Thursday, June 4, 2020

Base Ball in the 1800s was Considerably Different than Today’s Game.

The discovery of a bylaw residing in the city records of Pittsfield gave unequivocal proof that base ball had been played there in 1791, long before Abner Doubleday’s supposed invention of the game in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.
It is generally accepted by historians that American base ball evolved from an English game known variously as rounders, base, or base-ball.

The Knickerbockers began the process of formalizing the rules they used (eliminating “soaking” or hitting base runners with the base ball and establishing foul territory, etc.) in 1845. Establishing foul territory was a significant step in separating what would become the New York Game from the Massachusetts Game and Town Ball, which was popular in Philadelphia. The Knickerbockers modeled their club after the gentlemen’s clubs that had been organized in cricket. They seemingly had more rules and regulations about gentlemanly behavior than the game itself, such as being fined for using inappropriate language.

By the mid to late-1850s, more than two dozen clubs in New York (Manhattan today) and Brooklyn began to play the Knickerbocker of New York style game of base ball. At the conclusion of the 1857 base ball meetings in New York, the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. The popularity of the game, changes in the work schedules of many laborers, and the prospect of charging an admission (first done in July of 1858) lured some working-class clubs into the game, such as the powerful Brooklyn Atlantics, whose main interest was to win.

There were three or four base ball clubs in Chicago. The Excelsior is the most prominent one and was one of the pioneer clubs. In fact, the Excelsior Club was formed in 1857 and played games in 1858.
On August 17, 1858, the Unions formally challenged the Excelsiors on their grounds at the Prairie Cricket Club, located at Chicago's western city limits on Madison Street between Loomis Street and the South Western Plank Road (now Ogden Avenue), near Bull’s Head Tavern and Union Park, using New York rules. 
The ball had been preserved in an 1855-patent-model cylindrical presentation box topped with a handwritten label bearing the initials “B.F.G.” and “Prize Ball 1858.
Won, Oct. 29, 1858. H.L. 1, Runs 13 — “H.L.” means “hands lost,” today's "Outs."
The first contest took place on August 30, with the Excelsiors triumphing 17–11. In a return match on September 13th, the Excelsiors won again, 30–17. “Speechmaking, pleasant repartee, merry jokes, and singing” at the Union Park [Field] House followed the contest. The editors of the Chicago Press and Tribune were glad to note the good feeling that was evinced by the members of each club on this occasion and trust that our citizens will take more interest in this truly healthful and entertaining game. Numerous tents have been erected for the benefit of the ladies. The Madison Street omnibus runs to and from the grounds every half-hour.

The Excelsior base ball grounds were at the corner of May Street and West Lake Street. The Atlantic base ball club grounds were at Washington and Sheldon (Loomis Street) Streets. Other local base ball fields were at Ann Street (Racine Avenue) and Lake Street, 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) and Halsted Street, and the corner of Catherine (15th Street) and Morgan Streets.
Base Ball in 1860.
The Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1868, has an article on the new grounds of the Excelsior Club on State and 22nd streets. It had a high fenced-in area of 475 x 700 "perfectly smooth and level," with an amphitheater for the fans and facilities for the players.

By 1860, the number of teams playing matches vastly increased as new clubs formed in surrounding states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts and upstate New York. The New York rules were preferred, virtually eliminating the Massachusetts game and Town Ball.

Fielders were catching a brown ball with no gloves, and pitchers threw underhand in a style between slow- and fast-pitch softball. The dimensions of the bases looked familiar, but the field was simply a grassy, open section of the park where several trees stood in play. 
Players are "ballists," fielders are "bagmen," pitchers are "hurlers," hitters are "strikers," left-handed strikers are "wrongsiders," and opponents call each other "Sir." 

There are serious differences from the modern game:
  • Bagmen can make an out by catching a hit ball on one bounce or by tagging a runner who advances through first base instead of stopping on the bag.
  • One bagman, the "rover," is apt to stand anywhere, even in foul territory, though he most frequently hovers where modern shortstops play. 
  • The purpose of the hurler is to help the striker put the ball into play, so hurlers do not compete with strikers by altering the motion or speed of the ball.
This time period was important to the development of base ball, which evolved from the English game of rounders in New England in the late 18th century. According to Michael Mandelbaum in his excellent The Meaning of Sports, The Civil War (1861-1865) helped to spread the game all over the country—it was played in military bases and prison camps in both North and Southand in the wake of the war what had been an informal game was transformed into an organized sport. Permanent teams were formed, and regular competitions among them were scheduled. 

