The following rule set has been provided by the Vintage Base Ball Association. It includes reccomendations that the Blues shall adhere to when we play at League Park, and in VBBA sanctioned events. Our club chooses to use 1864 or 1865 rules when we play at historic League Park. We will mainly play by 1865 rules. Our club is patterned after the 1878-1884 Blues of the National League. Therefore, our uniforms depict that time period. However, due to the lack of area vintage base ball teams in the area that use 1878-1884 rules, and our desire to play the game during the formative years of base ball, we will use the 1864/1865 rule set. Spectators should know that our uniforms are not accurate to the time period. Knickers were not worn by 1864 or 1865 clubs, and teams had bib style unifroms instead of what we wear now. Our uniforms are patterned after the 1879 Blues, based on the information we had at the time of production. After some further research, the "C" was found to be a script "C", not the block "C" that we currently have on our uniforms.
The terminology shown below are terms used during various times during 19th Century base ball. Many of these terms are slang, and not depicted in any set of rules that you will see on this website.
*terms above were used during various points in 19th Century base ball
THIS invigorating exercise and manly pastime may now be justly termed the American Game of Ball, for though of English origin, it has been so modified and improved of late years in this country, as almost to deprive it of any of its original features beyond the mere groundwork of the game. As we propose briefly to note the progress of Base Ball from its origin, we deem it appropriate to introduce the rules for playing the English Game of Rounders, from which Base Ball is derived. We therefore quote as follows from an English work on out-door sports:
Rounders.-This game is played with a ball and bats, or sticks something of the form of a policeman’s truncheon. A hole is first made, about a foot across and half a foot deep. Four other stations are marked with pegs stuck into the ground, topped with a piece of paper, so as to be readily seen. Sides are then chosen, one of which goes in. There may be five or more players on each side. Suppose that there are five. One player, on the side that is out, stands in the middle of the five-sided space, and pitches the ball toward the hole. He is called the feeder. The batsman hits it off, if he can; in which case he drops the stick, and runs to the nearest station, thence to the third, and all round if the hit has been a far one. The other side are scouting, and trying to put him out, either by hitting the batsman as he is running, or by sending the ball into the hole, which is called “grounding.” The player at the hole may decline to strike the ball, but if he hits at it, and misses twice running, he is out. When a player makes the round of the stations back to the hole, his side counts one toward the game. When all the players are out, either by being hit or the ball being grounded, the other side get their innings. When there are only two players left, a chance is given of prolonging the innings, by one of them getting three balls from the feeder; and if he can give a hit such as to enable him to run the whole round, all his side come in again, and the counting is resumed. The feeder is generally the best player on his side, much depending on his skill and art. The scouts should seldom aim at the runners from a distance, but throw the ball up to the feeder or to some one near, who will try to hit or to ground, as seems the most advisable. A caught ball also puts the striker out.
The above is a very simple game, and one designed only for relaxation during the intervals from study in schools, and is entirely devoid of the manly features that characterize Base Ball as played in this country. Boys and even girls can play Rounders without difficulty; but Base Ball, to be played thoroughly, requires the possession of muscular strength, great agility, quickness of eye, readiness of hand, and many other faculties of mind and body that mark the man of nerve. But it is needless further to comment on the meritorious features of our American game, suffice it to say that it is a recreation that any one may be proud to excel in, as in order to do so, he must possess the characteristics of true manhood to a considerable degree.
The history of Base Ball commences at a date anterior to the one we propose to start from: ;but our present purpose will be fully answered by tracing its progress from the organization of the Knickerbocker Club of New York, which started into existence in the autumn of 1845. There was a Club called the New York Club, which existed before the Knickerbocker, but we shall not be far wrong if we award to the latter club the honor of being the pioneer of the present game of Base Ball. Before the organization of the Knickerbocker Club, the rule of play, in reference to putting a player out with the ball, was to throw it at him; but one or two severe accidents occurred from the practice of this plan, and the rules were changed to those placing men on each base, and making it requisite for a player to be touched by the ball while in the hands of an adversary. This latter rule was the first innovation on the primitive rules of the game familiar to every school-boy in the Eastern and Middle States. The following are the first regular rules of Base Ball we have any record of. They are those adopted by the Knickerbocker Club in 1845, and by which-with one or two exceptions-they played up to the period of the first convention of Base Ball players.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
GAME OF BASE BALL,
ADOPTED BY THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BASE BALL PLAYERS,
Held in New York, March 14, 1860.
SEC. 1 The ball must weigh not less than five and three-fourths, nor more than six ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and three-fourths, nor more than ten inches in circumference. It must be composed of india-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.
