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Today in Sports History: 1/18 | MLB Owners Approve Interleague Play

Today in sports history (1996), the MLB owners unanimously approved to interleague play starting in the 1997 season. Up until that point, teams only played teams in their own league. The vote called for 15 or 16 interleague games per year and broke a 126-year streak of teams playing solely within their league.

Initial Controversy | Today in Sports History

Baseball has some of the most loyal fans among all professional sports. When the interleague change was up for debate, it was met with harsh criticism by a number of fans. They felt that the MLB had a rich history and this move would tarnish it in some way. The tradition of only playing teams inside one’s own league was looked upon favorably by many which put then MLB commissioner Bud Selig under fire.

Selig backed the vote by the owners publicly multiple times. He was quoted saying “We have the greatest tradition in the world, but tradition shouldn’t be an albatross.” Some questioned the move to Selig saying that the World Series could lose some luster if the teams had already met in the regular season. Selig used the NFL as an example of the system working. While some owners were initially skeptical, they were all swayed in favor.

today in sports history mlb
Credit: Mike Groll/AP Photo

Interleague Today | MLB History

Today, interleague games are some of the most highly anticipated games of the season. With so few interleague games in the MLB season, teams won’t match up with every team in the other league. That is part of what makes these games so big. Fans can see some of their favorite talents outside of their league come into town and bring a fresh breath of air to the long season.

To keep the interleague schedule fair, the three divisions each rotate on which interleague division they play. The MLB does take into account rivalry series and schedules some every year. Like with everything, there are, and always will be, some that don’t like interleague play. For the most part, however, fans like interleague play and continue to be drawn in by it each season.

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