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Modern Base Ball Rules Appear in NYC, Syracuse Papers

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Newspaper Coverage, Post-Knickerbocker Rule Changes
Location Greater New York City
City/State/Country: NYC, Syracuse, NY, United States
Game Base Ball
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Adult

[A] The current 17 rules of base ball are printed in the Sunday Mercury  and in the Spirit of the Times early in the 1855 playing season -- 12 years after the Knickerbocker Club's initial 13 playing rules were formulated. 

[B] Without accompanying comment, the 17 rules for playing the New York style of base ball also appear in the Syracuse Standard.

The 1854 rules include the original 13 playing rules in the Knickerbocker game plus four rules added in in New York after 1845.  The Knickerbocker, Gotham, and Eagle clubs agreed to the revision in 1854.


[A] Sunday Mercury, April 29, 1855; Spirit, May 12, 1855.  Bill Ryczek writes that these news accounts marked the first printing of the rules; see Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163.  Earlier, the initial printing had been reported in December of 1856 [Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006), page 22].  The Sunday Mercury and Spirit accounts were accompanied by a field diagram and a list of practice locations and times for the Eagle, Empire, Excelsior, Gotham, and Knickerbocker clubs.

[B] Syracuse Standard, May 16, 1855.



For a succinct account of the evolution of the 1854 rules, see John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), pages 82-83.

One might speculate that someone in the still-small base ball fraternity decided to publicize the young game's official rules, perhaps to attract more players.

As of mid-2013, we know of 30 clubs playing base ball in 1855, all in downstate New York and New Jersey. 

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Submitted by Craig Waff
Submission Note Email of 2/13/2010; 19CBB posting, 9/24/2008.


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