SEC. 2. The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood, and may be of any length to suit the striker.
Sec. 3. The bases must be four in number, placed at equal distances from each other, and securely fastened upon the four corners of a square, whose sides are respectively thirty yards. They must be so constructed as to be distinctly seen by the umpire, and must cover a space equal to one square foot of surface. The first, second, and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or sawdust; the home base and pitcher's point to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate (the preceeding description of the bases was adopted at the 1857 Convention), painted or enameled white.
SEC. 4. The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated the Home Base, and must be directly opposite to the second base, the first base must always be that upon the right-hand, and the third base that upon the left-hand side of the striker, when occupying his position at the Home Base.
SEC. 5. The pitcher's position shall be designated by a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to the second base, having its center upon that line, at a fixed iron plate, placed at a point fifteen yards distant from the home base. The pitcher must deliver the ball as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker.
Note: It will be seen that the rule requires the ball to be pitched as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker the pitcher, therefore, has no right to pitch the ball to the catcher especially, as is often done when a player is on the first base, and umpires should see that the rule is enforced.
SEC. 6 The ball must be pitched, not jerked nor thrown to the bat; and whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, or moves with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it; and he must have neither foot in advance of the line at the time of delivering the ball; and if he fails in either of these particulars, then it shall be declared a baulk.
SEC. 7 When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases in entitled to one base, without being put out. Note: According to Section 6, the pitcher makes a baulk when he either jerks a ball to the bat, has either foot in advance of the line of his position, or moves his hand or arm with the apparent purpose of pitching, without actually delivering the ball.
SEC. 8. If the ball, from a stroke of the bat, is caught behind the range of home and the first base, or home and the third base, without having touched the ground, or first touches the ground behind those bases, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, or is caught without having touched the ground, either upon, or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.
Note: Nothing is mentioned in section 8 in reference to any ball that is caught, either on the fly or first bound, after touching the side of a building, a fence, or a tree. In such cases a special rule is requisite before beginning a match.
SEC. 9. A player making the home base, shall be entitled to score one run.
SEC. 10. If three balls are struck at, and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.
Sec. 11. The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound.
SEC. 12. Or, if three balls are struck at and mised, and the last is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound;
SEC. 13. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground, or upon the first bound;
SEC. 14. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base.
SEC. 15. Any player running the bases is out, if at any time he is touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on a base.
SEC. 16. No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball, nor when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground; and the ball shall, in the former instance, be considered dead, and not in play until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher; in either case the players running bases shall return to them, and may be put out in so returning in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.
SEC. 17. The striker must stand on a line drawn through the center of the home base, not exceeding in length three feet from either side thereof, and parallel with the line occupied by the pitcher. He shall be considered the striker until he has made the first base. Players must strike in regular rotation, and after the first innings is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.
Note: The line referred to, in the above rule, is one parallel to a line extending from the first to the third base. The striker should keep one foot on this line; as, if he stands back of the base, a ball striking the ground perpendicularly from his bat, will be considered a fair ball-if the umpire strictly enforces the rule-though it actually strikes the ground behind the home base. If this rule be not strictly enforced, many a ball that ought to be a fair one will be declared foul.
SEC. 18. Players must make their bases in the order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying (or on the first bound), the first base must be vacated, as also the second and third bases, if they are occupied at the same time. Players may be put out on any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.
SEC. 19. Players running the bases must, so far as possible, keep upon the direct line between the bases; and, should any player run three feet out of this line, for the purpose of avoiding the ball in the hands of an adversary, he shall be declared out.
SEC. 20. Any player, who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.
Sec. 21. If the player is prevented from making a base, by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and not be put out.
Note: These two latter sections are, of course, intended solely for any willful and unnecessary obstruction. It is impossible that a player, while in the act of fielding a swiftly-sent ball, can always be on the look-out as to where his adversary is running; or that a player running the bases can always be equally careful in regard to his preventing an adversary from getting to his base. The umpire must alone decide this difficult question, and he should never hesitate to put a stop to any tendency to infringe the rules in this respect.
SEC. 22. If an adversary stops the ball with his hat or cap or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can be put out unless the ball shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher.
Note: It would be as well for the umpire to warn the spectators, previous to the commencement of the game, of the fact that any stoppage of the ball, such as referred to in the above rule, will act equally against both parties, and request them to let the ball pass in every case.
SEC. 23. If a ball, from the stroke of a bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in Section 22d, and without having touched the ground more than once, the striker is out.
SEC. 24. If two hands are already out, no player running home at the time a ball is struck, can make an ace if the striker is put out.
