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Discussion: the history of pitcher safety concern

Posted Discussion
March 23, 2009
Omar Khayyam
994 posts
the history of pitcher safety concern
I began pitching in 1953, have pitched every season since then, and am still a pitcher! Everything in our area was fast pitch in those days, and the pitching distance was 37 feet! And other than the semipro teams, everyone was in the same ďA LeagueĒ, so that you were as likely to face a young college baseball star home for the summer as an older weekend-only beer gut player.

After a decade or so, slow pitch became the more popular form of softball, and I switched over. The pitching rubber moved back to 40 feet, then 42, then 45, then 48, and currently 50 (with an extra 6 feet if desired in our association). These were all pitcher protection rules, but there wasnít the concern about protecting the pitcher that there is today.

Other than a cup, NO pitcher ďarmored upĒ or worked out to quicken his reflexes. Sure I got tattooed now and then by a bad hop or a blazing line drive, but so did all pitchers. There was no widely expressed concern about the safety of the pitcher (and tossing a blue dot from 42 feet was no fun).

Other safety rules were integrated such as evening the competition by having A, B, C and D leagues; interference calls if you didnít get out of the way of the throw on a double play; replacing metal spikes with rubber; and more recently replacing first base with a double bag. But still no worry about the pitcher except for moving the rubber back.

When did this concern about pitcher safety begin to escalate? When did pitchers start to abandon the position, wear shin guards, be told to get out if they couldnít stop a buzzer up the middle, add masks and knee guards and even chest guards? Pitcher safety is a common topic on this forum, especially with the new PPR and the worry that home run penalties might lead to more shots up the middle.

I think it all began with the introduction of the titanium bat at first, then the composites. As the bats dramatically boosted distance and speed, the pitcher was suddenly more at risk, and a legitimate concern for his safety arose. Whatís your opinion about the source of todayís concern?
March 23, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
Someone who gets it. :)
March 23, 2009
Mac21
Men's 65
35 posts
Omar...Your last sentence summed it all up. It's the equipment of today. Back in those days you talked about we used aluminum bats and SB-12's that were mush after 3 innings...we always gave the umpire two balls and he threw in a new one after 3 1/2 innings. I also pitched and got my share of whacks back then but you almost couldn't get hurt. I took a line drive in the eye socket and finished the game (turns out it did break my nose), but I don't even want to think about what damage would have been done with todays bats and balls. I got hit in the shin last year in April and didn't heal until July.

Back then we played on a field that was 317' down the left field line and the fence went straight across so it only got longer as you went across. There would be at most a dozen home runs hit there a year and we were in our 20's and 30's back then. Last summer our 4 hitter who turns 50 this year hit 4 out in one game and they were to left center where it is about 330'. So to answer your question yes, it's the bats and balls that have caused the concern for pitcher saftey.
March 23, 2009
Rod Sweet
Men's 70
53 posts
Omar, thank you for your summary of pitcher safety concern, I to can remember those days as I started in fast pitch. Things (balls/bats)are different today and Ive started to think safety lately. I still have the talent of pitching and would enjoy playing for some time.
March 24, 2009
Dbax
Men's 60
1269 posts
Bump
March 24, 2009
ShaneV
Men's 55
382 posts
I agree with all of this. Where I disagree is the attempt to provide safety. If someone, anyone thinks buzzing the middle is an advisable strategic move for any reason, is the potential penalty of an out a "protection" at all. I think it's at most a mild deterrant. I think verbal threats of harm and blatant actions can only be effectively stopped with warnings and ejections, player and coach. As an umpire for young adults, the next time I hear or see these behaviors I will warn and then eject.

If home run hitters are coerced to keep the ball in the park and "accidentally" drill the pitcher, is the pitcher protected? An out does nothing to protect and does nothing but apply a small penalty after the injury or worse is done. Can we tell intent or accidental? Not always but often.

I favor the home run limit and 1-up or singles. Let the big boys hit, 8 on a M+ team, 3 or 4 on a AAA, 1 or 2 on a AA . I don't see the need nearly as much for this rule in AA & AAA, in fact I predict the PPR will be applied very seldom in our lower classifications. There will be shots near and around pitchers as always but very few will strike a pitcher who is not able to throw a glove at it.

