Dead Ball Era


Wasn't this the Dead Ball Era? Meaning that fouls didn't count as strikes. I seem to remember the fouls being counted as strikes in the beginning when Eddie's pitching.

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It was the dead ball era but foul balls were strikes in the very early 1900s. Dead ball era just means few runs were scored in all likelihood because the balls werent as lively. They were used until they started to unravel. They also werent a bright white, they got dirty and grey so they were harder to see. The dead ball era was until about the early 1920s or so.

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Thanks for the clarification.

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It's also called that because it was the era in which you could still "doctor" the ball legally. Starting in 1920 I believe, anyone that wasn't already using those, could not use them legally.

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In the movie, one of the ball players mentions that next year they're going to start using a tighter-wound ball. The guy he's talking to says something to the effect that they'll be knocking them long distances.

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In the scene in question, one of the suspicious reporters is showing Cicotte the "new" ball that would supposedly be used starting the next year, and he told Cicotte that it was wound tighter. That scene has always bothered me because it seems to be based on baseball urban legend rather than real events.

In reality, the construction of official major league baseballs had been changed several years before (1910) with a switch from rubber to a cork core. That same ball construction was still in use in 1919, and would continue in 1920. No such proposals for a new ball were in place between the 1919 and 1920 seasons. Batting numbers went up in '20 and rumors began that the ball had been changed somehow, that it was "wound tighter", but that was not the case. The increased offensive statistics starting in the 1920 season were due primarily to changes in rules that outlawed certain throws (spitter, shine, etc) and "dirty ball" practices by pitchers, and the evolution of a more "free swinging" offensive philosophy on the part of baseball managers.

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Check out a book called "The Pitch that Killed". In 1920, Carl Mays of the NY Yankees was pitching against Rex Chapman of the Cleveland Indians. Chapman was crowding the plate, so Mays threw an inside fastball. Chapman didn't see it and was hit in the head. Chapman was taken to the hospital and died the next day. So far, he is the only MLB player to be killed in a game.

After Chapman's death, rule changes were instituted to keep fresh balls in play. (An earlier poster noted that balls were used until they fell apart.) It was thought that Chapman didn't see the ball because it had turned gray. Certain pitches, such as the spitball, were also legal up until then - but no more.

You are correct that taking away certain pitches and making the ball more visible helped boost offensive stats. I've got a book, but can't find it, that discussed how pre-1920 balls and post-1920 balls were disassembled and studied. No difference. The idea that balls pre-1920 were somehow "dead" and post-1920 balls were "lively" is mostly a myth.

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...and don't forget Babe Ruth's emergence as a home run hitter. Once he took off every team seemed to follow the need for more home runs.

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