SEC. 25. An innings must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out.
Sec. 26. The game shall consist of nine innings to each side, when, should the number of runs be equal, the play shall be continued until a majority of runs, upon an equal number of innings, shall be declared, which shall conclude the game.
SEC. 27 In playing all matches, nine players from each club shall constitute a full field, and they must have been regular members of the club which they represent, and of no other club, for thirty days prior to the match. No change or substitution shall be made after the game has been commenced, unless for reason of illness or injury. Position of players and choice of innings shall be determined by captains previously appointed for that purpose by the respective clubs.
SEC. 28. The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting balls, bats, bases, and the pitcher's and striker's positions, are strictly observed. He shall keep a record of the game, in a book prepared for the purpose; he shall be the judge of fair and unfair play, and shall determine all disputes and differences which may occur during the game; he shall take especial care to declare all foul balls and baulks, immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner.
SEC. 29 In all matches the umpire shall be selected by the captains of the respective sides, and shall perform all the duties enumerated in Section 28, except recording the game, which shall be done by two scorers, one of whom shall be appointed by each of the contending clubs.
SEC. 30. No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be, either directly or indirectly, interested in any bet upon the game. Neither umpire, scorer, nor player shall be changed during a match unless with the consent of both parties (except for a violation of this law), except as provided in Section 27, and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressor.
SEC. 31. The umpire in any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game can not be concluded, it shall be decided by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played, and the party having the greatest number of runs shall be declared the winner.
SEC. 32. Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of the bounds of the field, as the circumstances of the ground may demand; and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, previous to the commencement of the game.
SEC. 33. No person shall be permitted to approach or to speak with the umpire, scorers, or players, or in any manner to interrupt or interfere during the progress of the game, unless by special request of the umpire.
SEC. 34. No person shall be permitted to act as umpire or scorer in any match, unless he shall be a member of a Base-Ball Club governed by these rules.
SEC. 35. Whenever a match shall have beeen determined upon between two clubs, play shall be called at the exact hour appointed; and should either party fail to produce their players within fifteen minutes thereafter, the party so failing shall admit a defeat.
SEC. 36. No person who shall be in arrears to any other club, or who shall at any time receive compensation for his services as a player, shall be competent to play in any match.
SEC. 37. Should a striker stand at the bat without striking at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or of giving advantage to a player, the umpire, after warning him, shall call one strike, and if he persists in such action, two and three strikes. When three strikes are called, he shall be subject to the same rules as if he had struck at three fair balls.
SEC. 38. Every match hereafter made shall be decided by a single game, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the contesting clubs.
Note: Section 37 is a rule that should be strictly enforced, as it refers to a point of the game that is oft-times a very tedious and annoying feature. How often do we see the striker-the moment his predecessor has made his first base-stand still at the home base, and await the moment when the player on the first base can avail himself of the first failure of the pitcher and catcher to hold the ball, while tossing it backward and forward to each other. Some catchers-chiefly among boys however-actually stand to the right of the home base purposely for this style of game; and oven (sp) when the pitcher and catcher are inclined to do their duty, the batsman is not, and the latter is frequently allowed to stop the progress and interest of the game, by his refusal to strike at good balls, under the plea that they do not suit him, when it is apparent to all that he simply wants to allow his partner to get to his second base. In every respect it is preferable to play the game manfully and without resorting to any such trickery-for it is little else-as this, which not only tires the spectator, but detracts from the merit of the game itself.
In selecting a suitable ground, there are many points to be taken into consideration. The ground should be level, and the surface free from all irregularities, and, if possible, covered with fine turf; if the latter can not be done, and the soil is gravelly, a loamy soil should be laid down around the bases, and all the gravel removed therefrom, because, at the bases frequent falls occur, and on gravelly soil injury, in such cases, will surely result to both the clothes and body of the player, in the shape of scraped hands, arms, knees, etc.
The ground should be well rolled, as it adds greatly to the pleasure of playing to have the whole field smooth and in good order; it will be found that such a course will fully compensate for the trouble and expense attending it.
The proper size for a ground is about six hundred feet in length, by four hundred in breadth, although a smaller field will answer. The home base must be full seventy feet from the head of the field. The space of ground immediately behind the home base, and occupied by the catcher, should be not only free from turf, but the ground should be packed hard and smooth, and free from gravel. To mark the position for the bases, square blocks of wood or stone should be placed in the ground, low enough to be level with the surface, at the base points, to each of which strong iron staple should be attached. If the blocks are of stone, have the staples inserted with lead; and if made of wood, let the staples be screwed in, not driven, for in the latter case they will either become loose, or ultimately driven into the wood altogether; in either case, becoming entirely useless.
