SI Vault
Lee Wilson
May 13, 1968
Three-set baseball? You bet. If it doesn't speed the game up, it will pay for the drinks
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May 13, 1968

A Fast Pitch For A Faster Game

Three-set baseball? You bet. If it doesn't speed the game up, it will pay for the drinks

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Now that more people are backing Eddie Stanky's proposal that managers be allowed to use pinch hitters twice in one game, I guess that my ideas for changing baseball don't sound as far out as they did when I was discussing them not long ago with my friend Jack Harrigan. Harrigan and I were having a drink at Russell's in Detroit and, carried away by the spirit of the occasion, I divulged my heretofore unmentioned, surefire ideas for returning baseball to its No. 1 spot. Since Harrigan has them, they will soon be all over town, so I might as well put them in writing.

But first, a little about myself. I am the discoverer of 12-inning football. If you live more than 40 miles from Detroit, chances are you have not heard of me or of inning football. Fact is, if you live in the heart of Detroit, you haven't heard of either.

Briefly, the notion is that football should abandon its arbitrary, artificial time limit and replace it with a natural time limit of 12 innings. The argument is that football is played by innings and that the mechanical time limit is nothing but a detrimental appendage. While the clock is reputed to add excitement to a game, the truth is that it stifles the excitement just when the game is getting good.

Anyway, in 1963 I persuaded Fritz Crisler and Bump Elliott—athletic director and head coach, respectively—to have the University of Michigan football team play an intrasquad game of 12-inning football. It was televised locally, and it came off perfectly. Mechanically, that is. Its emotional value remained moot, but you hardly expect a 25-0 shellacking of the scrubs by the varsity—in May—to stir much excitement.

Following that game there was a groundswell of apathy. Only Crisler showed interest, and he was ecstatic. He said, "Congratulations, Wilson. You have discovered a cure for which there is no disease." Thus 12-inning football joined Prohibition, Esperanto and other great ideas that never caught on.

O.K., so what's with this football stuff when the beginning is about baseball? Well, it was inning football that brought the subject up that day with Harrigan. The small talk had wandered onto inning football—as it always does; I am compulsive—when Harrigan said, "To hell with changing football. It's great the way it is. If you want to do something constructive why don't you think of a way to help baseball?"

I ad-libbed something like, "Oh?" as the cocktail waitress hovered in view.

"Baseball games are too damned long. Who wants to sit for 3� hours!"

"Anybody who buys a ticket to a doubleheader must be prepared to sit longer than that," I answered smugly.

"O.K., I phrased it wrong. Baseball games are too slow."

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