What people want is action, and the faster a game is played, the better they will like it.
It is no secret that Rob Manfred has led the charge to shorten the length of Major League contests through his pace-of-play initiatives. His reasoning being that fans do not have the patience to sit through slowly played contests, especially the younger generations whose lives have not known the pervasive influence of smart technology. The above quote, however, was that of Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon and appeared in the April 16, 1904 edition of the Montreal Gazette.
Baseball’s rallying cry for quicker games has led to a nominal decrease in game time from 3:05:11 in 2017 to 3:00:07 for the 2018 season, through August 1. However, impatient fans have complained that games are too long for well over a hundred years!
Hanlon, often referred to as “the Father of Modern Baseball,” advocated for contest lengths of no more than two hours, mainly to appease office workers of the time. “We have received many letters from business men who have said that a game of ball was the best tonic for an over-worked brain; that in the excitement of battle, all business cares had been forgotten, and that in the morning they had gone back to their offices and accomplished much more than if they had remained at their desks all the day before; but do not make the games too long, has always been their cry.” (Emphasis added.)
“Dinners are waiting for many shortly after 6 o’clock, and if home is not reached about 6:30 o’clock there are excuses to be made and trouble follows.”
Montreal Gazette (April 16, 1904)
After having been recently subjected to a nine-inning game that took—gasp!—two hours and twenty five minutes to complete, Hanlon quipped, “Why that was outrageous. I nearly wore my trousers out in my nervousness to get away.” Citing unnecessary delays by the pitchers, he ultimately called out the umpires for failing to enforce the National League rule that required the pitcher to deliver the ball within fifteen seconds. So it seems that fans of baseball in the early 1900s were not so unlike some of us today.
By 1911, the introduction of the lively ball gave “[offensive] players opportunities to display their skill not enjoyed when the battery men were the star performers” mostly because a large lead was not as safe as it used to be. In response to the longer contests blamed on the new ball, Cubs president, Charles Murphy, announced that all home games were to start at 3:00 PM. American League president, Ban Johnson, in response to game pace “emergency” even considered prohibiting pitchers from taking warm-up tosses between innings.
”No nine-inning game should take more than two hours to play, and it’s no unusual thing to see spectators leaving the grounds at the end of that time.”
-Baltimore Evening Sun (May 22, 1911)
If you agree with Rob Manfred that today’s game pace is too slow, your distant relatives just might have been those same fans who could not stomach a game lasting more than two hours!