Major League Baseball imposed a 60-game season, seven-inning doubleheaders, and extra innings that begin with a runner on base for the 2020 season. Now, MLB has taken away something that would help players forget the 60-game season, seven-inning doubleheaders, and extra innings that begin with a runner on base. Champagne and other alcoholic beverages that used to flow freely in celebrations will soon be banned.
MLB doesn’t want to see the champagne flowing
It might seem that Major League Baseball would have more to worry about. After all, the sport is just two weeks away from a postseason that could very well include teams with losing records. Schedule disruptions during the playoffs will always be just one COVID-19 test away.
On top of everything, MLB will be up against more than just the NFL regular season as it struggles for attention from sports fans, who already have plenty else on their mind. For the first time, baseball will also be up against the NBA playoffs, albeit briefly.
It’s enough to drive a person to drink. Just don’t try doing it in a baseball clubhouse. In another of the many concessions the sport has had to make to the pandemic, MLB officials are going down the path of banning champagne and other alcohol from the postgame celebrations.
According to the New York Post, MLB officials want to limit the heavy-duty celebrations following series-clinching wins to the playing field and keep them brief. When the party moves to the clubhouse, there will be no alcohol in order to minimize the possibility of spreading the COVID-19 virus that authorities across the country warn can hand-in-hand with frivolity.
In a postseason that has expanded from 10 teams to 16, maybe MLB has a point. That’s 60% more chances to screw up the schedule.
A relatively new way to celebrate
An ESPN story a few years back sought to get to the bottom of the tradition of celebrating big moments in baseball with champagne. The reporters went so far as to consult with the manager of the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, but no one had a precise answer.
Major League Baseball teams did bring champagne into the clubhouse in the 1940s and ‘50s to celebrate pennants and World Series victories, but that was for consumption. No one was able to recall the bubbly being sprayed around the clubhouse before the Milwaukee Braves won the 1957 World Series and captured another NL pennant the following season.
Once the Pittsburgh Pirates did it in 1960 after Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Game 7, the tradition was more firmly established.
Tommy Lasorda, who would later serve as a coach and then manager, was scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they beat the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series.
“That’s around the time when it started to be a regular occurrence. You knew if you won you were going to get some champagne on you.”Tommy Lasorda
Safety first in celebrations
According to the ESPN story, Major League Baseball adopted some sensible rules over the years regarding champagne celebrations. Although not always followed to the letter, one of the rules was to keep the alcohol confined to the clubhouse. Conscious of the dangers of DWI, the commissioner’s office also instructed teams to make provisions for sending players or staff home in cabs if necessary.
Meanwhile, planning also evolved over the years. During the latter innings in potential clinching situations, clubhouse attendants started covering electronic equipment and players’ lockers with plastic to cut down on the likelihood of damage.
New York Mets pitcher Bob Ojeda took protection to a new level in 1986 when he was seen wearing goggles while the champagne – and the corks — flew. The Boston Red Sox took the same precaution en masse after winning in 2004.