1866 NABBP Rules

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Chadwick's Summary of Rules Changes, 1871
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Gutsmuths' Englische Base-ball 1796
La balle empoisonnée (Poisoned Ball) 1815
Rounders 1828
Base, or Goal-ball 1834
Base Ball 1835
Feeder and Rounders, 1841
Rounders ca. 1860

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Gotham Club Rules (1837)
Baseball, Ontario (1838)
Round Ball, Massachusetts (1840s)
“A Game of Ball”, Massachusetts (1853)
Townball, Cincinnati (1860s)
Round Town, Virginia (1890s)

Related games
The Laws of Cricket (1774)
Gutsmuths' Deutsche Ballspiel
German Schlagball
Polish Palant (Pilka Palantowa)
Danish Longball (Langbold)
Russian Lapta
Swedish Brännboll (Burn-ball)
German Brennball (Burn-ball)
Norwegian Dødball (Dead-ball)
Finnish Pesäpallo
Irish Rounders
British Baseball

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Text as published, with comments, in the Constitution and By-Laws of the New England Association of National Base Ball Players, Boston: Wright & Potter (1866), which cribbed Chadwick's commentary in Beadle's (mostly identical to 1865), with certain additions especially under the Called Ball Rule. Changes from the 1865 rules in italics.




Held in New York, December 13, 1865.

SEC. 1. The ball must weigh not less than five and one-half, nor more than five and three-fourths ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and one-half, nor more than nine and three- fourths 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 each corner 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 some soft material, the home base and pitcher's points to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate, 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 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. And in all match games a line connecting the home and first base and the home and third base, shall be marked by the use of chalk, or other suitable material, so as to be distinctly seen by the umpire.

SEC. 5. The pitcher's position shall be designated by two lines, four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from the home to second base, having their centres upon that line at two fixed iron plates, placed at points fifteen and sixteen and one-third yards distant from the home base. The pitcher must stand within the lines, and must deliver the ball as near as possible over the centre of the home base, and for the striker.

The sentence, “pitched for the striker,” is a term rather too indefinite for the wording of a rule, as it may be interpreted either to suit the pitcher or the batsman. As defined by the last Committee on Rules, it refers to the delivery of such balls as are pitched within the legitimate reach of the batsman— and not such balls as the whim or fancy of the batsman calls for — when he is standing on the line of his position, as required by Rule 19 of the game. When the batsman does not stand with one foot on the line referred to, then the umpire has no right to call balls on the pitcher, for the striker is not in a position to demand a fair delivery.

SEC. 6. Should the pitcher repeatedly fail to deliver to the striker fair balls, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or for any cause, the umpire, after warning him, shall call one ball, and if the pitcher persists in such action, two and three balls; when three balls shall have been called, the striker shall take the first base; and should any base be occupied at that time, each player occupying it or them shall take one base without being put out.

A pitcher “repeatedly” fails, if he fails twice in succession; and he “persists” in his unfair delivery if he pitch one ball after the first penalty has been imposed. We give below the definition of such balls as are undoubtedly unfair and illegitimate balls, and such as the umpire would be justified in calling balls whenever delivered:
First. A ball which strikes the ground in front of the home base is certainly not a fair ball, as, for one thing, by striking the ground before reaching the batsman it becomes a “bowled” ball, not a “pitched” ball; and it is not a fair ball because it is not pitched “for the striker” or “over the home base,” as required by the rules — the words “pitched over the home base” meaning that the ball must not touch the ground before it passes over the base.
Second. A ball which is pitched so as to hit the batsman while he is standing on the line of his position, is decidedly not a fair ball, because not pitched “for the striker.”
Third. A ball which is pitched on the side opposite to that the batsman is in the habit of striking from, is not a fair ball for the same reason.
Fourth. A ball which is pitched beyond the legitimate reach of the batsman — namely, the length of his bat distant from the striker, either in front of him or over his head — is clearly an unfair ball, simply because not pitched “for the striker.” Certainly all of the above balls are clearly unfair balls, and the umpire should not hesitate to call them, after due warning has been given, whenever they are delivered. In calling balls, the umpire must disregard the fact that the unfair delivery was not intentional. The rule expressly says, if “for any cause;” consequently if a pitcher is not able to pitch accurately enough to send in fair balls, the umpire should promptly inflict the penalty.

SEC. 7. The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown, to the bat; and whenever the pitcher 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 front line or off the ground at the time of delivering the ball; and if he fails in either of these particulars, then it shall be declared a baulk.

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 off the ground at the time of delivering the ball, or moves with the apparent purpose of pitching, without delivering the ball. The sentence, “time of delivering the ball,” has been interpreted by the Committee on Rules and Regulations of the National Association, to mean the period when the last movement of the arm is made in delivering the ball; and, consequently, if either foot of the pitcher be off the ground when this movement is made — it being nearly simultaneous with the ball's leaving the hand of the pitcher — umpires must declare a baulk without being appealed to.

SEC. 8. When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base without being put out.

The striker cannot take a base, on a baulk, as be is not considered a “player running the bases” until he has struck a fair ball.

SEC. 9. If the ball, from a stroke of the bat, first touches the ground, the person of a player or any other object, behind the range of home and the first base, or home and the third base, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, the person of a player, or any other object, either upon, or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.

