Each team in Major League Baseball plays 162 games per season.
Since there are 30 MLB teams, and they (obviously) play against each other in each game, the total number of games in a season is …
(162 games X 30 teams) / (2 teams per game) = 2430 games per season.
That’s a lot of games, to be sure, and it’s a constant source of consternation and tension for fans, players, owners, sponsors, and others associated with the game.
But it wasn’t always quite this way …
Why 162 Games?
The 162-game season has its genesis in 1919, when the American and National Leagues stabilized at eight teams each and came together to develop a common schedule.
The agreement called for each team to play each opponent 20 times, and, since there was no interleague play at the time, that meant 140 games (20 games x 7 rivals).
The next year, MLB bumped that up to 22 games between each pair of opponents, expanding the schedule to 154 games.
(Think that move had anything to do with Babe Ruth’s move to the New York Yankees and maybe the 1919 Chicago Black Sox? Money talks …)
That structure held tight until the American League expanded by two teams in 1961.
(The Washington Senators moved north to become the Minnesota Twins, and a new version of the Senators landed in D.C. They were joined by the newly-minted Los Angeles Angels.)
With ten teams in the AL, that would have put each club’s schedule at 198 (22 games x 9 opponents) under the existing scheme, so the parties involved agreed to a reduction.
At 18 games per match-up, each AL club entered the new season staring at a 162-game schedule.
Meanwhile, the NL remained at eight teams and maintained their 154-game schedule … but only for a year.
In 1962, the NL expanded, too, adding the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets.
To go along with the extra clubs, the Senior Circuit adopted the 162-game schedule, and we were off to the (pennant) races.
In the intervening 60 years or so, MLB has welcomed ten more teams to the fold, and we’ve also witnessed a fair number of franchise relocations.
Along the way, we’ve also seen the advent of divisional play, realignment, interleague play, the designated hitter, strikes, lockouts, expanded playoffs, and any number of other changes, from tiny to huge.
But all along the way, baseball has held to that 162-game season.
Will it change any time soon?
You never know, as the modern powers-that-be have shown a hankering for tinkering, but the long, long schedule appears safe for the moment.
This post is part of a new series, Baseball Briefs, exploring our game in 500-word (or less) snippets. Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss any of the fun!
Cool series. Looking forward to more. (But not more baseball games. I think 162 is enough.)
Glad to hear you like it! Agreed that 162 seems long, but I’m always sad about a week after they’re all done. Maybe if my Reds could stick around until October …