Today’s doubleheader against the Nationals got me to thinking about the old days and the scheduled double headers that were so common up until the end of the 1970s. There was nothing like sitting in the sun baked stands knowing that the Dodgers were going to give you two games for the price of one. In the 70’s the Cincinnati Reds seemed to always have a home double header scheduled against the Dodgers each year. And it always seemed to be played in that cookie cutter generic ballpark of theirs with the plastic grass and dirt cut outs around the bases. I hated the look of Riverfront Stadium and that recording they'd constantly be playing of the trumpet out of the "F-Troop" episode.
|They were always facing the Dodgers in double headers. Cincinnati Reds threesome of Rose, Bench and Morgan|
Those were tense contests as the rivalry against the Big Red Machine was quite heated. There was a memorable 1973 double-dip in Cincinnati that was really the beginning of the end for the Dodgers that season. It was July 1st and the Dodgers, with their new infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey intact, held a 9 game lead over the Reds for the division lead. Heading into the 9th inning, Los Angeles held a 3-1 lead. Hal King hit a pinch hit three run homer off of Don Sutton to win game one with two outs in the ninth. In game two, the Reds won in the bottom of the 10th as Joe Morgan scored on a base hit by Tony Perez off of reliever Charlie Hough. By September the Reds caught and passed that young Dodger team to win the diviison by 3.5 games.
|Hal King's pinch homer off of Don Sutton on July 1, 1973 defeated the Dodgers in game 1 of a classic double-header between the Dodgers and the Reds|
The Dodgers played a doubleheader in Cincinnati in 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1980. The Reds played a double header in Los Angeles in 1970, 1972, and 1973. In a 11 season span (1970-80), 25% of the double headers that the Dodgers participated in were against Cincinnati.
|Blowing up Riverfront Stadium (named "Cinergy Field" by then).|
Amazingly, schedule makers had no mercy on teams back then. Pitching staffs were taxed and in the dog days of summer. Let me give you an example.
In 1974, the first place Dodgers were scheduled to go on a road trip that started on June 28th and ended on July 10th. It was a road trip swing starting in San Francisco and continued on to Cincinnati, Montreal and ended in Philadelphia. A thirteen day trip in cities dealing with the sweltering summer heat. 13 days, 15 games. There was a scheduled double header in Cincinnati on July 3rd and then two days later, another double dip at Montreal, for a total of 5 games in three days.
How did they do? The Dodgers split both double headers and won the game in between. How did Walt Alston juggle his pitching staff? He inserted two spot starters that had been working for the most part that season in long relief. Al Downing and Geoff Zahn.
A quick glance at baseball-reference.com box scores shows that the Dodgers played the following number of double headers each year between 1970 and 1987):
1970 - 7 (3 at home)
1971 - 6 (3 at home)
1972 - 7 (2 at home)
1973 - 4 (1 at home)
1974 - 4 (1 at home)
1975 - 2 (1 at home)
1976 - 5 (2 at home)
1977 - 3 (2 at home)
1978 - 4 (1 at home)
1979 - 0
1980 - 3 (1 at home)
1981 - 0
1982 - 2 (1 at home)
1983 - 4 (0 at home)
1984 - 0
1985 - 3 (0 at home)
1986 - 2 (1 at home)
1987 - 3 (1 at home)
I didn’t continue on due to time constraints, but you get the gist of things. Major League baseball began to taper off the amount of scheduled double headers by the early 80’s. Those double headers from 1982 to 87 are primarily caused by rainouts.
So today’s two games take me back to a time when it was clearly understood that the baseball season was a true marathon. Splits would be viewed as a disappointment. Sweeps with euforia. Losing two was a colossal failure. Here’s to sweeping up the Nation’s capital.
Here is a record that will never be broken:
Yogi Berra holds the major league record for catching both ends of a double header 117 times. Even in the 70’s, it was common to give the starting catcher one of the two games off when the twin-bills came around. Yogi accomplished quite a feat. There probably hasn’t even been 117 double headers played in the last 15 years by all teams combined.
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