Ford Frick, the Commissioner of Baseball, offered a sound amendment to major league playing rules the other day. If adopted, it would require all ball parks built or remodeled in the future (but not those now in use) to have foul lines at least 325 feet long and center fields at least 400 feet deep.
In offering his rule change, Frick said he had favored the standardization of ball parks for years. "There is no question but what we are going to have many more clubs and many new stadiums," he said. "Now is the time to plan for standardization."
It certainly is. In fact, now is a little late. If Frick had had his brainstorm last October, when it became certain that the Dodgers and the Giants would move to the West Coast, it might have been possible to avoid the sad situation which Dodger Owner Walter O'Malley created by shoehorning a baseball field into the Los Angeles Coliseum without making room for a modern major league one.
An outfield of reasonable size (though not, perhaps, of the size Frick's new specifications call for) could have been made in the Coliseum by removing some of the seats. This would have meant filling the gap with temporary seats for the football season, and restoring the Coliseum to its original shape when the Dodgers leave it. But there is no evidence that O'Malley, Frick and the rest of Organized Baseball ever seriously considered doing this; it would have cost a packet of money.
Moreover—and this may be news even to Commissioner Frick—the Coliseum's success from a box-office point of view has set other club owners to thinking. Bob Carpenter, owner of the Phillies, and Richardson Dilworth, mayor of Philadelphia, have summoned an architect to consider the alteration of Philadelphia's huge Municipal Stadium (102,000 seats) into a big new home for the Phillies. That, too, would mean a cramped outfield, unless the Philadelphia stadium were subjected to just the kind of remodeling that O'Malley balked at paying for.
The idea of playing baseball in football stadiums could spread far. If the Phillies moved into Municipal Stadium, then the White Sox might try Soldier Field (102,000 seats) and the Pirates Pitt Stadium. The Detroit Tigers could move into the University of Michigan Stadium at Ann Arbor and the New York Yankees could shift to the Yale Bowl. "It would," said a fan sardonically, "be one way to get standardization."
No, it was not a moment too soon for Mr. Frick to make his proposal. In fact, it was demonstrably a moment late. He seemed to be drawing up plans for the barn after the horse was stolen. In recognition of these circumstances, we award the commissioner a handy reprint of an injunction that has become a familiar sight on office walls all over the country:
COMMISSIONER FORD FRICK OFFERS A FAIR-MINDED MAN'S IDEA—BUT JUST A BIT LATE