Home plate collisions of the past few years and the new rule trying to reduce them have brought up a lot of talk about how, in trying to cut down on the collisions, Major League Baseball was taking away an essential part of the game, one which is ingrained in the minds and habits of catchers and baserunners alike.
But if that’s the case, it’s a pretty new phenomenon. As Jacob Pomrenke at The National Pastime Museum notes, home plate collisions of the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse variety, which are now thought of as a fundamental part of the game, are anything but:
For the first half of the twentieth century, most base runners—even those who skillfully practiced the art of intimidation like Ty Cobb—almost always slid feet-first into home plate. That led to some spikings, like the one described above, but few major injuries like the ones suffered by Fosse and Posey. Though there was often some contact between catcher and base runner, violent collisions at the plate were infrequent.
The rise in collisions came as a result of (a) baseball cracking down on runners going in spikes-high; and (b) a lower offensive era emerging in the 50s and 60s that were occasioned by both an increasing number of large, defense-first catchers who were good at blocking the plate and an offensive context that made one run matter a hell of a lot more than it did in previous decades.
Just a really interesting article about how the game changes organically and how it changes, often in unexpected ways, as the result of alterations to the rules.