The Major League Baseball (MLB) schedule has seen several changes since its inception. For a significant period, from 1904 to 1960, the MLB season consisted of 154 games. This was a traditional setup where each team played against every other team for 22 games. This pattern remained consistent, except for the World War I years of 1918 and 1919 when the schedule was curtailed due to orders from the War Department.
The Shift to 162 Games
In 1961, a significant shift occurred in the MLB schedule. The American League, one of the two leagues that make up the MLB, decided to extend the season by eight games. This decision was driven by the need to keep the schedule balanced as the league started adding teams. Continuing with the previous format of playing each division rival twenty-two times would have resulted in nearly two hundred games, which was deemed impractical.
Thus, the American League established the 162-game schedule in its first season of 1961. The teams would now play opponents 18 times each, resulting in a total of 162 games. This change marked the only year when the two major leagues played schedules of unequal length and also had a different number of teams.
National League Follows Suit
Following the American League's lead, the National League also adopted the 162-game season in 1962. This move ensured uniformity across both leagues, creating a more balanced and manageable schedule for all teams involved.
The Impact of Expansion
The expansion of the American League with the addition of the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators in 1961 played a crucial role in the shift to a 162-game schedule. The increase in the number of teams necessitated a longer season to maintain a balanced schedule.
The Current Scenario
Since the adoption of the 162-game schedule, the MLB has maintained this format, with each team playing 18 games with five opponents and 12 games with six others in a 12-team, 2-divisional arrangement. The two divisional champions in each league then meet in a championship series (playoffs) of 3-out-of-5 games, which do not count in the final averages.