Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball Crossing Lines in '97 Interleague Play Is `Fan-Driven Decision'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball Crossing Lines in '97 Interleague Play Is `Fan-Driven Decision'

Article excerpt

Ripken vs. Maddux. Griffey vs. Nomo. Bonds vs. Johnson.

Coming in 1997 to a ballpark near you.

Baseball owners broke with more than a century of tradition on Thursday, unanimously approving the start of interleague play.

Each team will play 15 or 16 interleague games in 1997, the first that count in the records other than the All-Star Game and World Series.

"We have the greatest tradition in the world, but tradition shouldn't be an albatross," acting Commissioner Bud Selig said. "This will be a tremendous success. There isn't a doubt in my mind."

Owners aren't worried the two eventual World Series teams may play each other during the regular season.

"There's nothing in the Constitution of the United States that forbids that," Selig said. "I remember sitting at the Super Bowl last year and watching San Francisco play San Diego, and somebody said they played last November. There was no less interest."

In 1997, each team in the American League East will play a three-game series against each team in the National League East and every AL Central team will play a three-game series against every NL Central team. AL West teams will play four games against NL West teams, but they might be split into a two-game series in each city.

Cardinals President Mark Lamping represented the club at the owners meeting. "The upside of interleague play for us is that Cardinals fans have the opportunity to see stars they haven't seen before," he said. "It's a chance for fans to see the Cleveland Indians and Frank Thomas (of the Chicago White Sox).

"But because it's limited, I don't think we're going to lose any of that aura of the World Series.

"This is very much a fan-driven decision. There was an extensive amount of research that was undertaken. The research came back overwhelmingly supportive of a limited interleague schedule."

The Major League Baseball Players Association must approve the idea. Union head Donald Fehr said, "The concept of interleague play in major-league baseball is certainly intriguing, worthy of serious consideration. As we look for new ways to grow the game and make it better for our fans, interleague games deserve a hard look. …

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