There are several methods by which the ground may be correctly measured; the following is as simple as any. Having determined on the point of the home base, measure from that point, down the field, one hundred and twenty-seven feet four inches, and the end will indicate the position of the second base; then take a cord one hundred and eighty feet long, fasten one end at the home base, and the other at the second, and then grasp it in the center and extend it first to the right side, which will give the point of the first base, and then to the left, which will indicate the position of the third; this will give the exact measurement, as the string will thus form the sides of a square whose side is ninety feet. On a line from the home to the second base, and distant from the former forty-five feet, is the pitcher’s point. The foul ball posts are placed on a line with the home and first base, and home and second, and should be at least one hundred feet from the bases. As these posts are intended solely to assist the umpire in his decisions in reference to foul balls, they should be high enough from the ground and painted, so as to be distinctly seen from the umpire’s position.
The bases should be made of the best heavy canvas, and of double thickness, as there will be much jumping on them with spiked shoes, and if the best material be not used, it soon wears out. Cotton or sawdust will be the most suitable filling for the bases, as they will be lighter than if filled with sand, and consequently easier to carry to and from the field. The proper size of a base is about fourteen inces by seventeen; but as long as it covers one square foot of ground, when secured to the base post, the requirements of the rules will be fulfilled. The straps with which the bases are held in position should be made of harness leather, about one and a half inches wide. They must pass entirely around the bases, and securely fastened to them. New bases filled with hair and with patent fastening have recently been introduced.
The location of the pitcher’s point and the home base are indicated by means of iron quoits painted white, and not less than nine inches in diameter. They should be cast with iron spikes running from the under side to keep them marked by the insertion in the ground of a piece of hard wood, six feet long, about two inches wide, and from six to eight deep. It should be inserted so as the umpire can see it.
The rule regulating the form and dimensions of the bat is as follows; “Section 2. The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood, and may be of any length to suit the striker.” While all are limited to a particular size in diameter, it will be observed that no objection is made as to any particular length or weight. Bats are from thirty to forty inches in length, and from two to three pounds in weight being most desirable. The description of wood most in use is ash, but maple, white and pitch pine, and also hickory bats are in common use, weight for the size governing the selection. For a bat of medium weight, ash is preferable, as its fiber is tough and elastic. The English willow has recently been used and is favorably regarded by many. This latter wood is very light and close in fiber, and answers the purpose better than any other wood for a light bat. In the choice of a bat, select a light one, as it can by wielded better, and in match games it is desirable that the player be able to strike quick enough to meet the rapid pitching that has recently come in vogue. We would not recommend a bat much under two pounds in weight, as some weight is required to overcome the resistance of the ball.
Players have different modes, and adopt different styles of batting; some take the bat with the left hand on the handle, and slide the right from the large end toward the handle; others grasp it nearly one-third of the distance from the small end, so that both hands appear near the middle of the bat; others again take hold with both hands well down on the handle, and swing the bat with a natural and free stroke, while great force is given to the hit: all give good reasons for their several styles. Practice with one bat, as a player thereby becomes more sure of striking than he would were he constantly to change his bat. In striking at the ball, do not try to hit it so hard that you throw yourself off your balance, but plant your feet firmly on the ground, and swing the bat in as natural a manner as possible. The secret of hard-hitting lies in the quick stroke and firm position of the batsman the moment the ball is struck. This will account for some small and light men being hard hitters. Let the left foot be placed on the line indicated as the striker's position, and then every ball that comes perpendicularly from the bat to the ground will be a foul ball; but should you stand back of the line, it will not.
The rule states that the ball must be composed of India rubber and yarn, covered with leather, the proper weight being five and three-quarter ounces avoirdupois, and its circumference nine and three-quarter inches. The balls are easily made, but it would be advisable to obtain them from some well-known maker, as there will then be no chance of their being wrong in size or weight. The covering is usually sheepskin, and on a turf ground this covering will last some time.
