Chronology:Base Ball Stratagems
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- 1 1845.28 Knickerbocker Rules Reflect Use of Pickoff Move
- 2 1850c.54 Doc Adams Creates Modern Shortstop Position
- 3 1855.41 Swift and Wild
- 4 1856.32 Hind Catcher
- 5 1857.42 The "X" Letters
- 6 1857.43 Deliberate Bad Pitches Noted
- 7 1857.44 Not Glued or Sewn to Second Base
- 8 1859.54 First Reference to Change-of-Pace Pitching?
- 9 1859.64 The Old Hidden Ball Trick
- 10 1860.12 Baltimore MD Welcomes Visiting Excelsiors of Brooklyn, and See A Triple Play
- 11 1860.66 Unwanted Walk-Off
- 12 1860.78 Unenforced Rules Get Chadwick's Goat
- 13 1860.81 Creighton Analyzed-- Is He Cheating?
- 14 1860.85 Twist That Ball
- 15 1862.25 Hitting Creighton: Patience Pays
- 16 1862.55 They Do It Differently in Philadelphia
- 17 1862.59 Thirsty Baserunning
- 18 1863.63 NABBP Curbs Swift Pitching, Swats Fly Rule Again
- 19 1864.40 Signals for Throwing to Base
- 20 1864.41 Legal Pitching Deliveries
- 21 1864.42 Is THIS How Bunting Started?
- 22 1864.56 Muffin Game Tactics
- 23 1865.19 The "Slide Game" Protested
- 24 1865.24 Change Pitchers
- 25 1867.8 Signs Go Back To At Least 1867
1845.28 Knickerbocker Rules Reflect Use of Pickoff Move
"A runner cannot be put out in using all possible means of making one base, when a baulk is made by the pitcher."
Knickerbocker Rule #19, adopted September 23, 1845. Referenced in Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (2010), p. 14.
The presence of a balk rule in the original rules indicates that pitchers were using all possible means to prevent runners from moving from base to base.
1850c.54 Doc Adams Creates Modern Shortstop Position
"I used to play shortstop, and I believe I was the first to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered."
"Doc Adams Remembers", The Sporting News, Feb. 29, 1896.
Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, Game Books 1845-1868, from the Albert G. Spalding Collection of Knickerbocker Base Ball Club's Club Books, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
Also described in John Thorn, "Daniel Lucas Adams (Doc)," in Frederick Ivor-Campbell, et. al, eds., Baseball's First Stars [SABR, Cleveland, 1996], page 1, and in Baseball in the Garden of Eden (2011), page 33.
The limited availability of positions played in early game reports and summaries makes the establishment of Adams's claim to have been the first to play the shortstop position tenuous. A page in the Knick's Game Books from July 1850 show that in one practice game he played "F" for "Field" instead of his usual position of "behind" (catcher), and so may be when he first took the position. Otherwise, there is no inidication in a primary source that he played the position until 1855.
Daniel.Lucius (Doc) Adams (see entry for 1840), was a member and officer of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York and the National Association of Base Ball Players from 1845- 1862. Under his chairmanship, the NABBP Rules Committee standardized the now-familiar 90-foot basepaths and 9-inning games.
1855.41 Swift and Wild
An unusually informative game report on the match of Sep. 19 in Jersey City between the Columbia Club of Brooklyn and the Pioneer Club of Jersey City notes:
New York Clipper Sept. 22, 1855
The unidentified reporter doesn't sound enamored of swift pitching, but evidently it was already a feature of interclub matches in 1855.
1856.32 Hind Catcher
On August 30, 1856 the Knickerbocker and Empire clubs played to a 21-21 tie
in eight innings in a match at the Elysian Fields. While the Knicks
positioned themselves as a conventional nine--three "fielders," one
"behind," three basemen, a shortstop (the inventor Adams himself), and a
pitcher, their opponents elected to use no shortstop and TWO men playing
source not referenced
1857.42 The "X" Letters
"DEAR SPIRIT:- As the season for playing Ball, and other out-door sports has nearly passed away, and as you have fairly become the chronicle for Cricket and Base Ball, I take the liberty of writing to you, and to the Ball players through you, a few letters, which I hope will prove of some interest to your readers."
Between October 1857 and January 1858, New York- based Porter’s Spirit of the Times, which covered Knickerbocker Rules base ball on a regular basis, published a series of 14 anonymous letters concerning the game. Identifying himself only as “X”, the author’s stated purpose was to “induce some prominent player to write or publish a book on the game.” The letters described the origins of the game, profiled prominent clubs in New York and Brooklyn, offered advice on starting and operating a club, on equipment, and on position play, and, finally, commented on the issues of the day in the base ball community. As the earliest such effort, the letters are of interest as a window into a base ball community poised for the explosive growth which followed the Fashion Race Course games of 1858.
Porter's Spirit of the Times, Oct. 24, 1857 - Jan. 23, 1858
The identity of "X" has not been discovered.
1857.43 Deliberate Bad Pitches Noted
In the game of round ball or Massachusetts ball between the Bay State and Olympic Clubs, the Bay States had "very low balls given them, while those they gave were swift and of the right height."
Spirit of the Times, May 30, 1857.
The tactic of trying to get batters to chase bad pitches probably is as old as competitive pitching, but is not previously documented.
1857.44 Not Glued or Sewn to Second Base
"The basemen are not confined strictly to their bases, but must be prepared to occupy them if a player is running toward them. "
Porter's Spirit of the Times, December 26, 1857
Placement of basemen on their bags in contemporary illustrations has led to an assumption that that is where they customarily played. Not so.