IMHO
ShaneV
March 24, 2009
JamesLG
303 posts
Omar:

Great post:

I started playing softball in 1972 and the big hitters always pulled the ball because the fence was shorter down the lines. I think the big change in hitting started when the fields were made symmetrical. The big hitters just worked at there swings to go with the wind or up the gut and they could still hit it out. I can remember every park we played at how the wind would help or hurt me for the ball to carry. I was and still am a dead pull hitter and I don't like the thought of ever drilling a pitcher. Just the sound of a pitcher or corner infielder getting hit is terrible. I was hit in the side of the head a few years back playing third in the young mans game where they could not hit any more HR's and I did not even have a chance. That was the last day for me at third.

Thank You:

James
March 25, 2009
#6
Men's 60
1183 posts
Ok, help me out here.I know all about the PPR.We play in a high league in Austin and ASA league play does not use the PPR.The picture on the other team got NAILED twice in the legs, HARD ! If the PPR had been in effect, he still got nailed twice. HOW DID THE PPR PROTECT HIM ?I just don't understand.
March 25, 2009
Bob50
Men's 60
240 posts
As a pitcher speaking from experience I think the acronym for this rule should be changed to PISSED. Pitcher is still sore and equally dinged.
March 25, 2009
#6
Men's 60
1183 posts
Bob50, that is exactly what I am talking about , you got an out , but it still hurts like hell.Good luck this year.
March 25, 2009
einstein
Men's 50
3114 posts
The PPR doesn't and won't work.
Those who think it will
are clueless about the game we play.

Guys will hit the middle to rattle the pitcher as a tactic to set up hits
later in the game.
Guys will buzz the middle
to show dominance over the fertile crescent of softball or to retaliate
for real/perceive injury or attack.
It's like the key in basketball.
Who that controls it
usually wins the game.
It won't stop me or anyone from ripping the middle with or without cause
as the penalty isn't severe enough.

Support for the PPR and it's cousin
HR's as outs is
a senior softball authenticity test.
Those that think these are good ideas
for us are out to lunch, uninformed or
have other fish to fry
like dumbing down our equipment.
Simple, sad and true.
March 25, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
I thought you had a hissy fit and quit this association.
March 25, 2009
lazer larry
Men's 50
96 posts
Bob, i like the PISSED analogy!
March 25, 2009
lazer larry
Men's 50
96 posts
einstein, didn't you get removed from a game for making statements about hitting the middle. With or without cause. You better hope the umps aren't paying attention or they'll set you again and again. You know what happens when they get something in their minds. Lazer
March 26, 2009
einstein
Men's 50
3114 posts
Hey Larry,
I've never and for that matter
no one I've ever played with
in 12 years of ssnior ball
has ever gotten thrown out of a game
for threatening a pitcher with retaliation.
That has a lot to do with the unwritten
rules around our game that SSUSA
and others seem to miss
when making their decisions.
The notion of retaliation
as I and others have more than suggested
is an inherently fundamental aspect of our game (mutual deterrence)
and has always helped to keep balance
and injury in perspective.
It's never supposed to be talked
about but it's as real as protect the other pitcher when HR's are singles.
Those people/TD's/Marketers
without enough
interest, love and understanding
for our game, the senior game
have decided in favor of rules
that will help them sell and administrate our games.
Of this there is NO DOUBT
and anyone can discover what I have
about it all by asking questions
and connecting dots.
We are being had by a powerful few
who think they can't be reached/
touched and held accountable regarding
motives and decisions they have made
and continue to make
regarding our game.
They're wrong.
I haven't talked with one player
who disagrees fundamentally
with what I've been saying.
Ask yourselves
how long do we put up with it
and what's to be done about it.
I had hope they would change
but they'd have to care about us,
who we are and what we want, need
and deserve but I don't think they do.
Actions speak LOUDER than words,
always.

