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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On June 12, 1997, the Texas Rangers hosted the San Francisco Giants in the first of what’s become a series of nearly 4000 non-World Series games played between American League and National League teams – or as we know it: Interleague Play.
The purists hate it. The casual fans love it. Bottom line, the turnstiles spin and cash registers ring in record numbers when teams from the opposing leagues come to town. In 2011, teams saw an average increase of 3,300 fans per game when they were playing a club from the opposite league.
The Subway Series was renewed again this past weekend as the Yankees hosted the Mets. Fenway Park was jam-packed to see Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals visit the Red Sox. Even here at Target Field, in a season where good seats have often been available, numbers ticked up as the Cubs visited Minnesota.
Sure, some of the match-ups stink – I doubt they were threatening attendance records in Pittsburgh when Kansas City comes to town. Then again, is that all that dissimilar to when Kansas City visits Oakland, or when Pittsburgh hosts Houston? I doubt it.
Overall, the American League holds a slight advantage in overall record against their National League counterparts (a disparity of slightly more than 200 wins over 15 seasons), but has dominated the series as a whole, winding up with a better record in 11 of the 15 seasons of Interleague Play, including the last eight in a row.
For the Twins, Interleague Play has a very positive history. The Twins are 152-118 (.563) all-time against the NL – tied for the fourth-best record in all of baseball, and are 73-41 (.640) since 2006. In that same five-year stretch at home, Minnesota has been nearly unstoppable by NL clubs, going 42-15 (.737).
As a club, the Twins have hit .275 in Interleague Play, with 493 doubles, 71 triples, 253 home runs and 1308 runs scored in 269 games. Joe Mauer’s .322 career average against teams from the National League ranks 11th amongst active players.
If the Twins dominance in Interleague Play isn’t enough to get you out to the park, there are always plenty of great story lines. As we saw this past weekend, Alfonso Soriano is quite comfortable hitting at Target Field, launching  home runs in his first three games played in the Twins new facility.
Starting Tuesday night, the Twins face the Philadelphia Phillies. Phills skipper Charlie Manuel is a former Twin. Jim Thome, owner of five of the eight longest-hit home runs in Target Field history was recently activated, and will almost certainly be in the line-up. Cole Hamels – probably the biggest name on the free agent market following this season – starts for Philly on Wednesday night. And outfielder Shane Victorino might have the single-best nickname in all of sports: The Flyin’ Hawaiian!
After the Phillies depart Minneapolis, the Twins will be visited by their Interstate 94 nemesis, the Milwaukee Brewers. If knocking the Cheeseheads around a little bit doesn’t entice you to catch some baseball, I don’t know what will!
Maybe after 15 years, Interleague Play doesn’t hold the novelty it once did. But over the course of a 162 game schedule, it’s a still a very special part of the season.
Go to the yard. Check out some clubs you don’t get to see every year. Watch the Twins score some runs.
Really … do you have anything better to do?