Base Ball is played by nine players on a side: one side taking the bat, and the other the field. The latter occupy the following positions in the field: Catcher, Pitcher, First Second and Third Basemen, Short Stop, and Right Left and Center Fieldsman. The side that wins the toss, have the choice of taking the bat or the field at their option. The batsman stands at the home base, on a line drawn through its center-parallel to one extending from first to third base-and extending three feet on each side of it. When he bats the ball, he starts for the first base, and is succeeded by player after player until three are put out at which time the side occupying the field take their places at the bat, and, in like manner, play their innings. When the batsman succeeds in reaching the home base, untouched by the ball in the hands of an adversary, and after successively touching the first, second, and third bases, he is entitled to score one run; and when he hits the ball far enough to admit of his making the four bases before it is returned, he makes what is termed a home run. Nine innings are played on each side, and the part making the greatest number of runs win the match. In case of a tie, at the close of the ninth inning, the game by mutual consent, can be prolonged innings after innings until one or other of the contesting sides obtain the most runs. And if any thing occur to interrupt or put a stop to the game before five innings on each side have been played, the game must be drawn. The rules and regulations of the game define all further particulars in reference to it.
THE POSITIONS ON THE FIELD
This player is expected to catch or stop all balls pitched or thrown to the home base. He must be fully prepared to catch all foul balls, especially tips, and be able to throw the ball swiftly and accurately to the bases, and also keep a bright look-out over the whole field. When a player has made his first base, the Catcher should take a position nearer the striker, in order to take the ball from the pitcher before it bounds; and the moment the ball is delivered by the pitcher, and the player runs from the first to the second base, the Catcher should take the ball before bounding, and send it to the second base as swiftly as possible, in time to cut off the player before he can touch the base; in the latter case it would be as well, in the majority of cases, to send the ball a little to the right of the base. The same advice holds good in reference to a player running from the second base to the third. As the position occupied by the Catcher affords him the best view of the field, the person filling it is generally chosen captain, although the pitcher is sometimes selected for that honor. We would suggest, however, that some other player than the pitcher be selected as captain, from the fact that the physical labor attached to that position tends to increase the player's excitement, especially if the contest is a close one, and it is requisite that the captain should be as cool and collected as possible. We would suggest to the Catcher the avoidance of the boyish practice of passing the ball to and from the pitcher when a player is on the first base; let the discredit of this style of game fall on the batsman, if any one, as then the umpire can act in the matter; we have referred to this matter elsewhere, as it is a feature of the game that is a tiresome one. The Catcher, whenever he sees several fielders running to catch a ball, should designate the one he deems most sure of taking it, by name, in which case the others should refrain from the attempt to catch the ball on the fly, and strive only to take it on the bound in case of its being otherwise missed.
The player's position is behind a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to second base, and having its center upon that line at a point distant forty five feet from the former base. He should be a good player at all points, but it is especially requisite that he should be an excellent fielder and a swift and accurate thrower. He must pitch the ball, not jerk or throw it; and he must deliver the ball as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker, and sufficiently high to prevent its bounding before it passes the base. When in the act of delivering the ball, the Pitcher must avoid having either foot in advance of the line of his position, or otherwise a baulk will be declared; this penalty is also inflicted when he moves his arm with the apparent purpose of delivering the ball, and fails so to do. He should be exceedingly cautious and on the alert in watching the bases when the players are attempting to run, and in such cases should endeavor his utmost to throw a swift and true ball to the basemen. When a player attempts to run in to the home base while he is pitching, he should follow the ball to the home base as soon as it leaves his hand, and be ready at the base to take it from the catcher. The Pitcher will frequently have to occupy the bases on occasions when the proper guardian has left it to field the ball. And in cases where a foul ball has been struck, and the player running a base endeavors to return to the one he has left, he should be ready to receive the ball at the point nearest the base in question, in order to comply with Section 16 of the rules, wherein, in such cases, it is required that the ball be settled in the hands of the Pitcher before it is in play. The Pitcher, who can combine a high degree of speed with an even delivery, and at the same time can, at pleasure, impart a bias or twist to the ball, is the most effective player in that position. We would remind him that in cases where a player has reached his first base after striking, it is the Pitcher's duty to pitch the ball to the bat, and not to the catcher; and should the batsman refuse to strike at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, it will be the umpire's duty to call one strike, etc., according to Section 37 of the rules.
This position on the field is a very important one, for on the activity and judgment of the Short Stop depends the greater part of the in-fielding. His duties are to stop all balls that come within his reach, and pass them to whatever base the striker may be running to-generally, however, the first base. In each case his arm must be sure, and the ball sent in swiftly, and rather low than high. He must back up the pitcher, and, when occasion requires, cover the third base when the catcher throws to it; also back up the second and third bases when the ball is thrown in from the field. He should be a fearless fielder, and ready and able to stop a swift ground-ball; and if he can throw swiftly and accurately, it would be as well to be a little deliberate in sending the ball to the first base, as it is better to be sure and just in time, than to risk a wild throw by being in too great a hurry. His position is generally in the center of the triangle formed by the second and third bases and the pitcher's position, but he should change it according to his knowledge of the striker's style of batting. He must also be on the alert to take foul balls on the bound that are missed on the fly by either the third baseman or pitcher, or indeed any other player he can get near enough to be effective in this respect. In doing this, however, he should be careful not to interfere with the fielder who is about catching the ball; so as to prevent him doing so, the catcher will call to that fielder who he thinks will best take a ball on the fly. An effective Short Stop and good first base player, especially if they are familiar with each other's play, will materially contribute to the successful result of a well-contested game.
