Interleague baseball Exposes game's nuances

June 17, 1997

I'm all for interleague baseball play, but then I've always been into rule breaking. For instance I'd like to see interleague play extended to Congress.

From time to time let the representatives go over and vote on the Senate side to sorta break up the routine. Or from time to time I'd like to see cats chasing cars and dogs, well, doing something that borders on the intelligent.

Interleague play means that teams of the National League play a certain number of games with the American League, which flies in the face of, gasp, baseball tradition.


Lots of purists are down on interleague play, however, just as they were down on the designated hitter more than two decades ago. And, as a columnist for the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Press Republican wrote, just as they would have grumbled a century ago over the idea that players be transported to games in anything but horse-drawn buggies.

I happened to be in Plattsburgh Saturday en route to Montreal to witness the first weekend on interleague play as the Montreal Expos played the Detroit Tigers.

I know. As the Orioles were playing the Braves and the Mets were playing the Yankees and the Yankees were playing the Marlins and the Cubs were playing the Mets and the Mets were playing the Red Sox, I was tuned in to that long-awaited Detroit-Montreal showdown. The Thunda in the Tundra.

I suppose I'm a little out of touch. I was expecting a Denny McLean versus Andre Dawson match up and got Doug Brocail against Darrin Fletcher. But no matter, it was a dine game which Montreal won behind Pedro Martinez' 14 strikeouts.

There's a certain degree of arched amusement in listening the French Canadians rooting for a guy named Pedro, but I'll leave that little paradox to be settled by the Zapatistas and the Quebecois. It's a byproduct of NAFTA the G-7 nations never imagined in their wildest dreams.

My brother Bruce and I followed up Olympic Stadium with a trip to Camden Yards Monday to see "his" Expos take on "my" Orioles.

We were way out in left field, where the view is lousy but the people are far more fun than the stuffy, cell-phone crowd that sit on their hands (unless they have a call) around home plate because it's the place to be seen.

Half way through the game our section jumped into a chant of "New York..." It sounded to me like they were saying "New York clucks," but after all those years of Aerosmith concerts my hearing isn't what it was. Bruce was amused by the chant, which came at the mid-point of a Montreal rally. "True, but irrelevant," he said.

Some people were more ready for than interleague play than others. Poor Baltimore PA announcer Rex Barney was having a terrible time with the unfamiliar names, particularly Mark Grudzielanek and F.P. Santangelo (who on three separate at bats was called "F.P Sant-angle-o," "J.P. Santangelo" and "F.B. Santan-Jello."

This created a rather imbalanced atmosphere which was made all the more surreal by three little attention deficit disorder sisters who happened to be sitting to my right and got Expos' first baseman Ryan McGuire confused with Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire, who they in turn got confused with Jerry McGwire.

And then the Orioles had to go and lose 6-4, as the Expos won their tenth straight game.

Outside of that, I'd have to brand interleague play a success. Anything that forces the cell-phone crowd to learn the meaning of the term "double switch" can't be all bad - assuming they're bothering to follow the game at all.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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