It seems surprising now, but until relatively recently the AL and NL had different sets of umpires, often trained by different people and using different equipment. It wasn’t until 2000 that the two leagues unified the umpiring crews.
That said, it’s not like people hadn’t thought about it before. Just look at this headline from a 1949 issue of Baseball Digest:
Occasionally, you hear about how watered down the Majors are compared to what they’d be if there were fewer teams. There is some truth to that, but it ignores the fact that A) the fact that so many cities can now see Major League Baseball is good not only for baseball, but America and B) the so-called “Golden Age” that those writers so often harken back to was the 40s and 50s- when there were far fewer sources of foreign talent and where several teams still hadn’t desegregated.
Of course, this is in no way new, as you’ll see in a April 1968 Baseball Digest excerpt after the jump:
From the December 1957 edition of Baseball Digest comes this story:
Although, to be fair to Daley, he mentioned in the article that that statement was only true if there wasn’t expansion:
“Only in such an eventuality- at least, that’s the firm conviction here- can the National League re-establish itself in New York.”
However, he makes some other rather hilarious-in-hindsight ideas: the minor leagues would be doomed because every city with a halfway decent stadium would want a team, that Commissioner Ford Frick should become a “dictator, undemocratic and un-American though it be” to put a stop to all the team-moving madness, and that the move of the “over-the-hill” Dodgers to Los Angeles wouldn’t get them back their “lost youthfulness.” Considering that the Dodgers would win three World Series titles and four NL pennants in the ten years after they went to Los Angeles, I’d say Daley didn’t expect such things as “Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale becoming one of the best 1-2 pitching combo in baseball history” and the arrival of guys like Maury Wills and Willie Davis.
By the way, if you don’t already know, National League baseball returned to the five boroughs in 1962, although I’m sure some would argue that the Mets played more like they were in the International League until 1969.
From Baseball Digest in October, 1957:
The record he speaks of is his 60 HR in 1927. Among the reasons that the record won’t be broken are the fact that Ruth didn’t have to deal with the media pressure as he headed down the stretch that anyone going for 60+ has to, the fact there are fewer off days, the fact that there are now day and night games that could mess with a player’s rest schedule, and that most of the parks aren’t as easy to hit home runs out of as Yankee Stadium had been during Ruth’s day.
He implies that Ted Williams could if he wanted to, but that he doesn’t focus on home runs, instead focusing on being an all-around hitter.
Interestingly, Duke Snider and his ghostwriter Milton Richman also predict that if anybody did they’d be headed to Cooperstown for sure.
Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame…. but he did hit 61 HRs in 1961.
From Baseball Digest in January 1954:
Interleague in 1955? Well, apparently it was considered. Nate Dolin, the Cleveland Indians director of operations and AL schedule representative, wanted it to happen. He even got Walter O’Malley to agree with him. He proposed that the season would look like this:
- 158 game schedule (instead of 154)
- The 22 games-between-each-team-in-their-league balanced schedule would be cut to 18 games between each team in their league.
- Each club would have two two-game series with each team of the opposing league.
Of course, it never happened. But it’s interesting to note that, starting next year, interleague won’t only just exist but will be expanded: there will be at least one interleague game every day, since both leagues will have 15 teams.
But it could have happened… even earlier!
From the November 1949 issue of Baseball Digest:
Actually, it ended up being the Yankees vs. Phillies. They were close though: both the Tigers and Dodgers finished second in their leagues!
In the past week (the first in the Continuum’s history), I’ve brought predictions of yesteryear about how Kiko Garcia was going to be the Orioles’ shortstop of the ’80s and how bizarre the 2044 baseball season would be. So, to balance out the books a bit, here’s a article from the July 1945 issue of Baseball Digest:
Yes, friends, not only did Fred Russell of the Nashville Banner think that one day baseball defeat the “weather angle”, he thought that it would be possible to do it with a retractable roof. While Russell’s “apparatus” (as you can read about if you head to the Google Books link) is one of canvas (similar to how the Roman Colosseum had canvas to shade some of it’s seats centuries ago), he is more or less correct in his prediction that ball stadiums would be built to hold games despite the weather. However, he was wrong in how long it would take: it wouldn’t be until 1989 that a baseball team played in a stadium with a fully functional retractable roof (Toronto), although the Expos’ tried in Olympic Stadium (the “retractable” part of it never worked).
Google Books has lots of old Baseball Digest issues available. It is interesting to see how previous generations thought. And, so often, it is fun to see how wrong they were. Take this headline from March, 1980.
Kiko Garcia had an okay career and was able to stick around baseball for parts of 10 seasons, but ultimately he ended his career with a middling .239 BA, .286 OBP and .323 SLG. He had a total of 12 career home runs.
Funnily enough, at the time this was published in Baseball Digest, there was a third baseman in Orioles camp who, just the year before had hit a respectable .286 between Miami and Charlotte. He was headed towards a breakout 1980 season, where he’d hit .276/.367/.492 and hit 25 home runs. The year after that, he was in Rochester. And the year after that, he was Rookie of the Year in Baltimore… as a shortstop. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He was Cal Ripken Jr.
Kiko Garcia, by the way, was sent to Houston in 1981 and never played in more than 100 games again.