Diamonds and Groundhogs

It’s a little known fact that Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of Major League Baseball, relied on the prognosticating shadow of Punxsutawney Phil’s ancestors to schedule spring training and opening day.
Most modern-day baseball fans are unaware that before Landis’ election to the game’s top position in 1921, the sport used the Mayan Calendar, which featured a count of 260 days, to position the season’s first games. Because of the sport’s 162-game schedule, prior to Landis, baseball always symbolically scheduled the season opener on Day 162 of the Mayan Calendar. As a result, in certain years, the season did not get under way until November and the league was forced to play through the winter months. The phrase “boys of summer” certainly did not apply. With the sometimes-frigid temperatures, fan attendance numbers often took a tremendous dip during these winter-based seasons. Landis, with all his vision, realized that the Mayan civilization, though grand and dominating in its time, had been conquered and ravaged by the Spanish conquistadors. The man who ruled America’s national pastime feared baseball might suffer the same fate as the grand Mexican dynasty and lose ground to the Jai Lai craze or the competitive tiddly wink fad sweeping the United States in the early 1920s. Several marquee major league baseball players were already being wooed by the glamour and salaries of the fledgling Professional Tiddly Wink Association (PTWA). The smitten baseball standouts transferred their superior hand-eye coordination from catching flies in the outfield to flipping discs in the PTWA.
Baseball ownership was up in arms. The inaugural commissioner had to put a stop to the talent flooding out of his sport.
After much thought and several flips of a trusted Magic 8 Ball, Landis came up with an alternative scheduling guide, removing the Mayan Calendar from its prominent place in the diamond game’s history.
With the dependence on the 260-day calendar out of the way, the visionary baseball commissioner turned to the common large North American marmot, or groundhog, as it is more commonly known.
Though a native of Georgia and born before the invention of the Internet by Al Gore, Landis was wise to the meteorological connection the Keystone State groundhog had to impending weather. The baseball commissioner took the act of saving the game upon himself and wrote his solution into the game’s secret administrative bylaws, now under the tight-fisted control of the current commissioner Bud Selig and rarely seen except by those who know the secret handshake. Landis’ ground(hog)-breaking strategy stated that should the shadow be witnessed by the mammal named Phil, both spring training and opening day would be delayed by six weeks.
Landis’ action cemented the sport as America’s favorite and eventually led to the tremendous surge in popularity of the sport across worldwide borders. The World Series champion Montreal Expos are just one shining example of its international success.
So, before contacting a travel agent and buying a non-refundable ticket for a flight to Florida to catch Grapefruit League games in spring training action, fans of the diamond game should keep a close eye on that Pennsylvania marmot.


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