It is good to hear that on November 18 the Kentucky State Racing Commission will begin hearings—originally scheduled for last July—on the disqualification of Dancer's Image in the Kentucky Derby. By then it will be six months since the Derby was run—plenty of time for the case to have been investigated and concluded.
The owners who are to receive the as-yet-undistributed purse are entitled to a decision, and so are racing fans, who expect the sport to police itself firmly. By November we will be halfway to a new Derby, and the track ought to be clear for it.
FLOATING STRIKE ZONE
In a World Series, with umpires from both leagues calling balls and strikes, it becomes obvious that the strike zone moves. With a National League arbiter behind the plate the zone sinks. The high pitch around the shoulders—such as Denny McLain likes to throw—is a ball and the low pitch around the lower edge of the knees is a strike. When an American League man takes over the zone jumps, and pitchers lose the low strike and pick up the high one.
The variance probably is caused by the differences in umpiring stance. National League umpires working home plate crouch behind the catcher at an angle and peer between his head and the batter's body. From this position it is hard to judge the trajectory of the high pitch. American Leaguers crouch directly behind the catcher and move horizontally and vertically with him. They see the high pitch clearly but often miss the low one because the catcher gets in the way.
Vertically, then, it balances out. But horizontally the American League style seems more effective. Says Houston Manager Harry Walker, "The National League umpires see the outside pitch before it gets to the plate—and they make their decision then. By the time the ball finally gets there it may be two feet outside. The umpire can't see that because he is on the inside. So he calls it a strike and the hitter is in trouble."
He would seem to be in even more trouble with Ed Runge of the American League. Runge, who was behind the plate in the 1967 All-Star Game when 29 batters were fanned, is said to enforce baseball's most expansive strike zone, in all directions. Nevertheless, batters say they like Runge. They know he is going to call nearly everything a strike, so they swing at nearly everything. George Kell, who maintained a .306 lifetime batting average for 15 American League seasons and now telecasts Detroit games, is among those who advocate the Runge approach. "Make the players swing," says Kell. "That will stop all this take, take, take business, speed up the game, get the bat back into the game and bring the people back to the ball park."
Whether it will get the bat back up against the ball is another question.