Ernie Was Right -- Let's Play Two

In the best Ernie Banks tradition, the Dodgers and Phillies will play a rare doubleheader Sunday (today) after their contest on Saturday was washed away by a cold rain. The last time the Dodgers were rained out in Philadelphia was Thursday, July 14, 1994, at Veterans Stadium, and the teams split a twi-night doubleheader the next day.

The first game of todays the twin-bill will at 1:05 p.m. with Derek Lowe taking the mound for the Dodgers, Brad Penny will be the second-game starter.

Doubleheaders, twin-bills, double-dips, two games for the price of one … a great American tradition has nearly slipped away like the dinosaur and the 5¢ cigar.

Demonstrating how times have changed, the Dodgers have played no doubleheader since September 27, 2003 and that was in San Francisco. The last double bill in Dodger Stadium came July 22, 1999 when they lost two to the Colorado Rockies.

In 1993, the Dodgers and Phillies met for two games on July 3 and following that the Dodgers and Expos clashed in three straight doubleheaders on July 6-7-8 to make up the games cancelled during the rioting in Watts.

That was a real rarity, but like events were quite commonplace a couple decades ago.

Once doubleheaders were scheduled to make holidays—Memorial Day, Fourth of July—more attractive than, say, a day at the beach They were also manufactured up to pump excitement into the final weeks of the season, if the team might be out of the pennant race.

The number played was always swelled by rescheduling rainouts. However, teams that had dropped out of contention sometimes played fast and loose with the schedule, cancelling games because of ‘rain' if a drop fell within miles of the stadium. A doubleheader was then advertised and (hopefully) a crowd much larger than would have attended the two single games would attend.

Obviously August and September were the big months for the twin-bill, since early season rainouts would then be picked up the final time the opposition was in town at a time when attendance started to lag.

Over the course of history the major leagues and the Dodgers played a large number of twin-bills each season, with the number swelling to dramatic proportions during the depressions years of the 1930s when money was scarce and fans even more so. For example, in 1935 the St. Louis Browns sold some 80,000 -- no, not for a three game series or even a homestand -- that was the total for the entire year.

In 1924 Brooklyn played 19 doubleheaders, with an exhausting stretch scheduled in early September. The Dodgers played two games on September 1-2-3-4, had a single game on the 5th, then played another double-dip on the 6th. The club won 10 games in six days, losing only one game during that period of time … a neat but difficult way to get back into the race.

But the all-time double-header season came in 1933.

Brooklyn scheduled only two doubleheaders at home and two on the road but ended up playing 37 twin-bills, a remarkable 48 percent of their games over a 154-game schedule.

A baker's dozen—13—of them were played in August, seven in eight days. They played two on August 2-4-6-13-16-20-24-25-26-27-29-30 and 31.

They followed with a pair of games on September 6-9-10-12-17-23-24 and 28. Earlier in the season they had three doubleheaders in May, seven in June, and six in July.

Of the 74 games included in that unusual season of twin-bills, the Brooklyn club won 30 games, lost 43 and tied a pair. At home they were 20-24 but on the road they slipped to 10-19 and two draws. Sixteen of the 37 doubleheaders resulted in sweeps (five by the Dodgers), 11 were swept by the opposition, 19 of them were split and two resulted in a win and a tie.

Obviously the club had to come up with a larger number of starters and nine different pitchers were given a start during the year. Walter (Boom-Boom) Beck was the only starter with much luck, recording a 9-5 mark, with a tie, in his 15 doubleheader starts. Hollis (Sloppy) Thurston (3-7) and Ray Benge (2-9) were less than effective.

The Brooklyn club played 31 doubleheaders in 1940 and 30 in 1931. The 1939 team had an even dozen doubleheaders in September alone.

As late as 1955 and 1956 the Dodgers played 18 doubleheaders and when the club moved to Los Angeles, a similar schedule was set up.

Six doubleheaders were scheduled in 1958, the Dodgers first season in LA. However they played 15 that season due to a number of rainouts. But when Dodger officials saw the size of home crowds that streamed into the Los Angeles Coliseum, they quickly dropped the idea of two games for the price of one. The financial loss in playing two coupled with the normally mild California weather, they have been avoided for the most part unless completely necessary.

Obviously, not playing doubleheaders is a solid financial decision, but for those of us who remember the delicious feeling of getting to see two games on the same day, it's really a little sad.