National’s Errors Pointed Out; Blame is Put on Player Limit

San Francisco Examiner/October 27, 1916

Damon Runyon Shows That Ban Johnson Wisely Held to Scouting System

Months ago this writer was inveighing against the twenty-one player limit rule adopted by the National League, and contending that it would eventually work to the injury of the ancient organization.

Ours was one of the few voices squawking in the wilderness, and we were informed by at least one baseball authority of more or less weight that it was none of our business, anyway; that it was an unwarranted meddling in the private affairs of the baseball magnates.

They were on economy bent; also they thought they were taking a crack at the baseball players by cutting down the field of big league employment; further than that, they believed they were curtailing the activities of John J. McGraw and the New York club, whose custom it was to carry a big reserve force of youngsters on the bench in process of big league development.

The economical magnates argued that by putting on a player limit the young talent would be distributed around among the clubs that were weaker financially as well as physically, and not sewed up by the outfits with the larger bankrolls, thus giving a better-balanced race. They said that twenty-one men were more than enough, and pointed out how in the old days Barney Dreyfuss won a pennant with only eighteen players, reckoning not on the changing times and advancing conditions in baseball.

They Forgot Ban

Likewise they reckoned not on Ban B. Johnson and the American League. They thought Ban would follow their example and enforce a player limit, but up to date Ban has done nothing of the kind, and today the National Leaguers, seeking an excuse for the almost total eclipse of the old organization in playing strength by the American League, are saying the limit is the cause.

We do not agree with that view. The limit is merely one of the causes. There are numerous others. It is a case of dry rot setting in all along the line; of going backward instead of going forward; of carrying ball players old beyond their big league time, and of extending economy beyond the bounds of good business judgment.

One of the biggest clubs in the National League, which formerly had the most perfect scouting system of them all, has practically abandoned that system. Once it used to bring from twenty-live to thirty-five young ball players, collected through its scouts, up from the “sticks” every spring; this year it has tagged only a very few, and these were secured in a haphazard way.

Several other National League clubs no longer have scouts. While every American League club, including the tail-end Athletics, has an elaborate system of beating the bushes for youngsters, the National Leaguers are depending on friendly tips, trades and accident to secure their playing material. It cannot be done that way.

The Crafty Johnson

There have been many changes in ownership in both leagues of recent years, and to-day no more old-line baseball men are left in the American than in the National. The difference seems to be that the newcomers to the American are willing to be guided by the judgment of their baseball associates, while some of the newcomers to the National want to apply methods learned in other lines to baseball.

The American has the advantage of being guided by the shrewdest and most far-seeing man in the game in the person of Ban B. Johnson, who is at once a baseball politician and clairvoyant. The result today is the widespread belief that the National League is distinctly outclassed by the younger outfit.

The most recent demonstration of Ban Johnson’s baseball foresight is his declaration that the world’s series must be cleaned up or abandoned. The abandonment for a couple of years would be the greatest thing that could happen to the National League. The National League magnates would probably rather continue having their league shown up by the American than lose their bit of the series, so the cleanup must be in order.

The cagey Ban’s keen ear, ever close to the ground of baseball events, heard the mumbles of discontent that arose during the Boston-Brooklyn series, and his uproar merely beat the baseball writers of the country to it. He is exactly right in what he says, and he is bound to have the support of all who have followed the series of late years.

Cut Down The Prices

The annual championship contest has developed into a form of petty graft upon the public. Prices are raised all along the line, from seats to the smallest commodities. The lift in the tariff in many cases is outrageous. The pot has become too big. It has aroused the cupidity of players and magnates, and everybody else connected with the series.

Cutting down the prices and thus cutting down the pot is the primary remedy. Then the money of the first four games, which goes to the ball players, should be divided differently. It is now cut 60 per cent to the winners and 40 per cent to the losers. If the winners’ end were made greater—say 75 or 80 per cent—we would probably have no more of these lackadaisical exhibitions where one club is just in there playing for the losers’ end.

The series should be made more of a show event; it should have a different setting. In the time of John T. Brush, a great showman, the Giants used to come tearing onto the field for a world’s series in brand-new uniforms, and they put a touch of the dramatic into the proceedings. Now the people see a couple of teams lazying around before the game in dirty campaign uniforms, and there is not the slightest suggestion of color or of the unusual in the whole proceeding.

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