In some regards, expansion is the smartest thing Major League Baseball’s ever done, because each round of new teams only adds to the fan’s sense that every night is a tapestry of action.
On any given day in the regular season, a bunch of games get played. Most every game has something cool or interesting or distinctive about it, either when viewed by itself (the Cubs made four errors in the sixth inning!) or as part of a larger picture (Pitcher X, who pitched a shutout tonight, will end up leading the league this year.)
Whether you’re getting your updates over AM radio or over Twitter, it’s fun to immerse yourself in any given night — ’cause they’re all a little different — and follow each of the twists and turns to their conclusion at the night’s final pitch.
There’s a crafty veteran pitcher trying to keep his job in Houston, and a 32-year-old rookie playing his first big-league game in New York, and three ejections following a disputed balk call in San Francisco, and a 54-minute rain delay in Washington, and … pull up a chair, friends.
The tapestry of action (maybe “mosaic” is a better word, since lots of little snapshots make up the big picture) gets even more interesting when you zoom out and add the off-the-field perspective.
Players get signed, traded and released. Former players pass away, and future players are born. There’s a whirl of action every day.
Well, almost every day.
Inspired by something I noticed on Retrosheet, I set out to answer this question:
How many times has Major League Baseball been totally radio-silent — no games, no transactions, no births, no deaths — during the regular season?
Here’s an example of what I mean: Go to Retrosheet’s summary for 1977 and scroll down to the day-by-day calendar. You’ll see every day has a clickable link — which means something happened that day — between April and October. The one exception is July 20, which was the annual day off after the All-Star Game.
My question: Has there ever been a day, other than the All-Star break, where the MLB mosaic was totally blank, and nothing of consequence or significance happened?
Has there ever been a day during the course of the regular season that gave fans absolutely nothing to talk about, marvel at or chew on?
The answer is yes. And here’s how many times it’s happened since 1961, the first expansion season:
April 30, 1973. Yet another day with no scheduled games. I figured we’d get at least one empty day due to rain — a day where only one game was scheduled, and it got rained out. Those days might have happened, but it looks like something else (a transaction, a birth or a death) came up every time to fill in the blank.
Summer 1981: Numerous days lost on account of the players’ strike. (These blank days might or might not count as being “during the regular season,” as the season had been stopped. I’m excluding the 1994 strike from this post for that reason.)
August 6, 1985. Major-league players start another strike. (A sports page for Aug. 6 lists a full schedule of games that would otherwise have been played.) Teams did not play Aug. 7, either, but the death of former New York Giants outfielder Johnny Rucker put at least one MLB-related event on the day’s calendar. Games resumed on Aug. 8.
Sept. 14-16, 2001. All MLB on-the-field action stopped for nearly a week following the Sept. 11 attacks. A player transaction on Sept. 12 and retired players’ deaths on Sept. 11 and 13 means events of some consequence happened on those days. But Sept. 14-16 were completely silent.
Barring strike or catastrophe, it seems questionable that we will ever see another totally empty day on MLB’s docket, now that there are 30 teams to play games and make transactions.
(More teams also means a larger pool of up-and-coming players whose birthdays will join the MLB calendar, and a larger pool of retired players who will someday pass away.)