Bud Selig wants a throwback game in the World Series — one in daylight.
The sun hasn’t shone on baseball’s biggest stage since 1984, when Detroit beat the San Diego Padres in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium to win the World Series. There was a single day game three years later, but it was played indoors at Minnesota’s Metrodome.
Ever since, the game’s signature matchup has been played under the lights, with some flickers of twilight helping illuminate the first inning of West Coast games.
Baseball’s commissioner acknowledged he might not get the change he’s hoping for.
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“I want a day game in the World Series,” Selig said in a telephone interview this week with The Associated Press. “It’s been a favorite subject of mine over the years because I grew up watching the World Series during the afternoon in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
“But our objective is the have as many viewers as possible.”
The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies will open the Series at 7:57 p.m. EDT today – about 30 minutes earlier than usual – and will end each game when most children, at least those living on the East Coast, are sleeping.
Rather than catering to kids, Major League Baseball and Fox are shooting for the highest ratings they can get to help sell the commercials that pay the bills.
“World Series games, for more than 20 years, have been played at a time when the greatest number of fans can watch from coast to coast,” Fox Sports president Ed Goren said in a statement. “This year, we worked with MLB to move postseason start times 30 to 40 minutes earlier, and we would be very willing to consider televising World Series games played during the day if the fee to acquire those rights reflected the smaller audiences that day games would naturally produce.”
When Goren’s comments were relayed, Selig wouldn’t close the door on lowering rights.
“I am sensitive to the issue because I love baseball games during the day,” he said. “I’m willing to continue to discuss it with Fox.
“We’re starting earlier this year – 7:57 – and that’s quite early if you’re not in the East. The fact is, though, the networks have a lot of commitments on the weekends with football and day games ratings are never as good as they are at night when more people can watch TV.”
Both parties got more incentive to keep the games at night when the Yankees played the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Championship Series. The five prime-time games had an average rating of 6.9 while the one day game drew a 4.8 – a 44 percent decrease – according to Fox.
The previous World Series, though, seemed to give MLB and Fox a reason to pause and evaluate how late to make the first pitch this year.
Philadelphia and Tampa Bay – with scheduled starts from 8:29 to 8:35 p.m. (ET) and three-plus-hour games — drew a Series record-low 8.4 rating that was 17 percent less than the 10.1 average Detroit and St. Louis had three years ago.
Game 1 this year will have the earliest first pitch since Game 6 between Florida and Yankees in 2003, which began at the same time, and the earliest first start for a regularly scheduled weekday matchup since 1971, when Baltimore and Pittsburgh played Game 5 during the day.
Coincidentally, the 1971 Series also featured the first night game.
“(Former Oakland A’s owner) Charlie Finley made the suggestion to play the games at night,” famed broadcaster Ernie Harwell told the AP last month. “Then, TV took over and decided when the games would be played – at night.”
Sparky Anderson, the Tigers’ manager when they won the World Series in 1984, said it’s a shame the Series is played so late.
“It’s all about money,” Anderson said. “Period.”
Alan Trammell, the World Series MVP for the Tigers in 1984, fondly recalls watching baseball’s best in the late 1960s during the day as a kid.
“I started getting the gleam in my eye; the dream started,” Trammell said. “I was fortunate that my teachers were sports fans. They used to bring a TV in the back of the room and I used to be the one who could go back and get updates on the games to give the class a report.
“Day baseball is a thing of the past. I wish they would bring it back.”