May 30, 2016

Attempts To Speed Up Baseball Games Date Back 160 Years

From John Thorn, MLB's Official Historian:
On June 27, 1911, there was an unintended consequence of an attempt to speed up the game. American League president Ban Johnson had issued a directive that warm-up pitches were now banned, because they were time-wasters. Once the batter stepped into the box, any pitch that was thrown would count.

On June 27, Stuffy McInnis moved into the batter's box and smacked a warm-up pitch before any of the fielders were in position. He ran around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. It was after this incident that Ban Johnson vacated the edict, and warm-up pitches were again allowed.

The 20-second rule has been in the books since 1901. Attempts to speed up the ballgame date back to the 1850s, with the introduction of called strikes, so that batters wouldn't let good ones go by, and waste time. In 1864, there was the introduction of called balls, because pitchers were wasting time by nibbling outside of the plate, trying to get batters to swing at an unhittable pitch.

The current obsession with the time and the pace of the game, like with most things in baseball, isn't new.


FenFan said...

Of course, if they REALLY want to speed up the game, MLB would shorten the commercial breaks between half innings. Cutting them from 2:30 to 1:30 would save almost 20 minutes in a typical nine inning game.

Most of the remedies that have been offered are patchwork solutions at best. Rewarding batters an international walk with no pitches thrown? Keeping mound visits from pitching coaches under 30 seconds? *yawn*

A game that goes 90 minutes versus four hours takes nine innings and requires 27 outs regardless. How quickly the game goes depends entirely on the game itself, and that's the beauty of it.

allan said...

Posted by Stew Thornley to the SABR list-serv:

Chuck Hildebrandt was able to determine that a typical time between half-innings in 1934 was 1:15. Now the minimum for a non-national TV game is 2:05.

I've written about this before. Someone did a time study in the late 1960s, and the average time between half-innings was just short of two minutes. I take it by this time pitchers were given the still-standard eight warmup pitches. It doesn't appear that a minimum allotment for commercials was driving the time between innings then. I got the DVD of the final three innings of Jim Maloney's no-hitter at Wrigley Field (great stuff). This included commercials. There was usually one commercial, and then it was back to the ballpark, and the announcers had to chatter for a while to fill time as the pitcher completed his tosses.


During the late 70s it was very common for the game to come back from commercial while the pitcher was still throwing his warm-ups and before the catcher threw down to second base.