NL Institutes Pitch 1901

With MLB's newfound interest in speeding up the pace of play, it's easy to forget that MLB rules actually had a pitch clock in place before this year. Granted, it was virtually never enforced (I think I saw an automatic ball called for a clock violation once, and no one knew what was going on when it happened), but the rule was technically there.

I had no idea just how far back that rule went, though, until I saw this quote from Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett while browsing through some old sports pages (scroll/zoom to the highlighted word at the bottom right corner of the page):

I have been reading how the rule limiting the pitcher to twenty seconds on the slab before throwing will handicap "Cup". That is only a National League rule, and "Cup" is in the American, where the rule is not in force.*

"Cup" here is George Cuppy, a longtime teammate of Burkett's who had just signed with the newly formed American League. I don't know if the rule was on the books continuously from 1901-present time, but apparently the idea of a 20-second limit on pitchers dates back at least that far.

*The St. Louis Republic. (St. Louis, Mo.), 27 March 1901. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.


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