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.