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A Day In Wrigley Field History: July 18, 1916

In baseball, some things change. And others get argued about for almost a century.

SDN-060948, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

In writing this year's series, I didn't want to duplicate last year's effort, which was specifically aimed at doing one Cubs game per year, starting in 1908 (I finished with 1998). This offseason, with the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field coming up next year, I wanted to do something a bit different, not necessarily focusing on the most famous Cubs games. I'm looking for offbeat stuff, and will likely throw in some Bears games and other events at Wrigley.

It's the "offbeat" that leads me to this 1916 game, and it seems somehow appropriate that this one would come up on the same day that we're discussing replay review and umpiring.

We often argue today that games should move faster, that one way to do so would be to enforce the 12-second rule that's on the books to force pitchers to work faster at least with no runners on base.

You might wonder how that came into play July 18, 1916; looking at the box score, you see the game was played through nine innings in a 4-4 tie, but at the top of the box it says:

Game was forfeited to the visiting team.

Well. That's intriguing, right? There's no obvious reason that shows in the boxscore for this forfeit, but I. E. Sanborn, recapping the game in the Tribune, has the answer:

To ascertain whether rule 33 was a live one or a dead one, Manager Tinker of the Cubs forfeited the final game of the series to Brooklyn yesterday by the nominal score of 9 to 0 and at a cost of $1,000 to his employers and $100 to himself. 

That part of rule 33 whose vitality is at stake says, "The umpire shall call a ball on the pitcher each time he delays the game by failing to deliver the ball to the batsman for a period longer than twenty seconds."

For years it has been a dead letter and pitchers have been allowed with impunity to outrage the feelings of millions of faithful housewives by keeping husbands at ballparks while dinners grew cold. Yesterday Umpire Byron enforced it against Pitcher Jim Vaughn in the tenth inning of a drawn out combat. Tinker objected, and on being ordered off the field, refused to go, leaving the umpire no alternative than to award the game to Brooklyn, which he did.

Leaving aside the writer's comments about the housewives and dinners, something we can chalk up to this being 97 years ago, can you imagine such a scene today? A manager simply refusing to leave the field? "Rule 33" is something that no longer specifically exists; the rules were re-drawn years after this, but there's still a major-league rule (8.04) which states:

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

As you well know, this is never enforced. Given the huge delays now made by batters and pitchers in getting pitches thrown, it ought to be, even if you have to install a 12-second clock in each ballpark.

Here, from Sanborn, are the details of how the events occurred on that July date in 1916; there were already runners on second and third with nobody out:

O'Mara was up with two strikes and two balls called when Vaughn took an unusually long time for deliberation on the slab. O'Mara left the batsman's box once in protest over the delay and Byron told Vaughn to pitch the ball. Zimmerman told Byron to get back and "empire the game." As Vaughn still deliberated, Byron called a ball, making the count three and two.

Tinker rushed to the rescue and protested so vehemently that Byron ordered him to the shower bath. Tinker allowed he was too hot to risk a shower just then, so continued standing on the "soap box", daring the arbitrator to put him off the lot. Byron pulled his timepiece and fixed the customary time limit, then endeavored to get a copper to put Tinker off the field. The bluecoat consulted his book of rules and failed to find anything about ejecting ball players from the arena, so he ducked the job. At the expiration of the time limit the umpire declared the game forfeited to Brooklyn.

"Umpire Byron" was properly named William Jeremiah Byron, but according to his Retrosheet page, he was known as "Lord Byron." Appropriate for this situation, somehow.

The Cubs protested, but to no avail; the forfeit stood, and the team and Tinker were out a significant sum of money -- $1,000 in 1916 dollars is worth about $21,000 today, and $100 a tenth as much. League presidents had quite a bit of authority to assign such fines in the pre-Commissioner era. Given that the Dodgers had runners on second and third with nobody out, and were on their way to a pennant that year, while the Cubs finished fifth, the Cubs likely would have lost the game anyway. One thing hasn't changed; the "official" score of a forfeited game is still 9-0, though all the individual statistics stand.

You don't see that kind of thing in modern baseball. In some ways, we are worse off for it.