terms of the baseball season and its connection to the everyday life of its fans. In Boston or New York or Philadelphia, or in Detroit or Cleveland or Chicago for that matter, Memorial Day meant the imminent coming of summer and of a season where life could and would be lived outdoors, whether at home, “in the country”—or at the ballpark. It lacks any similar significance in Los Angeles or San Diego or San Francisco.

bobm Posted: May 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: doubleheaders, memorial day

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4141230)
It's not just Memorial Day doubleheaders that are extinct, it's all doubleheaders other than a scattering of day-night separate admissions.

In the first part of the 20th century, doubleheaders were traditionally scheduled only on three days: Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. But that was deceptive, since owners routinely called off midweek games after three drops of rain in order to schedule far more lucrative doubleheaders, which usually drew more than two single games ever would have.

One random example: The 1933 St. Louis Browns had only one scheduled home doubleheader (July 4th), but by the time all the makeups were factored in, they'd played 14, which meant that 37% of their entire home schedule was made up of doubleheaders. And this was fairly typical of that era.

During WWII, travel restrictions forced teams to tighten their schedules, and Sunday doubleheaders became the norm for nearly every team. In 1943, from the beginning of May to the end of August there were only two Sunday single games scheduled by the American League---both involving Boston at New York.

After WWII it wasn't quite that extreme, but doubleheaders still made up the bulk of Sunday games until the early 60's, and as late as 1962 most teams were still playing 15 to 20 doubleheaders a year. What killed them off was that when the Giants and Dodgers moved west, Horace Stoneham adopted O'Malley's no-doubleheader practice (which he'd begun in Brooklyn), and eventually every other team followed suit. Of course increasing attendance and longer game times also played major parts in ensuring that the doubleheader would never be coming back. Kind of a pity if you ask me, but with today's overhead there's no way that any sane owner is ever going to give up all that revenue just to give fans a bargain.
   2. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: May 27, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4141265)
Can you imagine a Red Sox-Yankees double header? 12 hours at the park? Forget it.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 03:50 PM (#4141285)
Can you imagine a Red Sox-Yankees double header? 12 hours at the park? Forget it.

Aw, don't be modest. You might've actually been there for 27 hours and 14 minutes, but you still would've loved it.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4141299)
Expansion didn't kill the doubleheader, as noted in #1, since holiday and Sunday doubleheaders were common in the 1960s. However, when they were no longer more profitable than a single Sunday/holiday game and a mid-week game, they disappeared pretty quickly. The emergence of the "separate admission" day/night make-up doubleheader is pretty conclusive evidence that the economic justification for doubleheaders is long gone. Tis a pity, although you had to be a die-hard, or a kid, to really enjoy that much time at the ballpark.
   5. Flynn Posted: May 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4141335)
Don't the Mets still do single-admission doubleheaders?

They did one for the Giants this year, and I believe they did one or two last year. They're a good example of a team for which a single-admission doubleheader makes sense, as the lure of two for one might be a good draw - though their doubleheader crowds weren't any better than their regular crowds.
   6. JE (Jason) Posted: May 27, 2012 at 04:34 PM (#4141338)
It's not just Memorial Day doubleheaders that are extinct, it's all doubleheaders other than a scattering of day-night separate admissions.

Actually, Andy, there has been at least one single-admission doubleheader played this season and another is slated to take place in August.
   7. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4141370)
Actually, Andy, there has been at least one single-admission doubleheader played this season and another is slated to take place in August.

Yeah, but those are makeup games that couldn't be re-scheduled in any other way. When was the last single-admission doubleheader that was scheduled before the season began?

Of course here's a real double-header---the first and only menage a trois you'll ever see, naturally played in the same park in the same year that Bill Veeck trotted out a midget.

But then doubleheaders are for sissies. Here's what real men played. Note that BB-Reference got so confused that it listed two "second games".
   8. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: May 27, 2012 at 05:33 PM (#4141379)
The Athletics scheduled a single-admission doubleheader for last summer. As the article linked below notes, to their credit they did it in July against the Angels (rather than early or late in the season against a predictably bad team). The attendance was 27,379. That sounds like a good draw for the A's, but in their 14 other Saturday games at home they averaged 22,817. So that's a gain of about 4,500 tickets. Considering that every year about 10 teams are close to capacity for every game, what the A's gained suggests it probably isn't worthwhile for the other 20 teams.