The First Baseman should play a little below his base and inside the line of the foul ball post, as he will then get within reach of balls that would otherwise pass him. The moment the ball is struck, and he finds that it does not come near him, he should promptly return to his base, and stand in readiness, with one foot on the base, to receive the ball from any player that may have fielded it. The striker can be put out at this base without being touched by the ball, provided the fielder, with the ball in hand, touches the base with any part of his person before the striker reaches it. The player will find it good practice to stand with one foot on the base, and see how far he can reach and take the ball from the fielder; this practice will prepare him for balls that are thrown short of the base. In the same manner he should learn to jump up and take high balls. This position requires the player filling it to be the very best of catchers, as he will be required to hold very swiftly-thrown balls. The moment he has held the ball he should promptly return it to the pitcher, or to either of the other bases a player is running to, as in some instances two and sometimes three players are put out by promptitude in this respect. For instance, we will suppose a player to be on each of the first, second, and third bases, and the striker hits the ball to short field, the latter sends it to First Base, (he should, however, send it to the catcher, that being the proper play), in time to cut off the striker running to it; the First Baseman seeing the player on the third base running home, immediately sends the ball to the catcher, who, in turn, sends it to the third base; and if this be done rapidly in each case, all three players will be put out, as it is only requisite, under such circumstances, for the ball to be held-not the player to be touched with it-for each player to be put out. Should, however, there only be players on the second and third bases when the striker is put out at the first, and the ball is sent to the catcher as above, and by him to the third baseman, it will be requisite that each player be touched with the ball, as in the first case they are forced from their bases, but in the latter they are not. We give this as an illustration of a very pretty point of the game. For the rule in reference to it, see Sections 15 and 16.
This position is considered by many to be the key of the field, and therefore requires an excellent player to occupy it. He should be an accurate and swift thrower, a sure catcher, and a thorough fielder. He should play a little back of his base, and to the right or left of it, according to the habitual play of the striker, but generally to the left, as most balls pass in that direction. He should back up the pitcher well, allowing no balls to pass both that player and himself too. When the striker reaches the first base, the Second Baseman should immediately return to his base and stand prepared to receive the ball from the catcher, and put out his opponent by touching him with the ball, which it is requisite to do on this base as well as on the third and home bases, except in the cases of balls caught on the fly, or foul balls, in both of which instances a player can be put out in returning to the base he has left, in the same manner as when running to the first base-see rule 16. When the catcher fails to throw the ball with accuracy to the Second Baseman, the latter should by all means manage to stop the ball, if he can not catch it, in time to put out his opponent. He should also promptly return the ball to the pitcher.
The Third Base is not quite as important a position as the others, but it nevertheless requires its occupant to be a good player, as some very pretty play is frequently shown on this base. Its importance, however, depends in a great measure upon the ability displayed by the catcher, who, if he is not particularly active, will generally sacrifice this base by giving his principal attention to the second. A player who catches with his left hand will generally make a good Third Baseman. The same advice in regard to the proper method of practice for the first base is equally applicable to the second and third, but it is not quite as necessary to the two latter as to the former. Should a player be caught between the bases, in running from one to the other, it is the surest plan to run in and put the player out at once, instead of passing the ball backward and forward, as a wild throw, or a ball missed, will almost invariably give the player the base. All three of the basemen should avoid, by all fair means, obstructing the striker. We scarcely need to remind each of the basemen that whenever they ask for judgment from the umpire, on any point of play, that they should forbear from commenting on the same, be it good or bad, but receive it in entire silence. Such is the course a gentleman will always pursue.
This position requires the fielder who occupies it to be a good runner, a fine thrower, and an excellent and sure catcher; as probabbly three out of every six balls hit are sent toward the left field.
The same qualities are requisite also in this position, as necessary in the left field, but not to the extent required by the latter fielder. The Center Fielder should always be in readiness to back up the second base, and should only go to long field in cases where a hard hitter is at the bat.
This is the position that the poorest player of the nine-if there be any such-should occupy; not that the position does not require as good a player to occupy it as the others, but that it is only occasionally, in comparison to other portions of the field, that balls are sent in this direction.
