Chicago Daily Tribune, January 6, 1907 – Page A1
American League Will Introduce Novelty for Information of Spectators.
JOHNSON FAVORS PLAN.
Hereafter Decisions on “Balls” and “Strikes” to Be Made Clear by Signals.
Patrons of American league games next season will welcome an innovation which is planned to enable spectators in any part of the field, no matter how far from the home plate, to follow every detail of the play and every decision of an umpire as soon as made. This can be done either by the adoption of a code of visible signals for the umpires, or by extensive electrical score boards along the lines of the one in operation at the St. Louis American league park.
A retired army officer, one of the most enthusiastic and best known baseball fans at the national capital, has written THE TRIBUNE’S Washington correspondent, asking THE TRIBUNE to request President Johnson, in behalf of the thirty-third degree fan club of Washington, to direct the American league umpires next season to adopt some simple code for signaling decisions on “Balls” and “strikes,” so as to make them instantly intelligible to spectators in all parts of the stands.
Gestures for Signals.
The veteran officer suggested the most simple method known and one which occasionally has been used already, that of having the umpire raise his right hand above the shoulder to indicate a “strike” and his left hand similarly to indicate a “ball.” The argument was made that in modern baseball so much depends on knowing the exact situation that it is necessary to know accurately what the umpire decides a pitched ball to be in order to follow the play closely and keep in touch with the constantly shifting tide of battle.
The average umpire’s decisions on pitched balls are not intelligible even to grand stand spectators, it is claimed, consequently the distant bleachers must be even more puzzled as to the batsman’s chances. In making decisions on bases umpires almost invariably use a set of signals easily understood, and it is the opinion of hundreds of fans whom the officer has interviewed on the matter that it is almost as important to know the decision on a pitched ball, and that such decision can be made known by signal as easily as the base decisions.
Scheme Pleases Ban Johnson.
President Johnson, when the request was presented to him, immediately assented to adopting the suggestion, unless it is found plausible for the American league clubs to go even farther than that in the matter of keeping spectators informed of everything that happens.
“I have had in mind for some time,” said he, “plans to give the spectators correct and immediate information on all the details of our games, and this suggestion is not only a good one but easy to put into operation. However, I have been thinking of suggesting to all the blubs the adoption of the score board system in use at the St. Louis grounds of the American league.
“They have an immense blackboard there in sight of all the stands worked by electric connections for the most part. As soon as each ball or strike is called the decision is recorded on the board by pressing a button. The number of balls and strikes called is shown at all times, also the number of men out and the number of runs, if any, in that inning. This is in addition to the usual space for showing the scores by innings of the home game and those in other cities.
Difficulties in the Way.
“I do not know that it will be possible to install such service at all of our fields on account of the difficulty of finding sufficient space for a board of that size, where it will be easily visible from all parts of the field. But, in any case, the suggestion of my Washington friend is so simple and easily executed that I will take the matter up with the umpires at the proper time.”
Fans who were fortunate enough to see the world’s series in this city last fall will recall that the din of rooting was so great it was impossible to hear an umpire’s decision. Umpire Johnstone, who worked behind the plate in the first game, had difficulty in making even the batteries understand his decisions. Next day “Silk” O’Loughlin supplemented his clarion voice with his characteristic gestures, and his decisions were apparent to all. The national commission liked the gesture idea so well that, before the third game, both umpires were instructed to raise their arms for “strikes” and their left arms for “balls.” Although a little awkward at first, this became almost a habit before a game was finished.
“Dummy” Hoy Given Signals.
When Dummy Hoy was playing in the big leagues his only method of ascertaining decisions on pitched balls was by watching the coacher at third base, who held up his right hand when a “strike” was called on Hoy and his left hand for a “ball.”
In these days of big crowds and noisy ones some method of indicating decisions has become necessary. The umpires have realized it and have met the situation with practically uniform gestures to indicate “safe” and “out” on base decisions. It needed only a sufficiently imperative demand from the fans to extend the signal code to “balls” and “strikes,” and that demand has been heard.