March 26, 2009
lazer larry
Men's 50
96 posts
Einstein, i apologize,i guess i missread your Oct 28th post you said about the middle being open. It sounded like you were tossed. But after looking at it again, i was wrong. If home run hitters are the best hitters they can hit other holes besides shooting the middle. I know our big guys do. Again just saying the umps don't need it in their mind that when you hit the middle your going for the pitcher. I hit the middle about half the time, but i don't hit at the pitcher. Hell he's got a glove on.Lazer
March 29, 2009
stick8
1283 posts
Larry, afaic when the pitcher releases the ball and readies himself he's a fielder. He does have a glove he can use.
March 29, 2009
lazer larry
Men's 50
96 posts
stick8, iknow i'm slow but tell me what afaic stands for. I hope this isn't 1 of those big red truck moments. Played in a indoor round robin friday night and played 4 games. I think i found some muscles that i didn't know i had. Tried to self medicate yesterday, now the brian muscle hurts. Can't wait for some warm weather. Woke up and had 2" of snow this morning. Still in better shape than some of our friend from the KC area. Brett(KC Barons) did you have to get that snow shovel out. Lazer Larry
March 30, 2009
lazer larry
Men's 50
96 posts
stick8, i have a clear head today and the only thing i can come up with is a typo and if was suppose to be afraid? By the way i do agree with you.Lazer
March 30, 2009
stick8
1283 posts
Larry, AFAIC = As Far As I'm Concerned. Others you may see on here: FWIW = For What It's Worth IMO = In My Opinion
I just got back from Florida on Friday night (80's and sunny) and last night had a coating of snow --just what I wanted to come home to. Although it's melted now I don't think we're quite done with it up here. I've seen some significant snow accumulations in April. Where's global warming when you need it?
March 30, 2009
Omar Khayyam
994 posts
Back to my original thread. Thanks for the input guys. Iíd be interested in hearing from others. Somehow Einstein managed to work in his rant against the home run rule, his quirky idea that big hitters HAVE to hit the middle if denied home runs (none of my slugger buds have had this problemómaybe itís unique to Einstein), and then his conspiracy theories about SSUSA and mysterious equipment makers. Iíd even be interested in Einsteinís ideas about the development of pitcher safety concern since he is obviously a passionate and involved softball player. Most of you seem to feel as I do that it is all about the technological upgrade to abnormal bats and resultant high velocity ball speed.
March 30, 2009
Robo2
222 posts
I have played for 35+ years and one thing that was failed to be mentioned. The fences were 270 or 275 and the standard ball was the 47 core Blue Dot or hotter.

yes teh bats are now better (hotter) but the balls were now 44 core. I don't see a lot of difference in Home Run cabability. The ASA created much of the problem when changing the bat approval after everyone purchased a so called APPROVED BAT.

Then the cheater bats came out in force. The approval of the Ultra or new Combats (or equal) was a move to legitimize the playing field and avoid cheater bats - be they honed out EST's or painted Ti bats.

What would be the difference if we allowed the pitcher to start as far back as they want? The ball still comes in at 2 mph and needs an arch of 6'. who cares where someone pitches from?
March 31, 2009
leftie
Men's 50
41 posts
Robo2--
That's what I've been saying all along.
If a pitcher can throw a strike from 2nd base, who cares?
Some people say we'd be bastardizing the game..Like it isn't already.
But, if that keeps one guy from going to the hospital or buying a $25 jar of Wintercrest, it's a good change..
March 31, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
It would be bastardizing the game. Yes it has been already, but when is enough enough?

You want to help help stop guys from going to the hospital, though injuries ARE A PART OF SPORTS, elimintate the special bats.

And what is Wintercrest?
March 31, 2009
DCPete
234 posts
Robo is right; we used 47, 48 & 50 cor balls in the past that were much hotter & harder than the current 44's. I don't see any difference in pitcher safety now vs 30 years ago & the pitchers in our ASA leagues use just as much body protection as pitchers in SSUSA tournaments.
Raising the arc to 15 ft or unlimited would be the least invasive way to increase safety IMO.
March 31, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
Pete, I agree with most of what you are saying, but doing away with special bats would be the least invasive. It would not fundamentally change the game at all.
March 31, 2009
mad dog
Men's 60
3932 posts
leftie have to agree with ya,oh if you get the big jar of wintercrest,its $65
March 31, 2009
leftie
Men's 50
41 posts
Dirty---
I can't believe you play ball and don't know what Wintercrest is...
Unlimited arc would be fine.
$65?? Maybe I'll go back to Absorbine Jr..
March 31, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
Sorry. I guess I don't need all the stuff that "old guys" use. :)

