Some 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 changes.
Anson’s Colts had not finished better than fourth place in the National League in the previous five seasons, and the manager apparently thought two radical changes would improve his team’s chances and simplify the game.
The Chicago Record said:
“Anson, the baseballist, would like to see some changes in the present system of playing ball.”
Anson said he wanted to make a change to the 1893 rule that established the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate and replaced the pitcher’s box with the rubber:
“He is in favor of putting the pitcher’s slab in front of the pitcher, instead of having it behind him. He wants this done in order to stop the interminable bickering that is going on in almost every game as to whether the pitcher was in position. It is much easier to see whether the rule is conformed to when the slab is in front of the pitcher, and he dare not stop over it.”
Anson’s other rule change would have led to complete chaos, and would have made it an adventure to fill out a scorecard:
“Another radical change that Anson is in favor of allowing the captain to put players back into the game after they have been taken out…(Anson) wants all restrictions removed, the manager being allowed to play his men just as he sees fit, taking them out and putting them back just when he wants to.”
The issue of introducing free substitution into baseball has occasionally been raised in the years since Anson advocated for it.
Montreal Canadians coach Dick Irvin suggested it to Kennesaw Mountain Landis as a solution to player shortages when the baseball commissioner attended an NHL game during World War II. Lew Fonseca made a pitch for the rule in the 1950s, and Walter “Red” Barber, long-time Dodger and Yankee broadcaster suggested in the 1960’s that the rule would help keep baseball from being “as exciting as watching paint dry.”
In 1967, Eddie Stanky of the Chicago White Sox was given permission from the American League to experiment with a crude form of what would become the designated hitter rule six years later. The convoluted rule, according to The Milwaukee Sentinel, said:
“(T)he Sox and their spring opponents will be allowed to call on a pinch hitter twice provided that he is designated before the game is not used twice in the same inning.”