One of the enduring pieces of political lore in the United States may be falling before changing times.
Politicians, particularly urban ones (which means especially Democratic politicians), have long believed that the public doesn’t begin to focus on the year’s campaign until after the World Series.
Theodore White observed in The Making of the President 1960 that this “politicians’ rule of thumb” was demonstrated by that year’s game-winning ninth-inning homer by Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski, which won the series for the Pirates. Mazeroski’s run was scored three hours and 45 minutes before the third Nixon/Kennedy debate began.
“A campaign, according to [politicians], begins only when the men at the bar stop arguing about the pitchers and the batters and start arguing about the candidates,” White wrote.
But baseball’s lengthening schedule may be making that bit of folklore obsolete. In 1950, the series ended on Oct. 7; by 1960, it was Oct. 13.
In 1996 (Clinton vs. Dole), the series ended on Oct. 20, but this year only one of the teams in the series was even known by that date. As we go to press, games are scheduled through Sunday, which would be two days before election.
DePauw University communications professor Ken Bode, former host of Washington Week in Review, says, “I think the late dates are directly related to the expansion of teams and reconfiguration of the divisions. More teams, more divisions, more playoffs.”