Article reprinted with permission from Total Baseball, First Edition, copyright Sport Media Enterprises Inc.
Outside of spring training, major league teams rarely play exhibition games, and when they do they are rarely contested seriously. Spring training games are viewed as warmup and practice sessions, and in the midseason games between big league teams and their farm clubs the big league first-stringers seldom play the full game, turning play over to the reserves after a time or two at bat. Postseason exhibition games—apart from the rare club tour to Japan—have disappeared entirely.
Yet exhibition games—before, during, and after the regular season—used to be part of the fabric of professional baseball. Major league teams of the 1880s, for example, would precede the season with a month against college and minor league clubs and teams from the other major league. During the season clubs would try to fill their open dates with exhibition games. And for a couple of weeks after the regular season ended, clubs would continue their exhibition play. The early World Series were, in fact, exhibition games raised to a higher plane of seriousness.
Other postseason exhibition series rivaled the World Series in their appeal. Typically they would pit teams from the same city, state, or region, and would often bill themselves as games for the championship of the city or state. Sometimes such series would involve clubs from the same league, as the games between the American Association New York Mets and Brooklyn for the "local championship" of 1885, or between St. Louis and Kansas City of the AA in 1889 and 1890 for the championship of Missouri. Others would mix a major and minor league or independent club, as in the Baltimore-Washington series for a silver trophy in 1885.
But the city and regional series that most often drew large crowds were those between clubs from different major leagues.
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Page Updated: 12/13/2009
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