One hundred years ago today the United States formally entered World War I. To mark the occasion, I’ve grabbed the front pages of more than 150 newspapers from the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project and compiled them into a more easily browse-able photo album. The LoC’s project is one of the neatest things they’ve done (of the many) and I encourage all to take a look!
Today, general consensus considers the 51-minute, September 28, 1919 contest between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants to be the quickest in major league history, with the Giants winning 6-1. Just how impressive is that figure? The game averaged an out every minute and each at bat (69 total) averaged less than 45 seconds apiece, including the time it took to swap places in between innings. By any measure, the game flew. And perhaps most surprisingly, it wasn’t entirely devoid of offense either, making it all the more extraordinary a feat.
In a New York Times recap the next day, a sportswriter remarked on the game’s fever pace but acknowledged little effort actually went into speeding things along:
There was no unusual effort yesterday to make a speed record until the Phils’ half of the ninth. At that time it became apparent to the players that they could do something unusual, and for a half inning they hustled. Even with two out in this closing inning Luderus poked a hit to centre field, and he did not attempt to walk into any putout. Dave Bancroft did. He took a swing at a ball, which rolled to Doyle, and the game was over. Bancroft’s effort with two down in the ninth was the only part of the game in which real effort was lacking.
When compared to the frequently 3 hour plus affairs of modern day, 51 minutes seems near impossible. A look at the game’s box score (below) helps us to make better sense of how it happened. Perhaps most notable: only 3 strikeouts and 3 walks combined between the two teams. In 2016, MLB teams averaged 3.1 BBs and 8.1 Ks per game; multiply that by two to get an idea of how many at bats fail to put the ball in play. In this 1919 game, only 6 of 69 batters failed to do so.
Note: I realize labeling anything the definitive this or that only invites debate; on this matter, however, I would happily be proven wrong if presented with evidence to the contrary!
This is the first in what will be a series of posts on the topic of Major League Baseball’s ‘pace of play’ initiative. The data used to generate these posts comes from publicly accessible Gameday data files at MLB.com. Keep an eye out for posts to come!
I recently came across this 2006 ESPN article that chronicles a week in the life of a major league umpire. To my surprise, the piece mentions MLB’s efforts to police the pace of the game even back in 2006 by gauging umpires and their ability to move the game along (or not). Here’s a relevant extract that discusses an umpire’s “POG stat”:
The POG [pace of game] stat is derived from a formula that includes length of game, number of pitches, pitching changes, runs and innings. “Pace of game is harder to control,” Marsh says. “But if your POG average is consistently high in relation to the other crews, they let you know it.” He asks if any of the other guys saw the previous night’s Yankee game. “Posada went to the mound three times in an inning,” he says. Everyone shakes his head. Not good for that crew’s POG.
“You pull for the other crews to have short games,” Hernandez says. “Not just for their POG stats, but because you know how tired they are. When you’re watching a game and it goes into extra innings, you say a little umpire prayer for it to be done soon.”
Admittedly, I don’t know the POG formula referenced, though that won’t stop me from trying to create one of my own. In the interim, here’s a listing of the umps with the best and worst average game times when they’re behind the plate from 2016. For the purposes of making things somewhat reasonable, I have restricted the table to only those regular season games that ended after 9 innings. I realize this is rather rudimentary and doesn’t take into account a whole host of other factors, but I thought it might be interesting to see any noticeable differences amongst the umpires. In coming weeks, I’ll update with more detail and hopefully provide breakdowns for individual crews. Keep Reading
As Hollywood prepared to enter the 1970s, its future had never been less assured. Recognizing this, the National Association of Theatre Owners—the leading trade organization for film exhibitors—hosted their November 1969 convention centered around the theme: “The Challenge and Response to the Unconventional ’70s.” The organization’s president, Julian S. Rifkin, in his introduction to the event, declared the challenge of the upcoming decade to be “an all-inclusive, all-important one: the very problem of survival.”[i] Though the decade had not yet arrived, a host of existing challenges from the 1960s seemed poised to carry over and intensify in the coming years. And only industry response to these challenges, Rifkin contended, would “determine the future of the motion picture and motion picture theatre industries.”[ii]
These anxieties, while alarming, were not without reason. Weekly theatre attendance, which had declined in the prior decade, would reach an all-time low in 1971.[iii] Television viewership, meanwhile, was on the rise, and the introduction of “pay TV” presented as a great a perceived external threat as any the industry had yet faced. And overshadowing all of this was an industry-wide recession from 1969-71, the result of rampant overproduction and underperformance, that nearly drove several studios to the point of insolvency, Yet, out of these circumstances, the movie industry would develop itself anew and emerge transformed by decade’s end, no doubt because of the decisions made by executives over the course of the period.
I’m currently in the process of assembling Ladies’ Home Journal articles from ~1943-1946 for an upcoming research paper and thought I’d share some of the more interesting pieces that I’ve come across in the past few days. This one comes from the December 1944 issue, one that devotes a good number of pages to the era’s “sub-debs” (sub-debutantes), or teenage girls. The magazine typically featured at least one sub-deb article in the forties (edited by either Maureen Daly or Elizabeth Woodward) and they are quite fun reads. Unfortunately my research topic doesn’t have much of a use for the articles but I’ve been photographing them anyway and will try upload the interesting one in the days/weeks ahead. Apologies ahead of time for the less than stellar quality…the images were taken, frequently in haste, in the NYPL’s 42nd St. branch where you too can read the full issues to your heart’s delight.
This excerpt is just a neat little slang translation guide from the period….my guess is that it was meant for the totally unhip mothers of the period as I’m sure the cool kids knew their stuff. My favorites: twitterpated (!), robot bombed, and toujour la clinch (sucker for the French).