From Richard Sandomir at the New York Times on April 30, 2016, with mention of SABR member Lee Lowenfish:
One day in March 1950, a batting cage at the’ spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., became the setting for an event that looked as if it came out of the future: strikes being called not by a man in a mask, peaked cap and chest protector, but by a machine.
“This was really high-tech stuff,” said pitcher Carl Erskine, recalling the sight of the device during a telephone interview from his Indiana home.
The so-called “cross-eyed electronic umpire” introduced that day used mirrors, lenses and photoelectric cells beneath home plate that would, after detecting a strike through three slots around the plate, emit electric impulses that illuminated what The Brooklyn Eagle called a “saucy red eye” in a nearby cabinet.
Popular Science declared, “Here’s an umpire even a Dodger can’t talk back to.”
The noted British journalist Alistair Cooke, then a foreign correspondent for The Manchester Guardian, weighed in wryly with the “alarming news” that the Dodgers would “try out an electronic umpire in the hope that he will call a decision even the Yankees will not be able to challenge.”
It was the atomic age, but sports were not known for being technologically advanced. Still, the coming decades saw much more: instant replay, slow motion, the virtual first-down line, real-time score boxes in the corner of television screens, the glowing puck, tennis-ball trackers, video review and baseball’s Pitch f/x and Statcast systems.
Originally published: May 2, 2016. Last Updated: May 2, 2016.