“It smacks of Old-fashioned Common Sense”

26 Jun

For more than a century, major league baseball has looked for ways to increase hitting.  Or, as Bozeman Bulger of The New York World put it in 1917

“Overhauling the rules of baseball to make it harder for the pitcher and more of a joy ride for the boys who wield the ash has always been a favorite winter pastime.”

Burger said former pitcher and current National League President John Tener was “(C)onvinced that the public wants more hitting.”

John Tener

John Tener

Tener and others shared their ideas for rule changes with Bulger on the eve of the meeting of the rules committee.

“Tener proposes making the home plate larger and at the same time allowing a batter to take his base on three balls instead of four.”

[…]

“Then comes Charlie (Buck) Herzog (of the New York Giants) with a suggestion, perhaps the most interesting of all.  It is the outpost of a real imagination that is comprehensive. Before announcing his plan, Herzog calls attention to the injustice of calling strikes on very hard hit line drives that fall foul by inches.  To all intents and purposes, those are real scientific hits, and the fact that luck causes them to fall foul should not act upon the batter as a penalty.  In other words, he is being severely punished for really doing scientific work. Herzog suggests, therefore, that a zone be described along those two foul lines between third and the fence and between first and the ground limits.  This zone should be at least ten feet in width, and any ball hit therein is not to be called a foul.  At the same time, it is not to be called a safe hit.  In other words, the batter loses his hit by bad luck, but it relieves him of an unjust penalty.”

Buck Herzog

Buck Herzog

Incredibly, Bulger completely endorsed Herzog’s proposed rules change and claimed, “Every ballplayer in America” would agree, because “It smacks of old-fashioned common sense.”

Another rule change was proposed by Percy Duncan Haughton.  Haughton, a long-time college football coach (Cornell and Harvard), and Harvard baseball coach in 1915 (he also played both sports at Harvard) had become a part-owner of the Boston Braves in 1916.  Bulger said:

“Mr. Haughton’s scheme has not been taken very seriously by those who were studying these problems while he was still a football player, but there is a real satisfaction in finding a new magnate so much interested in the sport.  The President of the Braves proposes that the distance from third to home and from home to first be lessened by several inches.  It might help the batter a little, but an extreme change like that would be pecking at the one fundamental of the game that has stood all tests.”

The most practical suggestion came from Giants Manager John McGraw, who proposed that no rules be changed, but advocated a more lively ball.

Bulger, however, was sure some rules would change:

“(T)he powers that be appear to be intent upon really turning out a new model.”

The New York World's rendering of the proposed changes.

The New York World’s rendering of the proposed changes.

When the meetings at the Waldorf Astoria in New York ended two weeks later, Jack Veiock of the Hearst Newspapers International News Service said:

“(I)t was confidently expected that the members of the rules committee would get together and make a few alterations in the baseball code as it stands today.

“But the rules committee did nothing of the kind  The wise old heads who are in control of baseball are satisfied with the rules.”

 

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5 Responses to ““It smacks of Old-fashioned Common Sense””

  1. graham64 June 30, 2015 at 3:10 am #

    I don’t know about the pros and cons of some of those rules, but Bozeman Bulger is a fantastic name!

    • Thom Karmik June 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      One of the great all-time sportswriter names.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Cincinnati Enquirer said Reds’ Manager Charles “Buck” Herzog “vigorously denied,” that Chase would join his club and said he would stick with Frederick […]

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    […] 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago […]

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