Armour: The 1968 Winter Meetings in San Francisco

From SABR member Mark Armour at The National Pastime Museum on December 8, 2017:

Like the rest of the country, baseball was sailing through troubling waters in 1968. In the view of many observers, baseball had been overtaken by professional football as the national sport, especially among young people. It was the now sport of their grandfathers, but lacked the excitement and violence offered up on fall afternoons in the NFL.

Baseball’s biggest problem, though by no means the only one, was the alarming dominance of its pitchers—or, if you prefer, the alarming ineptitude of its hitters. This trend had been dismissed as a fluke a few years earlier but had instead gotten steadily worse. How bad was it? A full 21 percent of all Major League games were shutouts in 1968. The American League hit .230 (the venerable Yankees managing .214). No-hitters, long shutout streaks, batters hitting below .200, pitchers with ERAs below 2.00—none of this was unusual, or special, any longer.

Baseball was getting hammered in the press, who concluded that baseball needed on-field changes, but that its management was so dysfunctional and inept, with two leagues that operated without regard for the other, that nothing was ever done. “It would be terrible for us to continue on whistling through the graveyard and ignore what is happening,” said Cleveland President Gabe Paul.

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Originally published: December 8, 2017. Last Updated: December 8, 2017.