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Baseball history unpacked, November 20

The PCL problem, Sauer greats, Zimmer brings his hunches, and other stories

The Frey connection.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

... on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue brings a you a lighthearted Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1884 - The National League agrees to allow overhand pitching, but rules that pitchers must keep both feet on the ground throughout their pitching motion in order to reduce the velocity of their pitches. They still must throw the ball at the height requested by the batter. In addition, teams are now required to supply a separate bench for each club at their park to limit inter-team fraternization. (3)
  • 1888 - The Joint Rules Committee reduces the number of balls for a walk from five to four, establishing the four balls/three strikes count that remains in effect to this day. It also eliminates an out on a foul tip if the catcher catches it within 10 feet of home plate. (3)
  • 1934 - Seventeen-year-old Eiji Sawamura gives up one hit, a home run to Lou Gehrig, as the touring American All-Stars win in Japan, 1-0. At one point Sawamura strikes out four future Hall of Famers in a row: Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Gehrig. (2)

Cool article about Sawamura and Ruth.

  • 1952 - Commissioner Ford Frick states his belief that the Pacific Coast League will eventually reach major league status. The PCL is the only minor league in history to be given the “Open” classification, considered a step above the Triple-A level, that limited the rights of big league clubs to draft players from its teams, and is perceived as a precursor to the circuit becoming a third major league. (1,3)

More about Frick, who was a pioneer in many ways.

With change swirling around him, Frick often appeared to be a bystander. The press painted him as an empty suit who dodged most issues by throwing up his hands and saying, “It’s a league matter.”

He was an employee of the owners, and he acted like it. At the same time, he maintained the fiction that the commissioner represented “in that order ­— players, the public, and the owners.”

SI’s Roy Terrell wrote about the PCL problem.

“The very threat of congressional legislation is enough to make baseball club owners quiver like custard pudding.”

More about this.


Thanks for reading.