The Evolution of Pitching in Major League Baseball

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About the Book

Are today’s major league baseball pitchers better than ever? Or do they pale in comparison to the great hurlers of 20, 30 or 40 years ago? This book tackles a debate that has been traveling baseball circles for several years. With changes in everything from the size of the playing field to the composition of the ball, it’s a tall task to compare pitchers over the 170-year history of the sport in America. No stone is unturned as this work delves into every facet from the ancient roots of the game to the bigger size of today’s players.
The first chapters reach back to the first known “batting contests” in Egypt 5,000 years ago and bring readers to a popular 18th century English game called rounders, which evolved into organized baseball in 19th century America. The following chapters then pace through the changes in rules that helped mold baseball into its modern form, and discusses innovators like James ‘Jimmy’ Creighton and Asa Brainard, early stars like Cy Young and Walter Johnson, and modern day standouts such as Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. The book explores rule changes, adaptations to pitching and pitching strategies, and the effect of pitcher injuries and conditioning, among other influences. Fourteen former major league players comment on the game. The final chapter reviews what has happened to major league pitching. Appendices give stats for major league starting pitchers with comparisons by era, list those with more than 5,000 career innings pitched, list relief pitchers and their single season save records, and a look at the increase in major league home runs from 1919 to 2004.

About the Author(s)

William F. McNeil is a longtime baseball historian and the author of numerous books on the game. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), he is the recipient of five Robert Peterson awards for increasing the public’s awareness of the Negro Leagues. He lives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Bibliographic Details

William F. McNeil
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2468-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Introduction      1

Part I. The Evolution of Pitching

1. In the Beginning: Up to 1844      3

2. The Early Days of the Game: 1845 to 1875      13

3. The Professional Game: 1876 to 1892      30

4. The Modern Game Begins: 1893 to 1919      40

5. The Lively Ball Era: 1920 to 1946      59

6. The Golden Age of Baseball: 1947 to 1960      78

7. The Modern Era: 1961 to 2004      93

Part II. The Elements of Pitching, Yesterday and Today

8. Rule Changes That Have Affected the Pitcher      119

9. Lively Balls, Deadly Bats, and Shrinking Ballparks      127

10. Pitchers and Pitching Strategy      137

11. Former Players Speak      161

12. Pitcher Injuries and Conditioning-Then and Now      176

13. The State of Major League Pitching      193

Appendix A. Major League Starting Pitchers      213

Appendix B. Major League Pitchers: Comparisons by Era      215

Appendix C. Major League Pitchers with 5,000 Career Innings Pitched      217

Appendix D. Major League Relief Pitchers      218

Appendix E. Relief Pitchers’ Single-Season Save Records      220

Appendix F. Factors Contributing to the Increase in Major League Home Runs from 1919 to 2004      221

Bibliography      223

Index      227

Book Reviews & Awards

“elegant…detailed…comprehensive…thorough…excellent…recommended”—Choice.