Last night the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Metropolitans – Mets for short – in the first game of the World Series. They did it in fourteen innings played over five hours in fifty-five degree weather. The last time a World Series game went that many innings was in 2005 when the White Sox beat the Astros in game three. (The White Sox swept the Series in four games.) That game lasted five hours and forty-one minutes. It hasn’t always been this way. In 1916, the Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins – aka Dodgers – in fourteen innings. That game lasted 2:32.
Modern baseball games take much longer than in earlier days. That’s because hitters have to step out of the batter’s box after every pitch and adjust their batting gloves. Blame Ken “Hawk” Harrelson for this. (Harrelson played forty-one games with the Portland Beavers in 1963.) The story goes that playing thirty-six holes of golf one day resulted in a blister on Harrelson’s hand. In that night’s game, he remembered his golf gloves and wore them to protect his hands when he batted.
I was a baseball fan growing up. I am still, but my interest ebbs and flows for various reasons. In those days we had the National League and the American League, eight teams each. The schedule was 154 games. The winners in the American and National then played each other in the World Series. (“World” being the eastern half of the U.S., but no further south than St. Louis.)
Back then, the Series was played in early October, in the daylight, in often-perfect baseball weather, unfortunately, on school days. Fortunately, there was usually one student who had a transistor radio with an earplug. He would surreptitiously listen to the games during class and by gestures or whispers communicate the game’s progress to the rest of us. “Surreptitious” brings to mind another word: “ludicrous,” as in ludicrous to think the nun in the front of the classroom didn’t know what was going on. Maybe those nuns weren’t as heartlessly strict as we thought.
Night games had been part of major-league ball since 1935. The first World Series game played at night was in 1971. This was a good-bad dilemma. Those of us on the west coast could rush home from work and get in front of the television with the game in the early innings. On the east coast, you might be up past midnight with work or school in the morning. Another factor was weather. With expansion of the leagues and a 162-game schedule and post-season, pre-series playoffs, the World Series goes deeper into October. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn famously showed up in shirtsleeves at one of the first Series night game to reassure us that the weather was quite comfortable.
This year, we’re likely to be into November, past the end of daylight savings time, when we have a World Series winner.
Looking forward, 2016 will again be the year for the San Francisco Giants as they win the World Series in even-numbered years: 2010, 2012 and 2014.