Memorial Day used to feature baseball double headers and the Indianapolis 500.
If you ever wondered just how much television charged sports in the United States, the Memorial Day holiday is a good place to start. The American and National Leagues in baseball were pretty much separate entities except for the All Star Game and World Series and both held double headers on Memorial Day. There are no doubleheaders on the schedule. The biggest change on Memorial Day, the Indianapolis 500 was one of the premiere events on the sports calendar, that and baseball. But that has changed as the Indianapolis 500 isn’t the only race of the day. A 600 mile NASCAR race takes place in North Carolina. And neither race takes place on Memorial Day it is a Sunday event.
The Stanley Cup Finals start on Monday, Memorial Day, the National Hockey League season used to end in April but the league expanded in 1966 and went to 12 teams in 1967 for American television purposes and the season just drags on and on. The NBA will not have playoff action over the Memorial Day weekend because of very short semi-final rounds. That league also had major expansion starting in the early 1960s for the same reason. TV money. The NBA Finals will start on June 1. Boxing and horse racing dominated the American sports scene back in the fifties. The National Professional Soccer League had a contract with CBS in 1967 but the ratings were poor and that lasted one year. Today Major League Soccer, which has a robust TV deal, is part of the Memorial Day weekend sports landscape. There always was golf and tennis but golf’s The Open in Great Britain gained importance in the 1960s because of Roone Arledge and ABC TV. Today there is not a day in the calendar that doesn’t feature a sports event, the programming is needed to feed the daily beast, TV.
Memorial Day used to mean double headers at the ballpark.