Clipping:Ward advocates moving the pitcher back

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Date Wednesday, September 26, 1888
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[from a communication from Ward] The ... proposition, which would remove the pitcher further from the batter, is to my mind the best yet offered. I wish distinctly to disclaim its authorship, which has been attributed to me. I do not know how first suggested it. It has doubtless suggested itself to many different persons, because it is at the same time the most natural, the simplest and the most efficacious solution of the difficulty. Under the oldtime slow pitching the distance was fortyfive feet; yet now, with the speed twice as great, it is only fifty feet. A further increase is advocated by Harry Wright, Anson, Robert Ferguson, Clarkson and many other careful observers. Anson thinks the pitcher should be placed in the middle of the diamond, which would remove him about thirteen feet farther away than at present. I believe, however, we should begin with five feet. It is only necessary to increase the batting about 20 per cent. If this distance does not effect the desired increase, lengthen the distance again in 1890, but for the present make it fiftyfive instead of fifty feet.

This change would not only help the batting but, incidentally, it would relieve two other difficulties and be of great benefit to the game.

In the first place it would make the catcher’s work easier. To catch a swift pitcher at fifty feet is hard enough, but when, in addition, he is wild, as many are and always will be, the difficulty and danger of the undertaking is greatly increased.

In the second place, it would free the batter form much danger. Standing before a swift pitcher, expecting a ball on the plate, it requires the liveliest kind of dodging to escape a ball pitched at the body. Only one who has been hit can appreciate the force of the blow. Five players killed outright and a number seriously injured is the record already for this season, though among the killed have been no professionals, owing to the fact either that we are more skillful in getting out of the way or that our heads are harder; yet a number of professionals have been seriously and dangerously hurt. If anyone thinks the five extra feet would make but little difference let him try facing a swift pitcher at the two distances and he will see his mistake.

The objection advanced that the increased distance would make it impossible for the catcher to throw a runner out at second is untenable. The only loss of time would be that required by the ball to pass through the extra five feet, and, at the speed with which it is thrown, this would be insignificant. And it would be more than compensated for by two other facts. The pitcher would be in a much better position to watch the runner and hold him close to the first base and the catcher would handle the ball more quickly and safely on account of the better view he would be able to get of it.

It is also said that any increase of the distance would make the strain upon the pitcher too great. It would do nothing of the sort. The pitcher throws the ball now with all his force, and he could do no more if he were placed 100 feet away. Moreover, if brute force should, as I fancy, be at a less premium he would employ less speed and more skill and the strain would really be lightened.

Another absurd objection is that it would rob a pitcher of much of his skill. As though such a thing were possible! Skill is a product of the mind, and you can no more rob a man of his skill than you can change the texture of his brain. You may render that skill less effective, but in this instance that is the end sought.

Source Cleveland Plain Dealer
Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings

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