December 8, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013
50 years ago today, the lords of baseball made a rule change that had a profound effect on the game. They messed with that most vital element of the game—the strike zone.
On Jan. 26, 1963, the owners voted to widen the strike zone. They felt that run scoring had become too easy. In 1961, in part due to diluted pitching in baseball’s first expansion in 60 years, the game witnessed an explosion of offense, highlighted by some impressive individual performances.
In 1961, six American Leaguers belted 40 homers or more. Not only was that a one-year, one-league record, but it tied the most 40-homer seasons achieved by both leagues in one year. Jim Gentile swatted 46 homers—including five grand slams—while driving in 141 runs. Norm Cash had an all-time great fluke season, hitting .361 with 41 homers and 132 RBIs. Most famously, Roger Marisbroke Babe Ruth's hallowed record with 61 homers—narrowly edging teammate Mickey Mantle with his 54 dingers.
The next year didn’t have quite as many impressive individual performances, but overall offense was still up. The owners and executives had had enough. When Roger Maris out-homers Babe Ruth, it’s time to change the rules, they felt.
So the new strike zone came into being 50 years ago today. It was a bigger zone, going from the top of a batter’s shoulders to the bottom of his knees.
The impact was immediate. In 1962, the NL and AL averaged 4.48 and 4.44 runs per game respectively. In 1963, the AL fell to 4.08 while the NL collapsed to 3.81.
Offense hovered around four runs a game for the next few years, but pitchers had the upper hand. Finally, in 1968, they took full control. Bob Gibson had his historically low ERA of 1.12. Don Drysdale set a record with the longest scoreless inning streak ever. Denny McLain became baseball’s first 30-game winner in a generation.
The rule created in 1963 helped reduce run scoring all right. But the cure proved to be worse than the disease. People began talking about how low run scoring had become and how baseball would have to create new rules to boost scoring again.
But 50 years ago today the game tried to lower scoring—and boy, did it ever succeed!
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary) which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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