Back when I was young, there used to be such things as baseball doubleheaders, which is to say, two games on the same day, for the price of a single admission. In baseball lore, this virtually always used to draw a reference to Ernie Banks, Hall-of-Fame shortsop-first-baseman for the Chicago Cubs (and anyone who could make the Hall of Fame playing for the Cubs in those days was a special ballplayer, indeed), who, aside from being a great, great ballplayer, was also one of the happiest men ever to put on a major-league uniform. Ernie (and now I'm wondering if there isn't just something associated with baseball happiness that attaches to the name 'Ernie'?) was often heard to say, "It's a beautiful day; let's play two." Back in my childhood days, most Sundays, as well as holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July, were occasions for doubleheaders, as if there were just something celebratory about twice as much baseball as usual (and, honestly, who can argue with that?).
Nowadays, there is pretty much no such thing as a doubleheader anymore. Oh, teams will schedule doubleheaders to make up for rainouts, and such, but they're not 'doubleheaders' in the sense defined above; they're 'day-night' doubleheaders, in which, rather than play two games back-to-back on a single admission, they'll play an afternoon game, then clear the stadium and charge a second admission for a separate night game. It's directly traceable to the baleful influence of money on what is, at its essence, a bucolic, pastoral game (if you'll allow me briefly to go all Bart Giamatti on you). Teams need every one of those 81 paying crowds in order to meet their expenses (read: player salaries); 70 or so simply won't feed the bulldog (or, you know, the $27-million-a-year third-baseman). So, no more doubleheaders. It is, for baseball fans, a significant loss. . .
I grew up a long, long drive from Detroit, so we didn't go to many Tigers games when I was a kid; once a year, maybe. But when I went to college, and suddenly realized that Tiger Stadium was only an hour-and-a-half from campus, it became much more reasonable to think about heading down for a game on the weekend, and we did, maybe a couple times during the spring term, and a couple more times in the summer.
It was 1981, I'm pretty sure (because it was one of the last games before the players' strike that took out the middle third of the season), that my buddy Steve and I went down to Tiger Stadium for a Memorial Day doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles (I was 25 years old, and hadn't yet marked my first wedding anniversary; Jen wasn't even pregnant, so it was a LONG time ago). The Tigers had an up-and-coming young team full of players like Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson (who, only a couple years previously, had been wandering the same college campus as I had), still three years away from their World Championship of '84. The Orioles, on the other hand, were a team of established veterans midway between a pair of World Series appearances in '79 (they lost) and '83 (they won).
My buddy Steve and his wife had just moved to Our Town from Texas a few months before, and we had instantly hit it off with each other. Steve was a 'ticket guy' - he was always on the lookout for tickets to really cool sporting events. Whereas I was mostly content to watch stuff on TV, Steve would come to me from time-to-time, saying, "Hey, I got tickets to the Indy 500 this year; you wanna go?" So yeah, I went to the '84 Indy 500 (won by Rick Mears, the second of his four Indy wins), with Steve.
So, in '81, with the threat of a strike looming, Steve came to me with tickets for the Memorial Day doubleheader between the Tigers and Orioles. We had a regular pattern when we attended Tiger games, in those days. We'd buy reserved seats in the upper deck (in front of the posts, if possible), usually on the 3rd-base side. From there, we'd spy out empty seats down by the visitors' dugout, and 'move up' for the end of the game.
In the first game, Dan Petry started and won for the Tigers; Steve Kemp homered and had 4 RBI. For the Orioles, Ken Singleton was a one-man wrecking crew; he came into the game hitting .380 or so, then went 3-for-4 with a double. But that didn't really capture how well he was hitting the ball. Every ball he hit was crushed; even the out he made flew over 400 feet to the center-field warning track. Kenny was seeing the ball real good that day. (Even pretty devoted baseball fans might not remember, but Ken Singleton was a 3-time All-Star, and twice finished top-3 in the MVP voting)
For the second game, we duly moved up to seats between the Orioles' dugout and home plate, in the second row from the field. We were so close, that we couldn't see the shortstop's feet, or the left-fielder's legs, because of the crowning of the field (for drainage purposes). We could hear the catchers jawing with the umpires (in only the most deferential, respectful tones, you can be sure) over balls and strikes (without ever actually arguing over balls and strikes; it's a subtle art). And we could talk to the on-deck hitters.
So when Ken Singleton appeared in the on-deck circle in the top of the first inning of Game 2, he was standing about 8 feet from where we were sitting. "Come on, Ken," I implored. "You killed us in the first game; take it easy this time, OK?"
He smiled. "Can't do it, man. You won the game; what do you want?"
We laughed, and then engaged in similar good-natured banter every time he appeared on-deck. He ended up going the most awsome 0-for-4 I think I've ever seen, again hitting every ball hard, and a couple of them a long, long way, but right at the defense; he hit one line drive that Trammell caught out of pure self-preservation instinct, just before it would have exploded his skull. The Tigers ended up winning when Lance Parrish hit a 2-run homer in the 8th, breaking a tie, so we went home happy, having seen the Tigers sweep a doubleheader from a pretty good team. . .
But you won't see anything like that anymore, because there aren't any doubleheaders anymore. . .