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Chadwick Explains Rule Shifts on Called Strikes, Deliberate Flubs Afield

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

[Two of nine newly proposed rules after the 1870 season:]

"Sec. 4. The striker shall be privileged to call for either a 'high' or 'low' ball. . . .  The ball shall be considered a high ball if pitched between the height of waist and the shoulder of the striker; and it shall be considered a low ball if pitched between the knee and he waist. . . ."

"Sec 9. The the bal be even momentarily held by a player while in the act of catching it, and he wilfully [sic] drops it in order to make a double play, if should be regarded as a fair catch."





New York Clipper, November 26, 1870 (attributed to Henry Chadwick.)

"The bit [#4] about high and low balls is an important refinement of an old idea. Called strikes had been around for a while by this time, but there was never total clarity about what was and was not a pitch that should be called a strike. Through the 1860s the batter could request a specific height for the pitch. If the delivery was both over the plate and within some vaguely defined distance to the specified height, there you go. In [early] 1870 they went complete the other direction, taking away the batter's right to request a height and declaring any pitch within some vaguely defined reach of the bat to be a good ball. This proved unsatisfactory and confusing. Here we see a move to a modernish definition of a strike zone, but with a throwback to the old right to request the height. This is codified as two distinct strike zones, the batter requesting which he wants. This may seem bizarre, but it stood until 1887.
"The other interesting proposal is that last one [#9], about the fielder momentarily holding the ball. This is a proto-infield fly rule. That will not take its modern form until a quarter century later, but the idea was floating around. This will not be adopted this year, but it will be a few years later. The problem was not any philosophical objection to the infielder dropping the ball to set up a double play, but that this made umpire decide whether the fielder caught the ball (putting the batter out) and then dropped it, or muffed the ball (for no out on the batter), leading to endless bickering. This objection still stands today, and is the best argument for the infield fly rule."
-- Richard Hershberger, "150 Years Ago Today," Facebook posting, 11/26/2020 
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Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Submission Note FB Posting, 11/26/2020


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