Another weekend of packed houses and electric atmosphere as fans vote in favor of Interleague play

If you’ve lived in Baltimore or its suburbs or any length of time, you know a couple of things. One is that it has great sports fans, great baseball fans in particular. The Orioles have a rich history, and fans embrace Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken every bit as much as they embraced Johnny Unitas and that generation of Colts.

Another thing you’ll find out is that they don’t think much of Washington. Maybe it’s an inferiority complex. Maybe it’s that Baltimore sometimes gets forgotten as a dot on the map between Philadelphia and Washington. When a Washington attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, bought the Birds in 1979, it was not viewed favorably in Charm City. For one thing, there was a great fear Williams would move the Orioles to Washington. For another thing, he wasn’t one of them.

So when Major League Baseball returned to Washington, a recipe for a great rivalry was in place. Even though the Orioles and Nationals play in different leagues, Interleague play has offered a couple of weekends of years for fans to taunt the other side and establish bragging rights.

And that’s why Camden Yards was packed this weekend as the Orioles took two out of three from the Nationals. Both teams are competitive, both fighting for playoff spots.

Some of us in the media love to bellyache about Interleague play, but fans love it. They’ve loved it from the beginning, and they especially love it the regional rivalries: Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, Rangers-Astros, etc.

Citi Field was also packed and loud this weekend as the resurgent Mets tested themselves against the first-place Yankees. Some of the players said it was just another game, but there’s no way they believed it. Fans were so into the games that it was impossible, as a R.A. Dickey said, not to feel the emotion.

Major League Baseball attendance is booming, up 8.1 percent from this time last season. As for the 252 Interleague games, they drew 15.8 percent higher crowds than other games. This weekend’s games, drew 8.7 million, the third-highest total in the 16 years of Interleague.

Baseball has had four weekends–three in a row–in which 1.6 million fans attended games. That has happened this early in a season since June 2008, and the last time MLB had three 1.6-million weekends in a row was 2007, a record-setting year.

“Major League Baseball is enjoying a remarkable first half of the season,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “With strong competitive balance, historic milestones, five no-hitters, and outstanding performances from our game’s young players, our attendance is a reflection of the great momentum we have as we approach the All-Star Game.”

The American League won the series again, going 142-110. Thats nine years in a row and 12 of 16. The Rangers led the way with a 14-4 record.

1 Comment

I love interleague play. I despise the idea of bringing the DH to the NL.

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