6-30-12: Let's Play Two!

[Ed.'s Note: Also available at the Twins Blog here.]

“It's a beautiful day for baseball... let's play two!”

Legendary Cubs third baseman Ernie Banks once uttered those famous words, and they became his trademark.

Sadly, his love of that unique institution: the baseball double-header, hasn't been embraced by the folks who run the game these days.

Owners aren't big fans of the natural double-header. Why would they give up an extra set of gate receipts if they don't have to? So if you do see a double-header, you can bet it was forced upon them by inclement weather. And you can also count on it being a “day-night” or “split” double-header, with just enough time in between games for the ballpark staff to clear out the fans from Game 1 and get things set for a completely new set of fans for Game 2.

Players don't care for them much either. Considering how early they generally arrive for a standard game, playing two makes for quite a long day. (I know, your heart breaks for them, doesn't it?)

But ask any fan, and they'll tell you that they love double-headers. For baseball purists, there isn't much they'd rather do than spend a few hours out at the ballpark. So if they can double that pleasure, and spend all day at “the yard”, why not, right?

Even for folks who aren't devotees of the “Grand Old Game”, it's a chance to sit out in the sun for a few hours, go grab some dinner and come back for a nightcap at the ballpark. As entertainment options go - especially in sports - baseball is about as reasonable as any of them. So what better way to while away a beautiful June afternoon and evening than watching the home team play two?

As with most things unique to baseball, there's a long and storied history behind the double-header. The term itself actually comes from the railroad industry where “double heading” involves placing two locomotives at the front of a train for more power and greater control.

There have been 4 “home-and-home” double-headers - where one game is played at one club's home park, and the second game is played at the other team's park - in major league history, and three of them involve the Yankees and Mets thanks to interleague play.

The fourth occurred between New York Giants and the Brooklyn Superbas in 1903. Game 1 was played at Washington Park and Game 2 at the Polo Grounds. As is often the case, the teams split the two games - though interestingly enough, it was the “road” team that won each game.

The popularity of the double-header peaked in Major League Baseball during World War II. America was wild for rationing resources, and that included the resources necessary to get to, and put on baseball games. By 1945, just shy of 50% of games in baseball occurred as parts of double-headers. It was in that year that the Braves set a record which still stands (and obviously will never be broken), playing in 46 double-headers.

As for the Twins, Saturday's was only the fifth double-header in Target Field history, and history has been anything but kind. Even with the Twins sweeping two games from Kansas City, their record is now 3-7 in those 10 contests.

It was also only the eighth “twin bill” to be played in baseball this season. Currently there are four more scheduled to be played in 2012, which, judging by the last few seasons, is about half the total that will actually occur. Twenty-plus double-headers may seem like a lot, but considering there are 2,430 games played every season, you can see what a small percentage they constitute.

Will the Twins host another double-header in 2012? Odds say they will. So keep your eyes peeled and if you get the chance, head on down to Target Field, kick back and enjoy the baseball version of a double feature!

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