News Article: http://www.examiner.com/article/a-s-work-out-details-to-make-doubleheader-a-reality

Game 1 Box Score: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK201107161.shtml

Game 2 Box Score: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK201107162.shtml
   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 06:28 PM (#4141392)
The Athletics scheduled a single-admission doubleheader for last summer. As the article linked below notes, to their credit they did it in July against the Angels (rather than early or late in the season against a predictably bad team). The attendance was 27,379. That sounds like a good draw for the A's, but in their 14 other Saturday games at home they averaged 22,817. So that's a gain of about 4,500 tickets. Considering that every year about 10 teams are close to capacity for every game, what the A's gained suggests it probably isn't worthwhile for the other 20 teams.

By contrast, when the Browns had those 14 home doubleheaders back in 1933, their total attendance for the entire year was 88,113, and nearly half of that came from 5 dates, 4 of which were against the Yankees.

That means that the Browns averaged about 772 fans for the remaining 57 home dates on their schedule. So you might say they weren't exactly straining the park capacity, and it wouldn't surprise me if some of those "rain-caused" doubleheader were simply forced in to cut down on the overhead.

Not that the Cardinals were exactly packing them in, either. Their 1934 World Champion Gas House Gang** was one of the most exciting and colorful teams in history, and yet their 325,000 attendance that year remains an all-time record low for any World Series winner going all the way back to 1903.

**a name not technically given to them until 1935, but whatever
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 27, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4141396)
Not that the Cardinals were exactly packing them in, either. Their 1934 World Champion Gas House Gang** was one of the most exciting and colorful teams in history, and yet their 325,000 attendance that year remains an all-time record low for any World Series winner going all the way back to 1903.

Well, it was during the Depression. Which brings to mind how little MLB, and other professional sports, has been affected by the recent economic difficulties.
   11. Bhaakon Posted: May 27, 2012 at 09:00 PM (#4141445)
Well, it was during the Depression. Which brings to mind how little MLB, and other professional sports, has been affected by the recent economic difficulties.


As a well underemployed person, I don't want to undersell how much the current situation sucks, but I'm not sure that it really compares to the Great Depression in terms of completely destroying lives.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 09:12 PM (#4141446)
As a well underemployed person, I don't want to undersell how much the current situation sucks, but I'm not sure that it really compares to the Great Depression in terms of completely destroying lives.

Not at all comparable. In August of 1932 the unemployment rate hit 25%, and the social safety net was virtually nonexistent. By contrast, our current rate peaked in October of 2010 at 10.0%, and it's now 8.1%. They may not be measuring unemployment exactly as they were in 1932, but that's still a huge gap.
   13. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: May 27, 2012 at 09:45 PM (#4141458)
I wrote a three part history of the doubleheader for THT a ways ago.

Based on that, some points in response to the comments in this thread:

- The Sunday doubleheader became a big thing due to the Great Depression. It became bigger in WWII (doubleheader on the whole peaked then) but it big a regular thing in response to the economics of teh Depression.

- During WWII, it wasn't just Sunday doubleheaders that became the norm, doublehaders in general reached their all-time zenith. The 1945 NL had damn near half of all the league's game occur in doubleheaders.

- Doubleahders were fairly well established by 1900. In the early years, you only saw them on holidays. Then you saw them on holidays in late in the year, as apparent make ups for rainouts. Then they became more spread out across the season. There were never that many in April, and there were always more in Aug./Sept., but there was more in mid-summer than there had been in the earlier days. This was pretty much all done by the turn of the century. As early as 1904, an entire league (the NL) had 30% of all its games come in doubleheaders.

- Relocation did help kill doubleheaders, which began their decline in the mid/late 1950s. Expansion further hurt it. Neither relocated teams nor expansions felt as much need to have doubleheaders to fill up the ballpark.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 27, 2012 at 10:42 PM (#4141489)
Chris,

Interesting series and nice to get all those figures together, but you really need to emphasize more that nearly all of those pre-WWII doubleheaders involved makeup games. Look at the yearly schedules in the baseball guides, and you'll see almost no doubleheaders listed outside the three big holidays. Just to take one of many examples, the 1939 Spalding guide shows only two Braves non-holiday doubleheaders scheduled for that year, and yet they wound up playing ten of them. And then there was the 1933 Browns, which as I noted above scheduled only one, but played 14. What'd really be interesting, if nearly impossible to find out, would be to see just how many of those rainouts involved much more than a few sprinkles. We certainly know that they seldom if ever would play after two or more hour rain delays as they do today**, when they'll start and / or finish a game even with only 10% of the ticketholders in their seats.

