It’s never too late to correct a mistake!
Man, I have all these old baseball guides on my shelves and somehow I’ve never come across this one. Via the great Tim Hagerty:
EXTRA BASES: The Southern Association penalized pitchers for issuing intentional walks in 1934. Baserunners received two bases after four-pitch walks with two outs. So, a runner at first base would automatically advance to third after a two-out, four-pitch walk to his teammate.
Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide said the league designed "a rule against the intentional pass when a heavy hitter comes to bat at a critical moment."Article continues below ...
The homogenizing nature of baseball, and sports in general, is incredibly powerful. This Southern Association rule doesn’t seem to have lasted long at all, but why on earth not?
As Hagerty note, 25 years later the Texas League didn’t try to limit intentional walks, but did allow the pitcher to simply wave the batter to first base without actually throwing a pitch.
That one didn’t take, either.
My guess? Major League Baseball has typically put the kibosh on changes it didn’t like … because if they became popular in the minors, the big boys might be pressured to change something … and nobody tells the big boys what to do!
Of course, MLB’s always had it backwards. Instead of fearing change from below, MLB should welcome the experiments and inspiration. And one can hope things have changed, at least a little, and the big boys took some interest in those recent experiments in the Atlantic League.