Baseball is a sport of tradition and for the Red Sox and MLB one tradition has long since been relegated to the dust bin of baseball history – The July 4th doubleheader. Victim of greed by owners and players the game has long since passed by a two for the price of one for fan appreciation.
The first baseball doubleheader recorded was played in 1873 in the National Association and it didn’t really catch on, but when it did they proliferated and became an integral part of the baseball landscape.
The doubleheader was a success for one significant reason – money. In some leagues 20% of the schedule were doubleheaders and it was not uncommon to try to place the worst teams on your doubleheader schedule as an enticement to build up attendance.
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Remarkable events have taken place in baseball on that historic date as have many franchise attendance records. In the early years baseball was a time of white shirts and straw hats for the men and a more formal summer dress for the women with an accompanying stylish hat when the Fourth of July rolled around. The doubleheader on the 4th was one where it was customary to dress with both style and some degree of comfort.
The early years often saw the doubleheader on the 4th featuring a morning game and an early afternoon game. This was an age when the time for both games often matched what the time is for one game today. Baseball tradition on the fourth was similar to football on Thanksgiving morning as baseball was the catalyst for the beginning of a spectacular day of parades, picnics and capped off by fireworks.
In later years, this migrated into an early afternoon and late afternoon twin bill and then into a Twi-night doubleheader. Now it is very rare indeed when a single admission twin-bill is scheduled.
Doubleheaders have had their own rare history such as a home and home doubleheader – the last was played with the Yankees against the Mets and was the result of a rain out. There has even been doubleheaders where a team played two different teams – the result of scheduling over rain outs.
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. – Lou Gehrig”
The doubleheader was a prime driver in the schedule and was one of the first items of interest to the baseball fan when a schedule was released. You knew that Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day were where Ernie Banks would say “Let’s play two.”
The double serve has been replaced by the single serve, but that does not stop the flow of interesting baseball events on July 4th. I have seen two – one that is a Red Sox positive and one a Red Sox negative – one in person and one on TV.
The positive was an old-fashioned Fenway power display in 1977. The Red Sox hammered out eight home runs against the Blue Jays and that included a record seven solo shots in a 9-6 win. This was the Jays first season and a rude welcoming to Fenway Park.
Dave Righetti was a power pitching left-hander who was Rookie of The Year and twice Fireman of The Year working out of the bullpen. On July 4th of 1983 came a memorable moment with a no-hitter against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox have had a few other memorable moments and one took place in 1913 with a record. I was not at this game, but Smoky Joe Wood, a great hitter, slammed two doubles in the fourth inning – a MLB record for a pitcher.
In 1905 Cy Young of Boston and Rube Waddell of Philadelphia pitched a 20 inning contest in which Philadelphia is victorious, 4-2, as Young walks no batters. The A’s also captured the morning contest for a sweep.
In the Red Sox championship year of 1918 they play two games in which the second game goes 11 innings in a 2-1 Red Sox loss. Seven games go extra innings and 11 games are one run affairs during a full schedule of MLB doubleheaders. Two records that last for over 80 years.
In 1948 Ted Williams faces three pitchers in a single inning as the Red Sox score 14 runs in the seventh against the A’s.
In baseball this July 4th it will be single contests and, just maybe, baseball will decide to recognize history with something besides throw-back uniforms and schedule some doubleheaders.
Sources: Today In Baseball, “Game of Inches” (Peter Morris), Retrosheet.
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