On the Clock

In which we inquire about the baseball speedup rules of 1962.

July 2023

Reading time min

Illustration of an angry baseball looking at its watch

Illustration: Gary Taxali

Tinker with the rules of a beloved game and watch the opinions fly. Nowhere is that more evident than in Major League Baseball, now well into a season that features a pitch clock, restrictions on defensive shifts, larger bases, and ghost runners in extra innings. The ostensible goal is to speed up play and generate more action, and perhaps to give the press and fans something to yap about. 

Among such yapping was a February episode of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast, which ran through a history of speedup experiments in the national pastime. As journalist Stefan Fatsis recounted, in 1962, the Stanford frosh and JV teams endured a strict regimen: no warm-up pitches between innings, no tossing the ball around the infield after outs, and penalties for players who didn’t run off and on the field between innings. 

Tongue-in-cheek, Fatsis predicted an eventual backlash to 2023’s new rules. Might there have been any actual backlash among the Stanford players 60 years ago? Your intrepid alumni magazine endeavored to investigate but ultimately struck out.   

“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember that this happened, and I played in every game,” says Dick Kovacevich, ’65, MS ’66, MBA ’67, neatly summarizing the consensus. 

“Either the experience was not significant enough to me,” says Carter “Buzz” Riegel, ’65, “or my memory of such things 61 years ago has failed me.” 

‘Hitters didn’t constantly step out of the box to adjust equipment like elbow guards. We didn’t even have elbow guards. We just sort of got on with it.’

Marsh Howard, ’64, Rich Berra, ’65, Bill Young, ’63 . . . nothing. Maybe Bob Cox? Surely a pitcher who played several years of minor-league ball would remember a season with no warm-ups, a sacrosanct routine everywhere from Little League to senior softball.

“Sorry, I don’t,” says Cox, ’65. “The game was different back then. Hitters didn’t constantly step out of the box to adjust equipment like elbow guards. We didn’t even have elbow guards. We just sort of got on with it.” 

George Thacher, ’65, wondered about the rationale for the 1962 changes. “Our games were, by any standard, not uncomfortably long,” he says. “No TV ads, always short, sharp pitcher warm-ups between innings, umps eager to get home.” 

Maybe the collective shrug is proof that changes in procedure will always fade into the background while primary reasons to play or watch the game still burn bright decades after the fact. 

Or not. “I don’t really follow baseball at all,” says Dave Ashworth, ’65. “I prefer to play and am addicted to pickleball, a really fun sport sweeping the country.”

Geoff Koch, MA ’04, is a writer in Portland, Ore.

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.