**Though there was one notable exception when the Pirates and the Senators played the final game of the 1925 World Series in a rainstorm that combined with no lights to make the playing conditions a farce. The Times described the Pirates as "sopping wet and bespattered with mud....It was on such a dark, gruesome day as this that the stony-hearted banker foreclosed the mortgage and thrust tottering old Uncle Joshua out on a cruel world". (I had to quote that----you don't see sportswriting like that any more.)
   15. Tricky Dick Posted: May 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM (#4141526)
For what it's worth, the Astros and Rockies are playing a day/night doubleheader in Colorado on Memorial Day (Monday).
   16. bobm Posted: May 28, 2012 at 12:34 AM (#4141529)
[13] A quick Google search for doubleheaders turned up your articles. I enjoyed reading your history of the doubleheader.

I also found two other IMO worthwhile links:

1. "Holiday Doubleheaders" by Charlie Bevis in THE BASEBALL RESEARCH JOURNAL #33

Among the interesting notes, he writes:
Up until 1888, holiday scheduling could be relatively simple, as each team could be allocated one holiday date, there being eight teams in each of the National League and American Association to divvy up the eight home dates for Decoration Day and Fourth of July (holidays which interestingly always fell on the same day of the week). Labor Day changed all that.

Several states began to officially celebrate Labor Day in 1888, notably New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, before it became a national holiday in 1894. In 1888, two teams rearranged their schedules, not an uncommon occurrence in those days, to play a twin bill on the new state holiday in September—Boston in the National League and Brooklyn in the American Association. In 1889, the leagues began to recognize the Labor Day holiday in their preseason schedules, as well as grapple with the consequences of dividing up 12 holiday dates among eight teams.


2. An 2011 econometric analysis of doubleheaders and attendance data using retrosheet and the Lahman database called Were Major League Baseball Doubleheaders A Mistake? by Stephen K. Layson and M. Taylor Rhodes has some interesting data (even if it does not always apply the context and examine issues of causality.)

Abstract
This paper uses daily Major League Baseball (MLB) data from 1938 to 2009 as well annual MLB data from 1920 to 2009 to estimate the effects of doubleheaders on attendance. The annual data over various sub-samples from 1920-2009 indicate that the number of doubleheaders have either a negative or an insignificant effect on annual attendance. The daily data from 1938-2009 show that doubleheaders have a very positive effect on attendance on the day of the doubleheaders but that this is substantially offset by reduced attendance at single games 3 days surrounding doubleheaders. ...

In the period between 1938 and 1956 when the structure of MLB was relatively stable and doubleheaders were common, we estimate attendance on the day of a doubleheader increases by 48% relative to single games. This positive direct effect of doubleheaders on game day attendance, however, is substantially but not completely offset by lower attendance at single games 3 games before and 3 games after the doubleheaders as fans rationally substitute doubleheaders for single games. After 1956 when the structure of MLB underwent many changes and the use of doubleheaders declined, we find the direct effect of doubleheaders on attendance is still positive and significant, but smaller than in the 1938-1956 period. Also, in the post-1956 periods we find the total effect of doubleheaders are negative but not significantly different from zero. ...

As shown in Figure 5, the average attendance for single-priced doubleheaders exceeded that of single games until the late 1980s; thereafter, the comparison becomes noisy due to the relatively small number of doubleheaders played from 1990 to 2009.

   17. JE (Jason) Posted: May 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4141620)
The Dodgers were the other team, and were the only ones who didn't notably increase their doubleheaders. They averaged slightly under 30 doubleheaders per year during the war, with a peak at 32 in 1945. In the previous 11 years (which included a franchise-best 37 doubleheaders in 1933), they played in 28 per year.

I don't know exactly why the Dodgers didn't play in more doubleheaders, but it was part of a larger trend for them. In the previous 30 years, they'd been in the fewest doubleheaders in the NL only once, but from 1942-onward they became the league's leading twin bill opponent. They were low team in the league nine times in 10 years from 1942-51. From this point onward, they replaced the Cubs as the NL's least doubleheader-friendly squad.

