25 ways the MLB has changed in the last 50 years
In 1969, the New York Mets won the World Series, and while the Mets still play in Queens, much has changed since then. The Mets won the deciding game of the fall classic in a stadium that also served as a football field (the Mets, like many other baseball teams, now compete in stadiums that only house baseball). They also bested 23 other teams; now there are 30 teams annually competing for a championship. The Mets did not have to travel to Florida or Colorado in 1969, but now there are teams in both those states, as well as in Arizona and Washington D.C.
It's clear the landscape of Major League Baseball 50 years ago looked much different than it does now. Part of the reason for change has been financial—movements like expansion were to grow the game in new markets and take advantage of financial opportunities in untapped cities. Other alterations were to increase audience—with the growth of interest in the NBA and NFL, MLB has had to find ways to keep fan interest and cultivate new fan bases amid the rise of such sports stars as basketball's LeBron James and football's Tom Brady. Then there are changes that are a result of technology—while wooden bats and leather mitts are still employed, the way we consume baseball, and the way the rules of the game are applied have been affected by our 21st-century tech inclinations.
Using information from MLB and local news sources, Stacker examined 25 ways the MLB has changed in the past 50 years. While we haven't yet reached the days of flying cars and ubiquitous hovercrafts, we do see advancements and stylistic changes that would shock time travelers from the 1960s. Here, click through to see how baseball is different from the days of yore.
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The designated hitter
In 1973, the American League introduced the designated hitter, a batter whose sole purpose in a game is offense and who does not play on the field (replacing the pitcher's spot in the batting order). This increased offense in the AL, while the National League became known as a “pitcher's league.” While some of the game's best hitters have slotted into a DH role, the position still causes controversy—some Hall of Fame voters shy away from supporting DH candidates for not playing defense.
For more than 75 years, Wrigley Field in Chicago was known for its ivy-decorated outfield wall, and its day games. That all changed when in 1988 the home of the Chicago Cubs installed lights for night games. The Cubs were the last team to not hold night games, but now they've become a staple of hot summer evenings on the North Side of the city.
Old-time photos often captured players reaching over the dugout to greet fans or sign autographs, but that interaction has become largely subdued in favor of safety. After a spate of horrifying incidents involving foul balls striking fans, baseball stadiums began wrapping the areas behind the dugout with protective netting. However, some say these measures don't go far enough; in May, a young girl was hit by a screaming liner by Cubs batter Albert Almora, who was in tears through the mishap.
Long a staple of the National Football League, Major League Baseball instituted video replay on Aug. 28, 2008. Originally, the replay could only be initiated by the umpire on home run calls, but now the game includes manager challenges on everything from whether a defensive player actually caught a ball, or if a batter was hit by a pitch. While purists may bash technology's influence on the outcome of the game, MLB may not be done.
In 1969, the American League and National League were split into two divisions, with each league's division winner meeting in the playoffs. In 1995, the playoff system instituted its first wild card teams to accompany three division winners in the playoffs. Today, two wild card teams meet in a one-game playoff to advance to the Division Series round.
Before 1997, the only time stars from the American League and National League faced off were in Spring Training, at the All-Star Game, or in the World Series. But still reeling from a disastrous strike in 1994, in an effort to increase interest in baseball, MLB created Interleague play. Today, because there are 15 teams in each league, every set of series throughout the season is guaranteed to have at least one AL-NL matchup.
With the advent of iPhones and the internet, voting for MLB All-Stars has changed dramatically. No longer can fans even stuff paper ballots at their local ballparks. Not only can they vote online for starters, but they also choose the last person for each roster in a special runoff election.
At the start of the 2019 season, MLB had 251 international players. Countries like the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Venezuela have led the charge of imports in recent years, while countries like the Netherlands, Brazil, and Australia also have begun producing MLB talent. The first Dominican player didn't arrive to the majors until 1956, but there were 102 Dominicans on rosters to open this year.
While most sluggers 50 years ago didn't even wear batting gloves, today's players are equipped like soldiers headed into battle. The introduction of everything from shin guards to elbow pads have changed the way pitchers approach batters—throwing high and inside is no longer as intimidating if you're covered head to toe in padding. While old-school hardliners may have voiced their displeasure with the accoutrements at one time, protective gear is very much the norm today for every player.
During Spring Training 2019, MLB introduced a pitch clock for the first time. In recent years, fans have bemoaned the length of baseball games, and MLB has gradually rolled out new rules to speed the game along. This also includes limiting mound visits and shortening the time between innings.2018 All rights reserved.