Nothing is mentioned in Section 9 in reference to any ball that is caught on the fly after touching the side of the building, a fence or tree. In such case the making of a rule is requisite before beginning a match.

SEC. 10. A player making the home base shall be entitled to score one run.

SEC. 11. 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. 12. The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound.

SEC. 13. Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound.

The bound catch, in this instance — the ball striking the ground back of the home base — is considered in the light of a foul ball, as far as the fly -game is concerned, and consequently when the ball is caught on the bound, on the third strike, the player must be given out, the same as he was last year under the bound rule.

SEC. 14. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught without having touched the ground.

SEC. 15. 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.

The above rule expressly requires that the ball be held on the base “before” the striker reaches it, or he is not out.

SEC. 16. 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 the base.

All that is requisite for a player to “hold his base,” according to the meaning of the rule, is, for him to touch the base bag, no matter whether the bag is in its position or not.

SEC. 17. No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball; such a ball shall be considered dead, and not in play until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher. In such cases players running the 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. 18. No ace nor base can be made when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground; such a ball shall be considered alive and in play. In such cases 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 first base; but players, when balls are so caught, may run their bases immediately after the ball has been settled in the hands of the player catching it.

It will be seen by the above two sections that a player running a base on a foul ball must return to the base he has left and remain on it until the ball has been fairly settled in the hands of the pitcher. But in case of fly-catches a player running a base is only required to return and touch the base, after which he can leave it at once and try and make the next base. He must, however, touch the base after the ball has been caught.

SEC. 19. The striker must stand on a line drawn through the centre 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.

This rule should be strictly enforced by the umpire. A striker has no right to avail himself of the advantage derived from standing back of the line of his position, thereby increasing the distance between himself and the pitcher, and obtaining a better opportunity of judging the ball. Besides which, a poorly hit ball, which would strike the ground in front of the home base — if the batsman stood on the line of his base — and lead to his being put out, is changed to a foul ball by his standing back of his base, and he thereby escapes the penalty of his poor batting.

SEC. 20. Players must make their bases in the order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying, 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 upon any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

SEC. 21. Players running bases must touch them; and, so far as possible, keep upon the direct line between them; and must touch them in the following order; first, second, third, and home; and if returning must reverse this order; 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.

A player failing to touch his base must be declared out — after an appeal — unless he can return to the base before he is touched.

SEC. 22. Any player, who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.

SEC. 23. 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.

SEC. 24. If an adversary stops the ball with his hat or cap, or if a ball be stopped by any person not engaged in the game, or if it be taken from the hands of any one 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.

SEC. 25. If a fair[1] ball, from the stroke of a bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in section 24, and without having touched the ground, the striker is out.

SEC. 26. If two hands are already out, no player make a run to count in the score of the game if the striker is put out.

SEC. 27. An inning must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out.

SEC. 28. 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. 29. 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, either in or out of the Association, 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. 30. The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting the ball, bats, bases, and the pitcher's and striker's position are strictly observed. 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 baulks immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, in a distinct and audible manner. He shall, in every instance, before leaving the ground, declare the winning club, and shall record his decision in the books of the scorers.

SEC. 31. In all matches the umpire shall be selected by the captains of the respective sides, and shall perform all the duties enumerated in section 30, except recording the game, which shall be done by two scorers, one of whom shall be appointed by each of the contending clubs.

SEC. 32. 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,) except as provided in section 29, and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressors.

SEC. 33. The umpire in any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and 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.

SEC. 34. 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. 35. 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. 36. 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. 37. 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.

SEC. 38. Any match game played by any club in contravention of the rules adopted by this Association,[2] shall be considered null and void, and shall not be counted in the list of match games won or lost, except a game be delayed by rain beyond the time appointed to commence the same. Any match game can be put off by mutual consent of the parties about engaging in the game. No match game shall be commenced in the rain.

This is a new rule, and was designed to obviate the difficulty attending upon the repudiation of any rule of the game any two clubs may mutually agree to ignore. Thus, for instance, any two clubs agreeing to allow a member of either club to play in a match who has not been a member for thirty days previous to a match, by this rule cannot claim the ball won, or count the match played as a regular game. The exception made in case of rain refers to that rule which requires a game to be commenced within fifteen minutes of the time appointed.

SEC. 39. No person who shall be in arrears to any other club, or who shall at any time receive compensation for his services as player, shall be competent to play in any match.

SEC. 40. 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.

Section 40 is a rule that should be strictly enforced, as it refers to a part of the game that is ofttimes 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 failure of either the pitcher or 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 even when the pitcher and catcher are inclined to do their duty, the batsman is not, and the latter is frequently allow to stop the progress 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 as this, which not only tires the spectator but detracts from the merit of the game itself. Even under the new rule of pitching, this unfair play was practiced last season. It is to be hoped that umpires will do their duty this year, and put an entire stop to it, which they have the power to do.

SEC. 41. Every match hereafter made shall be decided by the best two games out of three, unless a single game shall be mutually agreed upon by the contesting clubs.


  1. The word “fair” was an addition to the New England Association edition; it is not found in Beadle's. The intention obviously was to adjust this Rule to the new Fly Rule.
  2. This is a quiet emendation from Beadle's “National Association”