The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Ahead of their time: baseball "innovations" suggested in early 1960s

We’ve seen a lot of change in baseball in the past decade. It was perhaps never more evident than the rules changes implemented in the 2023 season designed to enhance the fans’ interest. For the most part, the results were what MLB intended.


We tend to think that most of the ideas for change have been the brainchild of current baseball analysts and strategists, as well as Major League Baseball. That’s generally true, but a look back at 50-60 years ago shows there was no shortage of innovation ideas in the game, some of which were still relevant today.


In my research activities related to writing about baseball history, I noticed several articles from The Sporting News in the 1960s that addressed innovations being considered then, some of which are finally being implemented today. The changes at that time were identified by some of baseball’s legendary figures of the game, including owner Charlie Finley and executive Branch Rickey.


Here are several TSN references mentioning changes thought to be innovative at the time. The comments are my observations of what has transpired since the 1960s.


“Greed Prevents a Third Major, Mahatma Insists”

The Sporting News, 12/21/1963, page 12, Melvin Durslag


Synopsis: Branch Rickey asserted that the expansion in baseball at the time was a mistake. Instead, he was a proponent of a third major league, whose champions would settle the World Series with round-robin play.


Rickey had been the leader of the proposed Continental League slated to begin play in 1961. However, his plan dissolved in 1960 when the American League and National League, then consisting of eight teams each, decided to expand.


Comment:  Arguments over diluting existing team revenues likely killed Rickey’s idea back then. Expansion of the leagues has brought the current total number of teams to 30, while including some minor restructuring of the leagues. MLB is reportedly considering more significant restructuring of the two leagues, possibly including additional teams outside of the US continent.



“Bust Up Farm Chains—Richards”

The Sporting News, 1/19/1963, page 1, Clifford Kachline


Synopsis: Paul Richards, then GM of the Colt .45s (former name of the Astros), predicted the minor leagues would be dead within five years and that only a return to independent operation in the minors would avert this outcome. He contended that games in the minors were no longer played to determine the pennant winner, but strictly for developmental purposes. He suggested that in their place, major league clubs should operate concentrated camps and glorified winter leagues playing in the summer to develop their talent.


Comment: The minors still exist, but beginning in 2019, MLB took control of the minor league clubs affiliated with major-league teams and reduced the number of minor-league teams by 25%. Independent baseball teams are not affiliated with MLB teams. With the seemingly constant movement of players between the major league clubs and their farm teams today, there is indeed less importance on league titles, as Richards observed 60 years ago. Improvements in college baseball player development have also lessened the dependency on the minor leagues.



“Finley’s Night World Series Plan Put on Major’s Agenda”

The Sporting News, 11/30/63


Synopsis: Charles Finley asserted that by playing World Series games at night, baseball would have better exposure because of larger television audiences in the evenings. He also suggested playing the All-Star Game at night for the same reason.


Comment:  The first night game in the World Series was Game 4 in 1971 in Pittsburgh.  All Series games have been played at night since Game 6 in 1987. For the reasons touted by Finley in 1963, it is unlikely the World Series or All-Star Games will ever see another day-time game.



“Fan Poll Backs Inter-League Play, 2-1”

The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 1, Bob Burnes


Synopsis: According to a questionnaire circulated by The Sporting News, fans voted by a 2 to 1 margin, they would like to see American League teams meet National League foes for at least one series a season. Its opposition saw inter-league play as creating the potential to lessen the importance of and interest in the World Series. Other opposing views included thinking that the weaker teams would lose even more attendance, and fans, as well as the players, would look upon the games as exhibitions.


Comment: Interleague play was introduced in 1997. Fan interest in the interleague series was high, particularly with teams in the same cities/regions. It never detracted from post-season competition. As of the 2023 season, every team in the majors plays at least one three-game series against the other 29 teams.



“20-Second Clock Okayed in Texas Loop’s Speed-Up”
The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 32, Bob Ingram


Synopsis: In an attempt to speed up the game, the Texas League adopted a timer clock for the 1963 season to allow hurlers a maximum of only 20 seconds between pitches. When the time expired a siren would sound. The umpires would call balls on slow hurlers. The electronically-controlled clocks would be operated from the press box.

Comment:  The length of games and pace of play remained key issues for Major League Baseball for the next sixty years. After several years of testing in the minors, the implementation of the pitch timer in 2023 contributed significantly to a reduction of elapsed game times by an average of 24 minutes.



“Charley’s Brilliant Idea; Electronic Men in Blue”

The Sporting News, 2/1/1964, page 4


Synopsis: In the 1960s major-league player Charley James developed a concept for an electronic umpire as part of an engineering class project while at Washington University.  He estimated the cost of such a device would be $50,000. His concept would not have eliminated the human umpire, but the device would help umpires improve their judgment in calling pitches.

Comment: The ABS (Automated Ball/Strike System) has been tested in the minors for the past couple of years. While a specific timeframe for utilization has not been established for the majors, it is only a matter of time before the technology underlying the calling of balls and strikes will be used. The new system will not totally eliminate the need for a home plate umpire.



“Let Sub Swing in Hurler’s Turn at Dish—Mauch”

The Sporting News, 2/2/1963, page 21, Allen Lewis


Phillies manager Gene Mauch requested permission to pinch-hit for his pitchers without having to remove them from spring training exhibition games. At the time, he was not advocating such a rule change during the regular season. In his proposal, before the game he would designate one man to hit for the pitcher without having to take the pitcher out of the game.


Comment:  An official position for the designated hitter was instituted in the American League in 1973. However, it was not implemented in the National League until 2022. Many baseball “traditionalists” still prefer pitchers hitting for themselves, but it has certainly resulted in changes in game strategy and roster makeup.



“Orange Baseball’s Introduced Six Years Ago by Semi-Pros”

The Sporting News, 12/28/1963, page 2


Synopsis: A’s owner Charlie Finley suggested the use of orange baseballs because they would be easier to see by the players. In fact, semi-pro teams in the National Baseball Congress had been using orange baseballs, known as the Glo-Bal, for six years prior to Finley’s suggestion.


Comment:  In 1970, the A’s introduced the use of orange baseballs in spring training games, but this is one idea that was never adopted by Major League Baseball.


Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)