One-game playoff for Dodgers in 2021? Blame one Dodgers game in 1996
5 min read
fairly easy
After witnessing what happened in 1996 between the Dodgers and Padres, MLB wanted to make sure there was a bigger reward for winning a division title.
San Diego Padres pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, center, celebrates with teammates, including Rickey Henderson, right, after clinching the National League West title in a win over the Dodgers on Sept. 29, 1996. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

As this final week of the regular season dawns, with the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants fighting one another for first place, you will hear a lot about 1951 and 1962. You will not hear as much about 1996, but you should.

It is the season that could come back to haunt the Dodgers, 25 years later.

If the Dodgers can win two more games than the Giants this week, the two teams would play a tiebreaker for the National League West championship. If San Francisco wins the division, the Dodgers' postseason could be limited to one game, in part because of the indifference they showed to one particular game in 1996.

The Dodgers and Giants played tiebreakers in 1951 and 1962, but both times for the league championship. The term "postseason" had not been invented. There were two leagues, and the winner of each league advanced to the World Series.

In 1969, leagues split into two divisions, and the league championship series was born. In 1994, leagues split into three divisions, and the wild card was born — one in each league, so as to complete an eight-team postseason field.

In 1996, the Dodgers and San Diego Padres entered the final day of the regular season tied atop the NL West. The teams would play one another at Dodger Stadium, but there would be no great meaning in the result. The winner would be NL West champion and the loser would be the wild card, but both teams would advance to a five-game division series.

It should have been a day of drama, a fantastic finale to the regular season. It felt more like the finale of the Cactus…
Bill Shaikin
Read full article