The pace and length of games has been an issue from the early days of baseball. In 1911, to speed up the game, the Major leagues banned warm-up pitches between innings.
The Red Sox were playing the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston pitcher Ed Karger tried to skirt the rule by running out to the mound to get in a few tosses, while his team mates were heading out of the dugout to their defensive positions.
In the on-deck circle, Athletics’ First baseman, Stuffy McInnis took note of the pitcher’s ploy and had an idea.
He casually ambled toward the batter’s box, taking practice swings. Then, as the pitcher went into his windup, Stuffy jumped into the batter’s box and took a swing at the pitch.
With the Red Sox players still not in their defensive positions, the ball hit the left field wall in fair territory and caromed back toward the infield.
The confused defensive players did not make a play on the ball, as Stuffy raced around the bases and crossed home plate.
Fans in the crowd laughed to see such a sight.
Both managers made their appeal to the home plate umpire.
The Athletics’ manager claimed that Karger was in violation of the rule and any pitch he threw was fair game and McInnis should be given credit for an inside-the-park HR.
The Boston manager claimed that, since his fielders were not in place, the inning could not begin. He also said that the umpires were not in place, especially the home plate umpire, who was not in his position behind the catcher.
In that 1911 game, the umpire ruled that the HR was legal and the Boston pitcher got penalized for an “illegal attempt.”
NOTE: In my decades of umpiring amateur games, it was assumed that time was out from the time the third out was called by an umpire to the time that the home plate umpire called “time-in” again.
Most home plate umpires would check to see if their colleagues were in place and that the fielders were in their positions and no practice balls were on the field, before stepping behind the catcher.
At that point, after putting on my mask, I would point toward the pitcher, bending at my elbow, and saying, loudly, “PLAY!” Some umpires might say “PLAY BALL!” and I have heard some yell: “PITCH!”
If, indeed the home plate umpire had not made such a signal, or even stepped behind the catcher, it would seem that the inning in question could not have begun and the “illegal” warm-up pitch would have been a dead ball, since time was still out from the previous inning.
If I were the Plate umpire in that 1911 game, I would have not allowed the HR to count, as the ball was dead, and penalized the pitcher in some other manner.
What would you have done?
Big League Baseball Puzzlers, Dom Forker, p. 40.