Why do baseball games take so long?

MONDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2013

Full service returns tomorrow: Why do baseball games take so long?

Last week, the New York Times reported on the topic. As we return to our sprawling campus from a brief trip to the Hudson Valley, we thought you might want to see what the World Series was like in 1963.

Fifty years ago this month, the Dodgers swept the Yankees. Here are the scores, with the length of time of each game:

October 2, 1963: Dodgers 5, Yankees 2. Length of game: 2:10
October 3, 1963: Dodgers 4, Yankees 1. Length of game: 2:13
October 5, 1963: Dodgers 1, Yankees 0. Length of game: 2:05
October 6, 1963: Dodgers 2, Yankees 1. Length of game: 1:50

They were all day games, played in early October.

In 1956, Don Larsen's perfect game ran 2:06. In those days, you could watch an entire World Series game, then still have time to go outside and jump in a big pile of leaves.

Today, a 1-0 game may take almost four hours. In part, it's because of the endless pitching changes.

Back then, nobody bothered. In that four-game 1963 sweep, the Dodgers' bullpen pitched exactly one-third of an inning.

To consult the leading authority on that series, just click here. Key words:

Koufax and Drysdale.

38 comments:

  1. Hudson Valley? So Sommerby is a future demon in "Sleepy Hollow"?

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    1. Hudson Valley, for those here who don't know: arugula world, as practiced by real people. Though Bob S's reasons for visiting are unknown to me.

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  2. Hitters didn't step out of the batter's box a lot back then.

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    1. Back then it wasn't mandatory to redo the velcro on batting gloves after each pitch.

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  3. I remember that Series, listening to various clandestine transistor radios in school!

    Even teams with $money$ don't have [modern equivalent of] Koufax and Drysdale.

    (Different Anonymous)

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    1. The Atlanta Braves of the 1990's had THREE Hall-of-Famers in their rotation:

      Greg Maddux, one of the top 10 pitchers of all time;
      Tom Glavine, always underrated;
      John Smoltz, easily equivalent to Drysdale.

      I think a case could probably be made for the 2004 Red Sox, who had the dynamic duo of Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. And this past season, I don't see how Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke don't have the potential to wind up being just as impressive.

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    2. It is hard to compare players over long periods of time, since the game changes. You have to just admire the good ones. John Smoltz and Tom Glavine only pitched about 2.5 complete games a year over their career and Greg Maddux only had 4.7. Babe Ruth pitched 107 complete games (4.9 per year) and Jack Morris pitched 9.7 complete games a year. What would the Atlanta pitching staff be without relief?

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  4. TV commercial breaks?

    I remember when NFL games lasted two hours.

    I remember one long night in DC when the Senators played 22 innings.
    (Maybe they filibustered.)

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  5. It can't be blamed on pitching changes alone. The famous seventh game of the 1960 World Series, in which the Pirates beat the Yankees
    by a score of 10-9, featured multiple pitching changes starting as early as the second inning. It still lasted only 2:36.

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    1. It's not any one thing. It's all the little things; add them up, and it winds up being significant. Batters who have to fiddle around with their batting gloves after every pitch (remember Nomar Garciaparra? Right off, right on, left off, left on, right off, right on, left off, left on, right off, right on, left off, left on...And the original "human rain delay," Mike Hargrove?); pitchers who screw around on the mound, especially with runners on base; batters stepping out after strike 2 to "gather themselves;" and then add on the commercial breaks as discussed, especially the time between innings, and yes the useless sham "patriotism" that's extended the 7th-inning Stretch...all that stuff adds up.

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    2. I was at that 1960 WS game, the only WS game I have ever been to! (My tenth birthday present. My father and I went, so a father-daughter thing. He was a Yankees fan via his Minnesota/Montana father -- another story, involving radio, Babe Ruth. My mother -- a betrayed Brooklyn Dodgers fan.)

      Rob, yes, death by a thousand cuts. Still, I've been really struck in this series by the length of commercials. I read somewhere that MLB agreed to a 30-second increase into the length between innings, for commercials.....

      Also, a few of those lengtheners we do appreciate, no? Like pitchers not just throwing strikes but playing the batter. And batters playing the pitchers. All that is time-consuming (though nowhere near as time-consuming as time-outs for for adjusting batting gloves. Remember the days when no one wore batting gloves?).

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  6. Much longer commercial breaks. I've been to WS games and seen the pauses on the field between innings. Plus stepping out of batter's box, plus more pitching changes, plus the now-requisite God Bless America. But start with the commercials and go from there.

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  7. The series ended in October, 1963. The next month JFK was assassinated. Everything changed.

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  8. It's an odd paradox. I stopped watching baseball in part because of the endless attempts to kill the naturally slow pace of the game. The pitching changes may be the result of altering the game to produce more hitting/scoring.

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  9. Designated hitter wastes a lot of time too, by lessening the amount of easy outs.

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  10. "Back then nobody bothered"

    Well, in the 1963 Series, the Yankees couldn't bother to hit, either.
    They set a record for fewest runs scored.

    Other Baseball Related Inflation Tidbits

    63 Highest Salary $100 K Mickey Mantle POTUS JFK $ 100 K
    13 Highest Salary $ 29 M A. Rodriguez POTUS BKO $ 400 K

    12 Mimumum MLB Salary $480 K

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  11. Eight men standing around in a field hoping a ninth does his job so they won't have to do theirs

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  12. The strike zone was a lot bigger in 63.

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  13. Pitchers take forever between pitches. Period. The batters redo their gloves because their time will be wasted regardless and they have to do something.

    We can get 2:30 games today if it's not the playoffs and one of the pitchers worked quickly. We'd be back to 2:00 if they _both_ worked quickly (which never happens).

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  14. Because there is no clock. Which is why the stat on time of game is meaningless to anybody but AR wristwatch watchers.

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  15. I have read that hitters take more pitches nowadays, in an intentional effort to get the starting pitcher to use up his limit and have to be replaced.

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  16. Commercial breaks used to be one minute. Now they are two and half. Even with no relief pitchers, that adds about half an hour to each game. With the relief pitchers, the average additional time is probably around 40 minutes.

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