The Yankees Are Coming, The Yankees Are Coming!

Tonight’s game at Citi Field is an historic one. The first Subway Series game at the Mets new ballpark. And yes, I am privileged enough to be going. I finally get to see for myself, live and in person, what all the hype is about. (Ok, I can imagine. But it’s not the same until you’ve actually been there.)

As a segueway into this weekend’s series, I’d like to take a look at the history of Interleague Play. The theory of Interleague play was first pondered as early as the 1930s. Bill Veeck, best known for his flamboyant publicity stunts, and the innovations he brought to the league during his ownership of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox, predicted in 1963 that Major League Baseball would someday have Interleague play. The concept did not become a reality until the 1990s, 1997 to be exact, as an effort to renew the public’s interest in MLB after the 1994 players’ strike.

Interleague Play still does not fall favorite in the eyes of some fans and players, however it does add dimension to the game of baseball, creating  match-ups and rivalries never seen before. Some even hold special significance geographically, such as the New York Subway Series.

The first Interleague game took place on June 12, 1997, as the Texas Rangers hosted the San Francisco Giants at The Ballpark in Arlington. There were four Interleague games on the schedule that night, but the other three were played on the West Coast, so the Rangers–Giants match-up started a few hours earlier than the others. Some interesting stats: Texas’ Darren Oliver threw the game’s first pitch and San Francisco outfielder Glenallen Hill was the first designated hitter used in a regular-season game by a National League team. San Francisco’s Stan Javier hit the first home run in Interleague Play, and the Giants won the game, 4-3.

In the early stages of Interleague Play, specifically 1998-2001, teams only played the other league’s teams in their same division. It wasn’t until 2002, that divisions co-mingled, allowing teams like the Mets and Yankees to face Oakland and San Francisco, respectively.

Since 2002, all Interleague games have been played prior to the All-Star Game, mostly in June. In the American League ballparks, managers have the option of using a Designated Hitter. In the National League parks, however, both pitchers must hit for themselves. Interleague Play gives managers the opportunity to prepare better for the World Series. Each league gets the practice they need for the Fall Classic all year long, when visiting the other league’s ballparks, in terms of double-switches and game strategy.

Through 2005, the National League had held an 1,104–1,095 advantage over the American League in Interleague victories; this reversed itself in 2006, with AL teams posting a 154-98 record.

As of 2008, the American League held an all-time lead over the National League, of 1,387–1,317. The team with the best all-time record in Interleague play is, you guessed it, the New York Yankees, with a record of 113-79.

Tonight the Mets will throw Big Pelf out there against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia. Though he left last Sunday’s start with tightness in his left bicep, the Yankees and Sabathia both agreed that he is fine to make the start tonight. Pelfrey had an outing similar to his previous one in every aspect but the end result, in a 10-6 loss to the Rays on Sunday. Hopefully he can go deep tonight and let K-Rod come in to close it out against Girardi’s Yankees.

More about my first Subway Series experience tomorrow … stay tuned!