In all cases, the above fielders should be able to throw the ball from long field to the home base, and after they have either caught or stopped the ball, they should promptly return it, either to the base requiring it, or to the pitcher, but they should never hold the ball a moment longer than is necessary, to throw it. Another point of their fielding should be to start the moment the ball is hit, and try their utmost to take it on the fly, and not wait until it is about touching the ground, and then, boy-like, try to take it on the bound. Nothing disappoints the spectator, or dissatisfies the batsman so much, as to see a fine hit to the long field caught on the bound in this simple, childish manner. If the ball, in such a case, be taken on the fly, or even on the bound, after a good run for it, the catch being a difficult one, none will regret it, but on the contrary, applaud the skill that has been so successfully displayed, -it is only the simple catch on the bound that we object to. Bear in mind that it is easier to run forward to take a ball, than, by being too eager, to try and take it by running backward; remember, however, that a ball hit high to long field invariably appears to be coming further than it really does, as after it has reached its height, it falls at a far more acute angle than it arose with; it, therefore, requires considerable judgment to measure the precise distance it will fall. We need not impress on all fielders the propriety of endeavoring to take every ball they can on the fly. In many instances it is really easier and a surer method than waiting for the bound, and unquestionably is the prettiest mode of catching, for though we occasionally see some exceeding difficult and skillful catches on the bound, they are few and far between besides a fielder has two chances in attempting a catch on the fly, for should he fail in the first instance, he has the resource of the catch on the bound afterward. We would not envy the position of the fielder who mars the beauty of a fine hit by waiting until the force of the ball is spent on the ground, and then catching it on the rebound,-a feat a boy ten years of age would scarcely be proud of.
This player must take his position on a line drawn through the center of the home base, not exceeding in length three feet from either side thereof, and parallel with the line of the pitcher's position. He can await the coming of a suitable ball for him to strike, but he should not be too fastidious in this respect, or otherwise he will be liable to incur the penalty attached to a violation of Section 37 of the rules. Some Batsmen are in the habit of waiting until the player, who has previously reached the first base, can make his second, but a good Batsman strikes at the first good ball pitched to him, and this is decidedly the fairest and best method to be adopted, as it is the most likely to lead to a successful result, and keeps the game lively and interesting. It is exceedingly annoying to the spectators, and creates a bad impression of the merits of the game on those not familiar with it, to see good balls repeatedly sent to the Batsman without being hit, or the ball passed to and from the pitcher and catcher, while the Batsman stands still, awaiting the movements of the player on the first base. No good players resort to this style of play, except in very rare instances, and it would therefore be desirable to avoid it as much as possible. The Batsman, when he has hit the ball, should drop his bat, not throw it behind him, and run for the first base, not waiting to hear whether the ball has been declared foul or not, as if it be a foul ball, he can easily return to the base, but should it be fair, he will be well on his way to the base. The umpire will call all foul balls immediately they are struck, but will keep silent when the ball is a fair one. Although the rules expressly state what the Batsman is to do, it will be as well to refer here to the rules applicable to the striker, as they can not be too familiar to him. The Batsman is out if he strikes at the ball three times without hitting it, and the third time the ball is caught by the catcher either on the fly or first bound; or, if the ball be fielded to the first base before the striker reaches it; or, if he runs from any base, except the home base, on a foul ball, and the ball reaches the base before he can return to it; or, if a fair ball be caught on the fly or first bound; or, if at any time while running the bases, he be touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on the base. He is also out if he try to make either the second, third, or home bases after the ball has been struck, and caught on the fly, and he fails to return to the base he has left before the ball reaches it. If, however, he should succeed in this case in reaching the base before the ball, he can immediately re-endeavor to make the base he was running to without being obliged to return to the base he has left. In the case where he is running for a base on a foul ball, he should see that the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher-who need not be in his position to receive it-before it reaches the base, or otherwise he can not be put out without being touched by the ball. In running the bases, he should use his own judgment as to the proper time to make a base, unless the captain calls to him to run, in which case he should obey the call; but it will be as well not to mind the suggestion of any other person on the field, as the captain is the only proper person to direct a player in his movements.
