“The Purest Rot”

17 Feb

Johnny Evers, shortly before becoming manager of the Chicago Cubs in 1913, joined the pantheon of baseball legends who advocated for rule changes that would have radically altered the game.

evers2

Johnny Evers

Before attending the rules committee meeting that winter, Evers told a reporter from The Chicago Evening Post, that he would recommend three new rules.

That rules committee meeting, incidentally, was the same in which National League Secretary John Heidler also made a recommendation he would later attempt to promote when he became the league’s president in 1918; he told The Associated Press:

heydler

John Heydler

“With few exceptions practically, all pitchers are weak hitters and weaker base runners. When they come to bat they literally put a drag on the game…Now it is my idea that this could be eliminated with the adoption of a rule permitting a pinch hitter to do the batting for the pitcher each time the pitcher’s regular time at bat came around without forcing the removal of the pitcher from the game…there doubtless are several details that would have to be worked out later. For one, I think it would be best if the same pinch hitter did all the batting for one pitcher and that this batter be designated by the manager before game time.”

Evers’ equally radical rule suggestions were, first:

“When a pitcher intentionally gives a base on balls to a heavy hitter to get a weaker one to the plate baseball crowds usually cry out in protest. It is often the case that players will reach third and second bases with a strong batsman coming up. The latter is passed purposely and the next man, a comparatively poor hitter, is disposed of easily.”

Evers solution:

“If the pitcher walked a big hitter with a man on third the latter would be permitted to score a run, while a man on second would go to third. It is my idea that a pitcher should be compelled to put the ball over the plate under these conditions.”

Evers also proposed another rule change to increase run production:

“The foul strike rule has increased the effectiveness of the pitchers to an alarming degree so that, in my opinion, they should not be allowed to tighten their grip on the batsman. That is why I will suggest that the number of called balls be reduced from four to three. Then it would be impossible for a pitcher to waste balls to handicap the chances of base runners.”

The third suggestion was to move the “coachers box” back five feet, thus making it more difficult for coaches to steal signs.

Washington Senators manager Clark Griffith told Ed Grillo of The Washington Post that he agreed with Evers’ suggestion to re-position first and third base coaches but said his other two ideas we “The purest rot,” that would be laughed out of the meeting:

clarkgriffith

Clark Griffith

“Evers would have three balls give a base, and we all know that right now the average pitcher has trouble enough getting the ball over.”

Griffith said Evers’ intentional walk rule would “Penalize the pitcher because he displays a little judgment and takes a chance.”

Griffith declared:

“The rules are satisfactory and should not change.”

Evers’ suggestions to increase run production and Heydler’s rule for a “designated” pinch hitter for the pitcher did not gain any traction among the rules committee in 1913.

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