This Day in Baseball History: July 12th, 1949

The first real warning track.

On July 12, 1949:

Major League Baseball adds the warning track.

Prior to the 1940’s, baseball stadiums didn’t know what warning tracks were. Yankee Stadium had a running track, that may or may not have been used by fans to exit the stadium, that also acted as a warning track, but it didn’t run up against the wall like the ones of today. A few other stadiums had similar tracks used for running or bicycling, but they weren’t really “warning” tracks. That wasn’t their purpose, though they may have played it incidentally.

Actually, that’s really how it all started. Yankee Stadium had the first “warning” track. Originally, it was supposed to be a quarter-mile track, but it was located, in the outfield, at the start of the incline of the outfield. Therefore, it alerted outfielders to the fact that they were nearing a change in playing surface and that they were getting fairly close to the wall, something the outfielders appreciated. George Selkirk advocated the addition of a six-foot warning track for all stadiums in 1935, but it would be 14 more years until his advice was heeded, on July 12, 1949.

I can’t really find what changed in the teams’ philosophy. I’ve always thought warning tracks were kind of pointless in their current construction. If they’re only 6 to 10 feet wide, then it’s 2 strides and you hit the wall. It’s not a lot of warning. If you want a real warning track, it should probably be closer to 25 or 30 feet where a player can actually notice the change and then react to it. But as they are now, an outfielder can’t slow himself down all that much, and we’ll continue to have more Aaron Rowands and Rick Ankiels. Not that those guys would have slowed down anyway (they probably knew the wall was coming), but I have a feeling that they may not have gone full bore if they knew it was closer.

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One Response to “This Day in Baseball History: July 12th, 1949”

  1. Ian Says:

    I remember reading once that Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser was the reason warning tracks were invented. He was an all-out type of player who sustained injuries from crashing into walls.

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