It's a shame the Dodgers (or any other NL team) didn't have just one more doubleheader in 1945, though. Had there been just one more doubleheader, a majority of NL games that year would've come in twin bills.


Good stuff, Chris! Regarding the Dodgers, Branch Rickey was certainly known for eeking out profit through any and all possible means, unless it involved beer adverts. Might this have been the cuase? What was the doubleheader frequency for the other teams he ran?
   18. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: May 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4141625)
You might've actually been there for 27 hours and 14 minutes, but you still would've loved it.

I once went to a doubleheader armed with two meals: two chicken breasts, and a container of Chinese food. The games ended up lasting around ten hours, and I left the stadium hungry. (And I only weighed about 120.) Although Kevin Bass' goofy headshot appearing giant-size on the video screen about a dozen times should have spoiled my appetite. I can still see that Groucho Marx mustache with those Michelle Bachmann eyes.

I also had the good luck to attend the longest rain delay in American League history, although I gave up after about four hours and missed more than half of it. If only I'd had the foresight to bring some pork fried rice.
   19. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 28, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4141641)
Regarding the Dodgers, Branch Rickey was certainly known for eeking out profit through any and all possible means, unless it involved beer adverts. Might this have been the cuase?

That was exactly the reason the Dodgers didn't play many doubleheaders----O'Malley, who was cut from the same cloth, simply continued Rickey's practice.

What was the doubleheader frequency for the other teams he ran?

The Cardinals played plenty of them while Rickey was there, but that was when the Cardinals weren't drawing much at all, and by the time they were beginning to draw, Rickey had left for Brooklyn. In 1952 the Pirates scheduled 8 doubleheaders under Rickey, but none of them were against the top 2 teams in the league, Brooklyn and New York. It's hard to imagine that that wasn't a coincidence.

OTOH O'Malley somewhat relented in his last years in Brooklyn, when attendance was way under what it'd been under Rickey in the late 40's. By his last year in Brooklyn he scheduled 8 doubleheaders, whereas in 1950, when the team was still hoping for a continuation of its post-war attendance, the only Dodgers' doubleheader was on Memorial Day.
   20. TerpNats Posted: May 28, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4141655)
Can someone do a study of starting game times? Not just day vs. night, but when afternoon games began. I know many teams early in the 20th century began weekday games at 3 or 3:30 in order to draw the business crowd; when did that begin to change to 1:30 or 2? (In a similar vein, night games in the '40s often started at 8 or even 8:30, then it moved up to 7:30 and eventually 7. One would think more twilight games would lessen offense, whether it be in 1912 or 2012.
   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4141705)
From a Yankees' 1949 program:

Single games: Weekdays 2:30, Saturdays 2:00, Sundays 2:05
Doubleheader: Weekdays and Saturdays 1:30, Sundays 2:05 (probably a city law)
Night games: 8;30

By 1955 all single games began at 2:00 and all night games began at 8:15. Doubleheaders remained the same as 1949, except that on Sundays they moved up 5 minutes to 2:00.

In 1960, night games were now 8:00, but day games and doubleheaders were the same as 1955.

As a more general rule, there were night games during WW II that began as late as 9:00, but 8:30 was pretty standard until the mid-50's, when most teams switched to 8:00. 7:30 starting times began in the early 70's and IIRC 7:00 became standard only in the last 20 years or so, with some teams even going for the occasional 6:00 night game. Not sure about day games, but I don't think that the Yankees were particularly atypical, though in some cities like Baltimore I do know that by city law no Sunday game could begin before 2:00. That law kept many Colts' home games from being on national TV as the first part of a Sunday TV doubleheader.

EDIT: I should have added that before the demise of the twi-night doubleheader, the starting time for those gradually went from 6:30 in the 40's/early 60's, to 6:00 in the mid to late 60's, to 5:30 sometime in the late 70's. Those Yankees' programs I cited didn't list those times, which leads me to believe that they were mostly make-up events.

Oh, and the Nats' opening day in 1956 began at 1:30. I'm pretty sure that this was standard for their entire season, with night games at 8:00.
   22. TerpNats Posted: May 28, 2012 at 03:45 PM (#4141731)
Yankees home night games had 8 p.m. starts through 1985; I think they were the last team in the majors to start games that late.
   23. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 28, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4141743)
Is this where I complain about MLB not giving Toronto home series for all three holidays that are different than the American holidays?

