A Really Bad Idea II

23 Oct

Last week I told you about Chicago Colts President Al Hart’s connection with the proposed rule to change the shape of the diamond.  He wasn’t the only baseball pioneer who considered adopting rule changes which would have completely changed the game.

William Henry “Harry” Wright, called by many “The Father of Baseball,” was among the most respected figures of baseball’s first two decades.  The Philadelphia Record described his importance:

 “Harry Wright has done more than any other man to bring baseball to its present high standing.”

Wright’s story has been told many times and in many places.  This lesser known story focuses on two rules changes he championed.

Harry Wright

After the 1893 season Wright’s contract was not renewed as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies he accepted the position of “Chief of Umpires” of the National League.  The Philadelphia Record reported on a number of rule changes he advocated, including this:

 “Harry Wright thinks that players should not be allowed to question an umpire’s decision during the progress of a game, or to speak to him while the ball is in play, and that he should have the power of taking out of the contest any player (or manager) who breaks the rule.”

While not necessarily a bad idea, if adopted Wright’s idea would have drastically changed the game for several generations of famous umpire baiters.

One other rule change Wright promoted, as reported by The Sporting Life, would certainly have been a bad idea:

 “(A)llowing a base runner to run on a fly ball instead of returning and registering at the base.”

While Wright’s idea never was seriously considered for incorporation into the rule book, it had advocates as late as 1899, four years after his death.

Washington Senators Manager Arthur Irwin endorsed the rule with this colorful description:

 “Uncertainty is the life of the game, and the more uncertain the uncertainty the higher does the interest key itself…for instance (John) McGraw, one of the most daring base runners in the league Is on first base with two men out, and a run needed to win the game (Wilbert) Robinson follows with a fly to center field, and at the stroke of the bat away scuds Mac. His get-away is the cue that brings the spectators to their feet.  ‘Will he score?  Can (Joe) Kelley field that ball home to cut him off at the plate?’ Around the runway fly the twinkling feet of the little Napoleon of the Orioles.   It’s a chase of life and death between Mac and the ball. Kelley swings the sphere on two bounds to Duke Farrell at the plate.  Mac slides into the rubber, and beats the throw by an abbreviated whisker.

“Can you imagine a more intense climax to a game of ball? Why, the game would be full of such play if the idea of running on a fly ball became a rule.  It would increase the base running, produce more plays in the field, and keep the outfielders almost as busy as the inner circle, when the bases were occupied.”

Of course Irwin failed to consider the scenario where the winning run is on third base and scores on a routine fly ball with two outs.

Arthur Irwin

7 Responses to “A Really Bad Idea II”


  1. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #2 | Baseball History Daily - April 8, 2013

    […] the 1887 season Hall of Famer and baseball pioneer Harry Wright took his Philadelphia Quakers on a tour of West Coast along with the Chicago White Stockings, New […]

  2. “Leather-Fisted Phil” | Baseball History Daily - April 12, 2013

    […] “Deacon” McGuire to leave a game after an injury.  The Chicago Tribune said Quakers captain Arthur Irwin “told McGuire to catch ‘away back’ (from the plate).” The Tribune said Irwin’s actions […]

  3. “Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati” | Baseball History Daily - August 26, 2013

    […] were given in a weak and faltering voice and after much hesitation, and we hardly think Captain Harry Wright could have made a worse […]

  4. “Anson, the Baseballist, would like to see some Changes” | Baseball History Daily - September 26, 2013

    […] of baseball’s pioneer’s had ideas for rule changes that would have, if adopted, dramatically changed the game.  In 1896 Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson proposed two such […]

  5. Albert Spalding on Superstitions | Baseball History Daily - December 18, 2013

    […] Captain (Arthur) Irwin always spits on the coin he tosses up for a choice of position in a game.  Jack Rowe (of the […]

  6. Frank Bancroft | Baseball History Daily - July 14, 2014

    […] “Arthur Irwin is another player whom Manager Bancroft put in the business. ‘He made a grand impression in his opening game with me,” said Manager Bancroft.  ‘I was then manager of the Worcester League team, and we were on the hog train for a while, owing to Charlie Bennett’s glass arm and Buck (William “Farmer”) Weaver’s faint heart.  Matters were so bad that a crisis was at hand.  A meeting of the stockholders of the club was called, and it was voted to place the team in my hands for one month, and if no improvement was shown at the end of that time I was to be given the chase.  It was a dying chance for me, and you could gamble that I had my eyes and ears open for a savior of some kind.  Arthur Irwin was then playing with an amateur team called the Aetnas, of South Boston, and I engaged him to play short with the Worcester.  (J. Lee) Richmond, the once famous left-handed pitcher, who played here with the Reds in 1886, was then with the Brown University team and he was telegraphed to come for a trial.  We played the Chicagos that day, and we shut them out, only one man getting first base.  Irwin made a great hit at short, and Richmond was a wizard.  Irwin was a fifty-dollar-a-month man, and that was the start of his professional career.  Richmond is now a physician at Geneva, Ohio.’” […]

  7. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #25 | Baseball History Daily - August 15, 2018

    […] Arthur Irwin was a scout for the New York Highlanders in 1912 when he declared to William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star that, “Players who are hard drinkers in the big leagues are scarce now.” […]

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