The Umpire should be a player familiar with very point of the game. The position of an Umpire is an honorable one, but its duties are any thing but agreeable, as it is next to an impossibility to give entire satisfaction to all parties concerned in a match. It is almost unnecessary to remark that the first duty of an Umpire is to enforce the rules of the game with the strictest impartiality; and in order to do so, it would be as well for him, the moment he assumes his position on the ground, to close his eyes to the fact of there being any one player, among the contestants, that is not an entire stranger to him; by this means he will free his mind from any friendly bias. He should also be as prompt as possible in rendering his decisions, as promptitude, in this respect, implies good judgment, whereas hesitancy gives rise to dissatisfaction, even where the decision is a correct one. Whenever a point is to be decided upon, rest the decision upon the first impression, for however incorrect it, at times, may be, it is invariably the most impartial one. When the point, on which judgment is required, is a doubtful one, the rule is to give the decision in favor of the ball. The Umpire should avoid conversation with any party during a match game, and also turn a deaf ear to all outside comments on his decisions, remembering that no gentleman, especially if a player, will be guilty of such rudeness and none others are worthy of notice. He shouuld give all his decisions in a loud tone of voice, especially in cases of foul balls, keeping silent when a fair ball is struck. When a striker persists in refusing to hit at good balls, in order to allow the player who has reached his first base, to make his second, the Umpire should not hesitate to enforce Section 37 of the rules, by calling out “one strike,” and then two and three strikes, if such conduct is continued. A few instances of prompt enforcement of this rule, in such cases, would soon put a stop to this objectionable habit. The Umpire should keep a strict watch on the movements of the pitcher in delivering the ball, being careful to notice, firstly, that he has neither foot in advance of the line of his position; secondly, that his arm, in the act of delivering, does not touch his side, and thereby cause the ball to be jerked instead of being pitched; and, thirdly that he does not move his arm with any apparent purpose of delivering the ball, unless he does actually deliver it; in either case his failure to abide by the rules, renders him liable to the penalty of a baulk. The Umpire should also require the batsman to stand on a line, running through the center of the home base, parallel to a line from the first to the third base, and extending three feet on each side thereof. Should the striker fail to do so, and in consequence, the ball, when struck, fall behind the base, the Umpire should consider it a fair ball, as, had Section 17 of the rules been strictly adhered to, the same ball would have been legitimately a fair one. Whenever the ball is caught after rebounding from the side of a building, a fence, or a tree, provided it has touched the ground but once, it should be considered a fair catch, unless a special agreement to the contrary be made previous to the commencement of the match. This rule will also hold good in the case of a catch without touching the ground at all. The Umpire should see that the spectators are not allowed to stand near, and especially within, the line of the foul-ball posts, or in any way interfere with or crowd upon the scorers. His position is to the right of, and between, the striker and catcher, in a line with the home and third base; in the case of a left-handed striker, he should stand on the left of the striker. Whenever a disposition is evinced on the part of either side of the contestants in a match to prolong the game until darkness puts a stop to it, in order to secure an advantage obtained, but which, by fair play, would in all probability be lost, the Umpire should decide the game either by the last innings that had been fairly played, or a draw the game. There has been one or two instances where this contemptible conduct has been resorted to, and as it is a course that is discreditable to all concerned in it, as it is a course that is discreditable to all concerned in it, it can not be too much condemned. The Umpire should constantly bear in mind that upon his manly, fearless, and impartial conduct in a match mainly depends the pleasure that all, more or less, will derive from it.
The same person should invariably be appointed to keep the score of all match games, and he should be one whose familiarity with the game will admit of his recording every point of it that occurs in a match. He should be one also whose gentlemanly conduct will render him acceptable to all who are liable to make inquiries of him relative to the score of the game. The position occupied by the scorers should be kept entirely clear of all persons, except those who are eegularly engaged to report matches for the press; for the latter are entitled to every attention under such circumstances, in return for their efforts to promote the interests of the game by giving publicity to the many contests that take place. To avoid annoyance to the scorers, the reporters should furnish the scorers with blank sheets containing the requisite heading only, for them to fill up at the close of the game. Every regular reporter should, however, be fully competent to record every point of the game himself, for unless he does so, his report can never be either an accurate or impartial one.
"We had merry times among ourselves; we would forget business and everything else on Tuesday afternoons, go out in the green fields, don our ball suits, and go at it with a perfect rush. At such times, we were boys again. Such sport as this brightens a man up, and improves him, both in mind and body."
--Frank Pidgeon, Eckford Club of Brooklyn - 1856
"At school, we scarcely took time to eat our pie or cake and cheese, but crammed them into our mouths, snatched the bat, and hurried to the ball grounds, swallowing our luncheon in great gulps as we went along. At recess we played until the last tones of the little bell had died away, and the teacher with exhausted patience had shut the door and gone back to her desk; then we dropped the clubs and hurried in. Wheb school was out, we went home for our suppers and to do our few small chores, and then rushed off to the public square to get all the practice that we could."
--Clarence Darrow, Farmington