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BASEBALL EXTRA / INTERLEAGUE PLAY

Selig: Interleague Idea Is Here to Stay

June 17, 1997|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Interleague play is a big hit at the box office, drawing 37% more fans than the average game during the first 10 1/2 weeks of the season. It is also, according to acting baseball commissioner Bug Selig, here to stay.

"I said it before and I'll tell you again, interleague play is a permanent part of our landscape and it will get bigger and bigger and bigger," said Selig, the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and head of baseball's executive council.

Teams averaged crowds of 35,341 for the first 56 interleague games through Monday. Before interleague play began Thursday, teams were averaging 25,833.

"You can see what it's done for attendance, not only here but throughout baseball," Seattle Manager Lou Piniella said.

Seattle, averaging 37,461 before the start of interleague play, drew 208,297 to the Kingdome for two games against Colorado and two against the Dodgers, a team record for four consecutive home games and an average of 52,074.

Selig said he spent most of Monday on the phone with fellow owners and heard no complaints.

"I talked to the Atlanta and Baltimore people today, now let's assume that they play in the World Series, I asked them if they thought their series would detract from that. You know what both of them said instinctively, independently? 'No, it will help.' " he said. "The rivalry's there now and don't you know Atlanta would like to even the score?"

Attendance last season averaged 26,889, but with interleague play beginning, owners predict a nine percent rise to about 29,300 this season.

Selig acknowledged there are some bugs to work out, such as the profusion of two-game series against league opponents that the interleague schedule produced, but said the gains far outweigh the drawbacks.

"I'm a traditionalist, I'm a purist," Selig said. "But everything in life changes and while we must respect our history and we must really honor our traditions, that doesn't mean we should be cautious to a point that we're not doing the things that our fans enjoy.

"They're excited and that ought to make all of us feel good."

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