In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first fully professional club. 

Most players were bare-handed until the mid-1880s; however, a few catchers began wearing a glove or gloves in the mid-1870s. Cincinnati Reads second baseman Bid McPhee, the last of the bare-handed players, opened the 1896 season on April 16, wearing a glove.
The first professional league in America was formed in 1871, ceasing operation in 1875, which beget the formation of the National League in 1876 and then the American League in 1901.
Extremely rare fingerless style baseball glove c.1880. Wooden button with metal attachment on the back strap. There have been only a few examples of this rare glove style to be offered publicly as the original fragility, surviving supply, and enormous demand have made this the most desired style in the glove collecting arena.
Rare tipped finger workman’s style baseball glove c.1880’s. Along with fingerless baseball gloves, this style is considered the pinnacle of early gloves, with less than 5 known survivors. No visible manufacturer markings. Asbestos lining.
The By-Laws of the Independent Base Ball Club embraced the Rules and Regulations as adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Players in March of 1858, making them the official rules of Base Ball.

Section 1. The ball. The ball must weigh not less than six nor more than six and one-quarter ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than ten nor more than ten and a quarter 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.

Section 2. The bat. 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.

Section 3. The bases. 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 with a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white.

Section 4. Position of the bases. The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated the Home Base and must be directly opposite 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 the position at the home base.

Section 5. The pitcher’s position. 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 center of said base and to the striker.

Section 6. Delivering the ball. 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 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 balk.

Section 7. Balking. When a balk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base without being put out.

Section 8. Foul and fair hit balls. 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, either upon or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.

Section 9. Scoring a run. A player making the home base shall be entitled to score one run.

Section 10. Running on the third strike. If three balls are struck at and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bounce, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.

The Chicago Salmon Vintage Base Ball Club.
Section 11. Caught foul ball. The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground or upon the first bound;

Section 12. Three strikes. Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught either before touching the ground or upon the first bound;

Section 13. Caught fair ball. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught without having touched the ground or upon the bound;

Section 14. At first base. 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;

Section 15. Touched with the ball. Or 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.

Section 16. Running on fair and foul balls. 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 both instances, 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 the bases shall return to them and shall not be put out in so returning unless the ball has been first pitched to the striker.

Section 17. The batsman’s position. 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 inning is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.

Section 18. Forced off a base. Players must make their bases in order of striking, and when a fair ball is struck and not caught flying nor 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 at any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

Section 19. Running out of line of bases. Players running the bases must, as far as possible, keep upon the direct line between 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.

Section 20. Interfering with a fielder. Any player who shall intentionally prevents an adversary from catching or fielding the ball shall be declared out.

Section 21. Obstructing baserunners. 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.

Section 22. Illegally stopping the ball. 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.

Section 23. Caught fly balls. If a ball, from the stroke of the bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in Section 22 and without having touched the ground more than once, the striker is out.

Section 24. No run scored. 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 out.

Section 25. End of innings. An inning must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out.

Section 26. The game. 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.

Section 27. Eligible players. 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 commenced unless for a reason of illness or injury. The position of players and choice of innings shall be determined by captains previously appointed for that purpose by the respective clubs.

Section 28. Duties of the umpire. The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting the ball, 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 special care to declare all foul balls and balks immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner.

Section 29. Selection of umpire/scorers. 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.

Section 30. Betting prohibited. No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be 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, and except as provided in Section 27, and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressor.

Section 31. Suspending and completing the game. The umpire in the match shall determine when play shall be suspended, if the game cannot 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.

Section 32. Special ground rules. 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.

Section 33. Interfering with participants. 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.

Section 34. Eligible umpires and scorers. 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.

Section 35. Forfeited game. Whenever a match shall have been 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.

Section 36. Ineligible players. No person who may be in arrears to any club he may have belonged to previous to the one he is then a member of shall not be competent to play in a match unless such arrears are paid.

Section 37. Calling strikes. Should a striker stand at the bat without striking at good balls repeatedly pitched to him for the purpose of delaying the game, or of giving an 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 the three balls.
The Chicago Salmon Vintage Base Ball Club and the Chicago House of David Echoes, shake hands after their game.
3 Hands Dead---------------Side Retired
Aces, Tally----------------Runs
Bat------------------------Ash, Hickory, Timber
Club Nine------------------Team
Corker---------------------hard hit ball
Daisy Cutter---------------grounder that does not bounce
Foul Tip-------------------Foul Ball
Home Base------------------Home Plate
Player Dead----------------Out
Put Some Steam On!---------Run!

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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