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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why no World Series games this weekend? Fear of football.

The 1947 World Series (WS) started on Tuesday Sept. 30 and ended Monday Oct. 6: seven games on seven consecutive days.  From 1948 through 1968 the WS started on a Wednesday every year except 1951 (Thursday), 1959 (Thursday), 1962 (Thursday).  That meant that except for a four game sweep the WS would end in mid week.  Charley Finley owned the As and moved them from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968.  Finley had many ideas about improving baseball. one of which was to change the WS schedule to allow more people to watch, especially the final games: day games Saturday, Sunday, night games Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, day games Saturday, Sunday.
Charley Finley with orange baseballs
Click this link to view a matrix with dates of games each year.

Finley's basic format was used from 1969, the first year of divisions and a preliminary series, through 1976.  From 1977 through 1984 the WS reverted back to starting in mid week: Tuesday except 1979 (Wednesday).  Then from 1985 through 2006 back to starting on Saturday except 1990 (Tuesday), 1996 (Sunday).  2007 through 2013 the WS started on a Wednesday.

The big change was moving from day to night, which first occurred in game four 1971:

Wednesday, October 13, 1971, Three Rivers Stadium
Attendance: 51,378, Time of Game: 2:48
Pirates 4, Orioles 3


MLB night games started being held in 1935 by the Cincinnati Reds, but the World Series remained a strictly daytime event for years thereafter. In the final game of the 1949 World Series, a Series game was finished under lights for the first time. The first scheduled night World Series game was Game 4 of the 1971 World Series at Three Rivers Stadium.[18] Afterward, World Series games were frequently scheduled at night, when television audiences were larger. Game 6 of the 1987 World Series was the last World Series game played in the daytime,[19] indoors at the Metrodome in Minnesota. (The last World Series played outdoors during the day was the final game of the 1984 series in Detroit's Tiger Stadium.)

Playing Saturday and Sunday WS games at night and now avoiding those days except for games four and five is a complete capitulation by baseball to football.  The 2014 WS schedule:
Tuesday Oct. 21
Wednesday Oct. 22
Thursday: avoid NFL simulcast on both the NFL Network and CBS
Friday Oct. 24
Saturday Oct. 25 college football games all day. nowhere to hide
Sunday Oct. 26 avoid full day schedule of NFL and only compete against one night game
Monday: avoid NFL on ESPN
Tuesday Oct. 28
Wednesday Oct. 29
Thursday: avoid NFL simulcast on both the NFL Network and CBS

Baseball cannot avoid football completely, especially with college games on TV almost every night, but starting and finishing in mid week means confronting the full NFL schedule only once, not twice.  That way a WS game seven on a Sunday night cannot lose the TV ratings battle to a mid season NFL game.

Postseason Vanishing From Broadcast Networks
OCT. 17, 2014 by By RICHARD SANDOMIR The New York Times

Prime-time viewing has eroded on broadcast television for virtually everything but the N.F.L...

the aging of baseball’s audience and the crawling pace of the game, have not been kind to the sport.

But in the 1970s and ’80s, viewership was regularly stunning, reflecting the size of broadcast audiences. The 1980 World Series averaged 42.3 million viewers.

Two years later, when the Cardinals played the Milwaukee Brewers in a seven-game series, one game drew 48.9 million viewers and another 49.9 million. In 1985, Game 7 of the Royals-Cardinals series had an audience of 45 million...

And there was still something special about watching the World Series. The glut of local and national games was years away. There were no interleague games or wild-card playoffs...

... the money that Major League Baseball can amass from selling rights to multiple cable networks trumps the convenience of remote-armed fans — or even their ability to have access to some channels ...

Cable networks, with revenue streams from advertisers and subscribers, can satisfy themselves with smaller audiences than broadcasters. They covet postseason games, and M.L.B. knows that it would not get the billions of dollars it has received if cable networks were given nothing but regular-season games.

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