The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


May 18, 2007

Rivalies add to interleague play

In 1997, when American and National League teams began squaring off during the regular season, the notion of interleague play was met with skepticism by baseball purists everywhere.

Surely, the integrity and unique nature of the World Series would be compromised if AL and NL teams played during the regular season.

As interleague play enters its 11th season, baseball purists are squirming again.

But interleague play is successful at the box office. And it’s here to stay.

Attendance figures continue to climb each year during interleague games, and commissioner Bud Selig is not about to change course.

Several years ago, I attended an interleague game in Kansas City when the Royals hosted the Cardinals. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to see an interleague game or a rematch of the 1985 World Series. I wanted to see Mark McGwire, who didn’t even play that night but put on a big-time batting practice display. Still, it was fun watching the Cardinals play in such an unusual setting.

Geographic neighbors like Kansas City and St. Louis are natural rivals. Same goes for Yankees vs. Mets, Athletics vs. Giants and White Sox vs. Cubs. Those matchups usually turn out big, big crowds.

The problem is with unnatural rivals. In June, the Seattle Mariners play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a mid-week series. Really, who cares about this series?

But for the most part, MLB gets it right with matchups like Florida vs. Tampa Bay, Cincinnati vs. Cleveland, Baltimore vs. Washington and Texas vs. Houston.

I’m always intrigued by the Yankees and Mets series. There is an energy about that series that turns the games into three-hour mini-dramas.

I’m also looking to mid-June when Barry Bonds and the Giants travel to Boston. By then, Bonds could be close to breaking the home run record, making history in an interleague game in historic Fenway Park.

Rountree is the News & Eagle sports editor

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