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Bill Veeck: Deaden the Baseball

May 21, 1964 - Bill Veeck (pictured), the only man who was able to build teams good enough to finish ahead of the Yankees in the last 18 years, has put forth another of his provocative and unorthodox ideas. He wants to deaden the baseball.

The former owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox is currently a semi-retired writer and budding television commentator. This summer he will make several Saturday afternoon appearances for ABC-TV, and his observations are guaranteed to annoy that bastion of dedicated status quo, Organized Baseball.

Veeck’s latest idea sounds downright sacrilegious to baseball men who believe the lively ball means lively profit. Deaden it? Ridiculous.

Such a suggestion, naturally, is often made by pitchers and immediately discounted. It also frequently comes from the lips of some backward-looking old-timers who have a comprehensive “everything used to be better” attitude.

However, from Veeck, an established radical and innovator, a dead-ball proposal seems out of place — until he gives his reasons.

“Did you know,” he says, “that more than half the runs scored in the American League last year were scored on homers?”

That sounds impossible.

“It sure does,” says Veeck, “but I kept track, and it’s true. Don’t forget, there are men on base when most homers are hit. Now, think about the consequences. Years ago, teams were scoring just about as many runs as they do now, but with less than half as many homers. The few big sluggers hit them; the rest of the hitters didn’t.

“That means more action, in two ways. The plays that actually produced runs were more numerous and more interesting, and the pitchers weren't afraid that any pipsqueak hitter might hit one 400 feet over the wall.

“That’s why the games drag today. That’s why pitchers stand out there so long between pitches. That’s why you have so many 3-2 counts, so many fouls, so many walks, so much time devoted to inaction. All the hitters swing from the heels, all the pitchers are afraid.

The point is, this doesn’t produce more scoring, which is what the lively ball advocates think the crowd likes. It just produces more home runs with less action in a longer game.”

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