This Day In History: January 18

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On January 18, 1996, Major League Baseball owners unanimously approve interleague play for the 1997 season. The owners' vote, which called for each team to play 15 or 16 interleague games, breaks a 126-year tradition of teams only playing games within their league during the regular season.

In defending the move, acting MLB commissioner Bud Selig told reporters: We have the greatest tradition in the world, but tradition shouldn’t be an albatross. This will be a tremendous success." He added he wasn't concerned if the World Series featured teams that had played each other during the regular season.

"There's nothing in the Constitution that forbids that," he said. "I remember sitting at the Super Bowl last year and watching San Francisco play San Diego, and somebody said they played last November. There was no less interest."

Some owners were initially skeptical of breaking tradition, but they all were swayed to make the big step. The MLB Players Association subsequently gave its approval. "[I]nterleague games deserve a hard look," MLB Players Association leader Don Fehr said.

Interleague play was proposed as early as 1933, by Chicago Cubs owner Bill Veeck. It was proposed again in 1973, when the American League adopted the designated hitter, but the plan was rejected by the National League.

On June 12, 1997, the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers, 4-3, in the first interleague game.