Unlimited arc with the mat would be ridiculous. That mat/plate combination is so big that certainly anyone under 6' would have NO idea where to stand in the box to cover such a large strike zone. That combination would be completely unnatural to the game of softball.
March 31, 2009
salio2k
Men's 60
548 posts
Wintercrest sales personnel seem to be at every Senior Softball Tournament that I go to. It is a cure-all salve. I personally don't use it, but know of others that swear by it.
March 31, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
salio, think PT Barnum.
April 2, 2009
Wick
12 posts
Mesquite was my first senior softball full tournament and I had a great time playing in the 60's major division for the So. Cal Braves.

As a pitcher, I got quite a laugh out of the "pitcher protection rule," a true oxymoron!

Since the rule is enforced by the discretion of the umpire, it appears to be a useless rule. In one game, I saw a pitcher dive out of the box to avoid getting hit by the ball and the umpire never called it.

Against one team,(maybe Scrap Iron?) we were fielding with two outs in the seventh when a batter ripped a ball at my head, I threw my glove up to avoid getting drilled and hit the ground as the ball caromed off of me. The umpire immediately called the batter out and we win the game, except for the fact that I wasn't in the box!

The umpire was contrite and said he made a mistake, but still gave us the game.

My question is: how can we make sure pitchers are truly protected when everyone is using Mikens and the like, and hit quite a few up the middle? Does it take someone getting killed to create real change?

In my mind, the issue isn't the .44 core balls, it is truly the Mikens, etc. that make it dangerous. I play regular rec leagues too with the young guys and we are only allowed ASA Eastons, etc and we don't have near the dangers that I faced in Senior Softball.

Hmmm.
April 2, 2009
Dirty
Men's 50
1375 posts
Wick, any guy lacking that much pride that he would dive out of the way does not deserve any breaks from the ump. Kudos to that umpire!

Much props to you for realizing, if there is indeed a safety issue, what the real culprit is. :)
April 2, 2009
Wick
12 posts
Thanks, Dirty, but I still call BS to the PPR, a totally ineffective, and not enforceable rule. As you know, there are times for the pitcher that it is impossible to get out of the way. If you dodge the ball, does that make you a pussy?=-)

How many times have you seen a guy pull an outside pitch right down the middle? For me, I just don't choose to die in a softball game. (I'm more death by beer!)

In the Mesquite tournament, we played a major plus team that hit the ball so hard that it was impossible to react in time. You probably know what I mean.

There have been some lawsuits in the US over serious injuries to the pitcher and I think some reasonable discussion should continue if we truly think the PPR is a viable part of Senior Softball.
April 2, 2009
JamesLG
303 posts

For those who blame pitcher safety on the senior bats please tell me what the difference is between a senior hitting the ball 375' with a NSA bat and hitting a ball 375' with an Ultra? We play some NSA tourneys and the same guys who hit the monster shots in the SSUSA are doing it in those games also. I don't pitch in the young game or the senior game because I know it would just be a matter of time before I take one off my beak. Let the guys pitch who enjoy the challenge and risk of pitching. We can't keep blaming guys for hitting the ball square.
Thank you:

James
April 3, 2009
leftie
Men's 50
41 posts
JamesLG
I don't know much about NSA bats, but there are guys in SSUSA who could hit 375' with a broomstick.
I think the problem in SSUSA is that the guys who don't normally hit balls that far are all of a sudden home run hitters.
Then you couple that with the new HR rule and where does a guy want to hit?
He's going where he thinks he can get a hit.
Since the infielders are approx 75' away or more and the pitcher is 56' away, he's going up the middle because the pitcher has the least time to react and the ball does come off an Ultra pretty fast.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think most hitters want to hurt the pitcher, but that's the most logical place to hit when you are out of home runs.
I know there are those who won't agree, but I've had my share of being knocked on my can because the ball was on me too fast to do anything about it.
That's why I armour up. I've seen too many guys take one for the team, but the team doesn't seem to hurt as much as the guy who took it..


April 3, 2009
mad dog
Men's 60
3932 posts
james lg
yep NSA bats = 1.2bpf,ssusa bats = 1.2 bpf,,mmmmmmmm
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