How the economics of modern baseball killed the ultimate fan experience
The first baseball game I ever attended was on May 30, 1955, a Memorial Day doubleheader between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ebbets Field. The first time I went to the Polo Grounds was on Memorial Day in 1962 to see the newly created New York Mets play a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first time I went to Shea Stadium was for a doubleheader on May 31, 1964 (the Sunday after Memorial Day, and hence its functional equivalent that year) with the Mets hosting the San Francisco Giants.
The pattern is pretty clear. Once upon a time, for me and many thousands of others (there were 55,000 fans jamming the decrepit and run down Polo Grounds that day in 1962, surviving epic traffic gridlock that led one cop to be heard saying, correctly, "50,000 people are never going to come here again"—and 57,000 at Shea in 1964), the failsafe formula was: Baseball + Memorial Day = Doubleheader. It was the moment, more perhaps even than Opening Day itself, when baseball was back in our lives. The Memorial-Day doubleheader was then a fixture on the baseball calendar—as was also true of holiday doubleheaders on July 4 and Labor Day. To take a few years at random (as illustrated on the charts below), in 1940, 1952, and 1955, every team in the National League played a double header on Memorial Day