Spring 1997: Chronology of Proposals for Interleague Play

August 1933: William Veeck Sr. of the Cubs suggests interleague play for the period from July 5 through mid-August. Veeck's proposal comes in the midst of a four-year, 40% decline in major league attendance brought on by the Depression. The Dodgers and Indians endorse the plan, with the Cardinals, Pirates, and Phillies favoring serious consideration, but when Veeck dies in October, the proposal dies with him.

1953: In a last-ditch effort to save his St. Louis Browns, Bill Veeck proposes a 32-game interleague schedule, with each club playing four games against each team in the other league. The proposal is doomed: the other AL owners want Veeck out of baseball. The AL also rejects Veeck's proposal to move the Browns to Baltimore, then approves the move as soon as Veeck sells the club.

1954 and 1956: Hank Greenburg of the Indians, a Veeck protégé, renews his suggestion of a 32-game interleague schedule. Since the AL votes it down, interleague play is never formally presented to the NL

1959-60: For the first time, interleague play wins the support of an entire league. Calvin Griffith wants to move the Washington Senators to Minneapolis, but for political reasons, MLB can't afford to abandon Washington. In late 1959 the AL proposes a one-team expansion in each league, with Minneapolis added to the AL, New York returning to the NL, and interleague play between the two nine-team leagues, but the NL says No. In 1960 the NL votes to expand to New York and Houston for 1962. The AL then votes to transfer the Senators to Minnesota, replace them with a new Senators expansion club in Washington, and place a second expansion franchise in Los Angeles for 1961. But when the Dodgers object to the invasion of their territory, they and the AL return to the earlier proposal of nine-team leagues with interleague play. The rest of the NL stand fast, and the Dodgers back down after receiving $550,000 indemnification.

1962: Commissioner Ford Frick proposes a 157-game interleague schedule for 1963, but again the NL blocks the move. Each club would have played 117 games within their own league (13 against each opponent) and 40 interleague games (four against each club in the other league).

1973: The AL endorses interleague play at the same time it adopts the DH. When interleague play is formally proposed at the midsummer league meetings, the AL votes Yes, the NL votes No. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (a supporter) refuses to cast the tie-breaking vote, instead appointing a committee to study the issue. The various proposals had called for between four and 18 interleague games per season.

1975-76: The AL again pressures for interleague play after agreeing to settle an antitrust suit arising out of the Seattle Pilots' move to Milwaukee by placing another team in Seattle. Complicating matters, Toronto interests reach an agreement in principle to buy and move the San Francisco Giants, thereby pre-empting the best available expansion site. The NL refuses to add a 13th team, which would necessarily require interleague play. The stalemate ends with the Giants remaining in San Francisco and the AL adding a 14th team in Toronto. 1983: During TV negotiations, MLB and CBS briefly discuss a special series of interleague games limited to Thursday nights. The schedule would have provided three interleague games per week (roughly six games per club), with Eastern and Western Division clubs playing one another.

1993: In an informal vote, the owners approve the concept of realignment into three divisions and 10-20 interleague games per year.

January 18, 1996: Owners unanimously adopt interleague play for 1997. The Eastern, Central and Western Division clubs will play one another: five three-game series between Eastern and Central Division rivals, four two-game home-and-home series between Western Division clubs. The DH will be used in AL cities.

Copyright © 1997 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Spring 1997 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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