First Monday in August (no game at all, and no home game since 2008), July 1 (this year at home, thankfully), Victoria Day (May 21st this year...on the road)

Never mind the fact that Toronto hasn't had a double-header since the dome opened. :(
   24. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 28, 2012 at 11:36 PM (#4141943)
Is this where I complain about MLB not giving Toronto home series for all three holidays that are different than the American holidays?

Well, the Yankees aren't playing at home on any of the American holidays this year. Neither seems quite fair, although it's possible both teams received other scheduling accommodations they valued higher.
   25. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: May 29, 2012 at 12:30 AM (#4141954)
Good stuff, Chris! Regarding the Dodgers, Branch Rickey was certainly known for eeking out profit through any and all possible means, unless it involved beer adverts. Might this have been the cuase? What was the doubleheader frequency for the other teams he ran?

Makes sense. Rickey showed up in Brooklyn in 1943.
   26. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 29, 2012 at 07:53 AM (#4141996)
Yankees home night games had 8 p.m. starts through 1985; I think they were the last team in the majors to start games that late.

That's almost certainly the case. I know that Baltimore switched either in the late 60's or very early 70's, which was a blessing for Washingtonians who had to drive back home after the game.

One thing I should have noted is that if you were a fan of any East Coast team tuning a Tigers home game in on the radio, all the way up to 1972 their games didn't begin until 9:00. That was because Michigan didn't switch to Daylight Savings Time until that year, having exempted itself from the 1967 federal law before that. With that exemption, Michigan was effectively in the Central Time Zone throughout the DST "season". When I was in grade school in the 50's, I could never figure out why Detroit started its games an hour later than all the other teams.
   27. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 29, 2012 at 09:52 AM (#4142034)
That was because Michigan didn't switch to Daylight Savings Time until that year, having exempted itself from the 1967 federal law before that. With that exemption, Michigan was effectively in the Central Time Zone throughout the DST "season".


Central Indiana was that way until a few years ago, but we don't have MLB so you might not have noticed. In fact, until the central portion of the state observed DST, we had three distinct time zones: Eastern Daylight in the Southeast, Eastern Standard in the majority and Central Daylight in the North and Southwest corners. Then Mitch, the spoilsport, up and kilt it.

   28. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 29, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4142049)
Central Indiana was that way until a few years ago, but we don't have MLB so you might not have noticed.

I used to be reminded of that every year back in the late 80's - early 90's, when I'd be book scouting in Elkhart in the early Autumn. IIRC the correct time depended on what side of town you happened to be on, and if you were coming from Ohio and headed towards Chicago, you really had to pay attention.
   29. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 29, 2012 at 10:55 AM (#4142066)
I'm still mad at myself for not predicting publically that Aaron Sorkin was going to use the Indiana non-DST quirk as a West Wing plot point before it actually happened.
   30. FrankM Posted: May 29, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4142093)
Never mind the fact that Toronto hasn't had a double-header since the dome opened. :(

Actually they did play one the first year of the Skydome, on July 17, 1989. The place opened in June of 1989 and they had to make up an earlier rainout from Exhibition Stadium.
   31. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: May 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4142190)
Not that the Cardinals were exactly packing them in, either. Their 1934 World Champion Gas House Gang** was one of the most exciting and colorful teams in history, and yet their 325,000 attendance that year remains an all-time record low for any World Series winner going all the way back to 1903.

Well, it was during the Depression. Which brings to mind how little MLB, and other professional sports, has been affected by the recent economic difficulties.


I wonder how the '34 Cardinals rank on a comparative basis. The Cardinals less than half of the Cubs and Giants among a group of 4 teams in the 3-4 00,000 range with two teams around 200,000. Would there be a similar World Series team?
   32. bobm Posted: May 29, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4142207)
[28] The non-DST observance really complicated summer business trips to Indiana when flying into and out of Cincinnati, esp the way home.
   33. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 29, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4142288)
I'm still mad at myself for not predicting publically that Aaron Sorkin was going to use the Indiana non-DST quirk as a West Wing plot point before it actually happened.


Yes, the characters discovered the lost beauty that was fast time (Cincy-area counties) and slow time (ones that followed Indy).

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