Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Richie Asburn: Leave the Gloves on the Field

Following the 1953 season, a “ridiculous” rule was passed that upset almost everyone.

At the end of each inning, fielders would have to take their gloves with them into the dugout. No longer could they leave them on the field.

There were rumors that American Leaguers would defy the rule and continue to leave their gloves on the field if it weren’t repealed before the 1954 season started.

As long as anyone could remember, players always left their gloves on the grass. Many had a favorite spot for their glove. For some, it was a superstitious ritual that shouldn’t be broken.

The primary reason for the rule was to keep the field neat. As an afterthought, it was explained that a glove might interfere with play if it were hit by a batted or thrown ball.

Washington Senators’ owner Clark Griffith, who started his playing career in 1891, thought the rule was nonsensical.

“In all the years I’ve been watching baseball, I’ve only seen a ball hit a discarded glove once, and it didn’t affect play in the slightest. It was a single when it left the bat and it was still a single after it struck the glove.”

Former New York Yankees pitcher Spec Shea, who was instrumental in the Yankees 1947 World Championship, was extremely agitated.

“That new rule gives me the heebie-jeebies,” he told reporters. “It is a constant jolt to my morale. In all the years I’ve been pitching, I’ve always dropped my glove a few steps beyond the foul line. The only time I’ve ever carried it into the dugout was when I was knocked out of the box.

“At this rate, I could get the impression that I’d just had the stuffings kicked out of me — not once but nine times in the one game. It’s enough to scare a guy.”

Is that unbelievable?

Future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn thought it was a silly rule. He applied the sabermetrics of his era to the situation.

“I usually get on base 300 times a season. Since I score approximately 100 times, it means I’m stranded on the bases 200 times and have to make the extra trip to the dugout for my glove. If they want the field to look tidier and prettier, they should plant flowers.”

There have been few more sagacious baseball men than Paul Richards, who managed the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox during his career. His reaction was amazing. Richards expressed the belief that the rule would add between 20 minutes to one-half an hour to the length of a game.

But no one could top the greatest Yankees manager of all, Casey Stengel.

“I shudder to think what Jimmie Dykes, the Baltimore Orioles’ pilot will do with this rule when he’s trying to stall a game past a curfew deadline.

“His center fielder will take his position and say, ‘Oops. I’m sorry. I forgot my glove.’ In he’ll come to get it. Then the left fielder will discover he ain’t got no glove, either. He’ll come to the bench and he won’t be able to find it.”

Arthur Daley, the great sportswriter who won the Pulitzer Prize, agreed that the rule was counterproductive. He thought it was so pointless that the two leagues should toss it in the trash.

It seems so quaint today, considering how many changes there have been. Imagine the reactions if Stengel or Richards were told that to win the pennant, their team would have to play an opponent they finished 10 games ahead of a best-of-five series.

Richie Ashburn would have been thrilled to have seen what happened to his Phillies a few days ago.


Sports of the times. (1954, Mar 26). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 28-28. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/113119182?accountid=46260

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