MLB has a long history of bowing to TV

NEW YORK – This one was an easy call for Bud Selig, who decided early Saturday night – just before 6 p.m. ET – that in conditions this wet, you don't decide a championship unless Michael Phelps is involved. So Game 6 between the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees was pushed back until Sunday night.

And unlike last year's World Series in Philadelphia, in which Selig improvised on the fly to legitimize a game that should have been called much sooner, baseball's commissioner had the assurance that the weather will be much more cooperative both Sunday night and Monday night as well, if the Yankees and Angels require seven games to decide which team will represent the American League in the World Series.

More weather issues could surface in a postseason that because of the World Baseball Classic back in March may not end until November 5 if the World Series goes seven games. With additional off-days built in to satisfy MLB's television partners, Selig has been targeted for more criticism that he presides over a sport that rolls over for TV, a complaint that has been lodged regularly from the time baseball first dared stage a Series game at night, in 1971, for the sake of higher TV ratings.

TV played a role in perhaps the most famous rain delay in postseason history, the three-day deluge in Boston that pushed back Game 6 between the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds in the 1975 World Series from its scheduled Saturday afternoon start. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn originally rescheduled the game to Sunday afternoon, postponed it again when the weather didn't let up, then postponed it the next day, a Monday, even though the rain had slowed to a drizzle.

Kuhn said in his press conference that day that the Red Sox groundskeeper had informed him the field would not be playable in time for the game. But according to the richly detailed "Game Six," Mark Frost's critically acclaimed new book about that game, Red Sox groundskeeper Joe Mooney had told the commissioner at noon that day that he could get the field ready in eight hours.

Mooney, Frost said, dumped five tons of a moisture-absorbent substance called Turface to dry Fenway's infield dirt and grass, and had called in helicopters to hover over the outfield to fan the grass there.

According to Frost, the game wasn't played in part because NBC executive Chet Simmons wasn't eager to have Game 6 go up against a new ABC hit, Monday Night Football, or against the wildly popular sitcom "All in the Family." Waiting until Tuesday night was perfectly acceptable to the NBC chief, who was called by Kuhn ahead of Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, according to Frost, when the go-ahead was finally given to play.

The next year, Kuhn was widely derided for refusing to wear a coat in the frosty conditions in which the 1976 World Series was played.

"Bowie Kuhn,'' wrote Red Smith, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, "is the first commissioner to surrender his authority to a television network, letting the hucksters dictate the World Series schedule.''

The "hucksters" of today, Fox and TBS, are paying $3 billion to televise postseason baseball through 2013, which in some circles, notably those comprised by baseball's owners, would entitle them to be on Selig's speed-dial when scheduling decisions are made.

So far, incidentally, both MLB and the networks are delighted with the ratings they've drawn this postseason. TBS posted numbers that were the highest of any series in the 33-year history of the network, while Fox's numbers for Game 5 between the Yankees and Angels were up 49 percent compared to the Game 5 in the NLCS aired by Fox last season.

All parties would be ecstatic if Saturday's postponement is rewarded with a game as thrilling as the one played by the Red Sox and Reds after three days off in 1975, which produced the enduring image of Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair, and saved the sport from encroaching irrelevance.

Just as in 1975, Saturday's rainout has the potential of making a significant impact on the starting pitching the rest of the way. Yankees manager Joe Girardi could have switched to ace CC Sabathia(notes), who was slated to pitch Game 7 if necessary on regular rest, but Girardi said he will stick with his plan to throw Andy Pettitte(notes) and use Sabathia on five days rest Monday night if there is a Game 7. The Yankees' hope is that they won't need to use Sabathia again in this series, freeing him to pitch the World Series opener against the Phillies.

That's a different tack than the one taken in '75 by Boston manager Darrell Johnson, who elected to use Luis Tiant once rain gave him additional rest and push Bill Lee back to Game 7, a decision that angered the famously flaky lefty. Tiant actually left trailing Game 6, 6-3, but a three-run pinch homer by Bernie Carbo tied the score, setting the stage for Fisk's shot off the foul pole in the 12th.

An extra day now gives Angels manager Mike Scioscia the option of using ace John Lackey(notes) on three days' rest in Game 7 if Joe Saunders(notes) and the Angels can prevail Sunday. Scioscia said it's under consideration. "There's no sense talking about a Game 7,'' said Scioscia, whose original plan was to start Jered Weaver(notes) if the series went the distance.