•The Pope, Billy Graham and one-night stands. Even the Stephensons' best-laid plans are prey to the singular events that can upset the schedule-making process. In September 1987, Pope John Paul II's American tour arrived in Chavez Ravine, smack in the middle of a seven-game Dodger home stand. An unwanted doubleheader was improvised.
"We also had Billy Graham take over a stadium for a day in Baltimore," says Henry. "It seems simple enough because these things are just single events. But if they fall in the wrong spot in the schedule, it can be very disruptive."
Consider this disruption. Sometime during 1982, after the Stephensons had turned in their working draft for the '83 season, the A's became upset with what they thought was an inequity in the proposed calendar, which had them on the road during three major holidays: Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. At first it looked as if an easy fix could be made since the Texas Rangers were slated to be at home for all three of those holidays and their July 4 date was with the A's. The Rangers agreed to switch that game to Oakland, but only after being promised a July 4 home game the following year.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco Giants (remember conflict cities?) were already scheduled to be in the Bay Area on July 4, playing the San Diego Padres. Since the Giants also had home games for Memorial Day and Labor Day, they were asked to move their July 4 series to San Diego. Which was fine—except that a move would upset the balance of home-and-away series between the Giants and the Padres. So the San Francisco-San Diego season-opening series was moved to Candlestick. Following so far?
Swell, but you aren't done. It seems the A's were also down to have an opening series at home that year, bringing up another conflict-cities situation. So Oakland's opening game was moved up one day, a compromise that at least gave the Giants and the A's different opening days. But that put the A's Opening Day on the same day as Cincinnati's and Baltimore's. A proposal had to be made to the major league owners to ignore the exclusive ceremonial Opening Day tradition that gives the date to the Reds and Orioles. After much grumbling and groaning, the proposal was adopted.
"There hasn't been a schedule in the history of baseball that has been worked out so perfectly that everyone is happy with it," says Henry. "But balance is the most important criteria. Everybody should get the same number of home and away series. Everybody should get a certain number of special requests. Everybody should get the pluses and minuses of a schedule."
Understandably, when the Stephensons finish scheduling a season, usually in June of the previous year, they're less than enthusiastic about immersing themselves in other kinds of details. "When we're not working, we need a break," says Henry. "We put all of our organizational skills into this, so when we are home...." Henry laughs softly. "Well, let's just say that I don't always get our bills paid on time. But they get paid."
Perhaps the schedule makers should train their skills on their own datebook?
This time, both Henry and Holly Stephenson laugh. "First," says Henry, "we have to find our datebook."