1859.54 First Reference to Change-of-Pace Pitching?
In a discussion of the early evolution of fast ("swift") pitching, Richard Hershberger noted:
"For what it is worth, my earliest reference to a change of pace is from 1859:
"[Eckford vs. Putnam 7/1/1859] Mr. Pidgeon (their pitcher) at first annoyed the strikers on the opposite side somewhat, by his style of pitching–first very slow, then a very swift ball; but the Putnam players soon got posted, and were on the look-out for the 'gay deceivers.'"
New York Sunday Mercury July 3, 1859
1859.64 The Old Hidden Ball Trick
"STAR (OF SOUTH BROOKLYN) VS. ATLANTIC (OF BEDFORD).-- ...Flannelly, the first striker, was put out on second base by a dodge on the part of Oliver, who made a feint to throw the ball, and had it hid under his arm, by which he caught Flannelly-- an operation, however, which we do not much admire."
New York Sunday Mercury, Oct. 23, 1859
The first known use of this stratagem, but apparently not original. Conceivably, it's use preceded the Knickerbocker rules.
See below for later observations about the sneaky move in 1876 and later.
1860.12 Baltimore MD Welcomes Visiting Excelsiors of Brooklyn, and See A Triple Play
[A] "A great match at base ball comes off here today between the Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, and a Club of the same name belonging to this city. . . . Thousands are already on their way in the City Rail Road cars and on foot to witness this exhibition of skill on the part of these, said to be he two most expert clubs in the country n this exhilarating game. Several clubs belonging to other cities are here to witness and enjoy the sport."
[B] They saw one of the first recorded triple plays. We now know that it wasn't the first triple play ever [see #1859.30 above], but it was a snazzy play. "By one of the handsomest backward single-handed catches ever made by [the gloveless LF] Creighton, he took the ball on the fly, and instantly, by a true and rapid throw, passed the ball to [3B] Whiting, who caught it, and threw quickly to Brainerd, on the second base, before either Sears or Patchen had time to return to their bases." The trick "elicited a spontaneous mark of approbation and applause from the vast assemblage [the crowd roared]."
[A] Macon [GA] Weekly Telegraph, October 4, 1860, reprinting from a Baltimore source. Accessed via subscription search May 21, 2009.
[B] "Out-Door Sports: Base Ball: The Southern Trip of the Excelsior Club," Sunday Mercury, Volume 22, number 40 (September 30, 1860), page 5, columns 2 and 3.
The game was reported in the Greater New York City press.
1860.66 Unwanted Walk-Off
This is the first instance I have read about, describing a player being thrown out
attempting to steal a base, which ended a match.
Here are those involved -
Excelsior - J. Whiting (3rd baseman), sixth batter; Reynolds (shortstop),
Charter Oak - Murphy, catcher; Randolph, 2nd base
Umpire - A. J. Bixby of the Eagle Club
Charter Oak 12, Excelsior 11
".and the Whiting, who had to take the bat, became the object of especial
interest - the issue of the game greatly depending on his particular fate.
He struck a good ball, but had a very narrow escape in reaching first base.
Before his successor (Reynolds) struck, Whiting made a dash for second base,
when the ball, well-thrown by Murphy, was quickly received by Randolph, and
placed upon Whiting just in the nick of time; he was within six inches of
the base when touched by the ball, and decided "out" by the umpire."
New York Sunday Mercury, May 20, 1860
1860.78 Unenforced Rules Get Chadwick's Goat
On two occasions in 1860 Henry Chadwick, as part of his campaign to improve the game on the field, published articles urging umpires to consistently enforce rules for which such enforcement was lacking:
[A] "HINTS TO UMPIRES.-- SEC. 5...The rule...requires the ball to be pitched for the striker, and not the catcher, which is so generally done when a player is on the first base...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 the ball without actually delivering it. Section 17...I certainly consider it the duty of the umpire to declare a ball fair, by keeping silent, when it touches the ground perpendicularly from the bat, when the striker stands back of the line of his base."
[B] THE DUTIES OF UMPIRES IN BALL MATCHES.-- ...few if any umpires have had the courage or independence to enforce (the rules)...(section 6) the rule that describes a baulk, is so misinterpreted. that it is only occasionally that we hear of a baulk being called...when a striker has stood at the home base long enough to allow a dozen balls, not plainly out of reach, to pass him, he should be at once made to declare where he wants a ball, and the first ball that comes within the distance pointed out, if not struck at, should be declared one strike (section 37)...If this were done, a stop would be put to the unmanly and mean "waiting game"...Another rule Umpires neglect to enforce, is that which requires the striker to stand on the line of his base..."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, May 27, 1860
[B] New York Clipper, Sep. 29, 1860
[B] indicates that [A] did not have the desired effect...
1860.81 Creighton Analyzed-- Is He Cheating?
"BASE BALL. EXCELSIOR VS. PUTNAM.--...We have heard so much of late...about the pitching of Creighton...and its fatal effect upon those who bat against it, that we determined to judge of the matter for ourselves, and accordingly we were prepared to watch his movements pretty closely, in order to ascertain whether he did pitch fairly or not, and whether his pitching was a 'jerk,' 'an underhand throw,' or a 'fair square pitch,'...it was unquestioningly the latter..."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 6, 1860
The article concluded that Creighton's success was due not to speed but to delivering a ball that was rising as it reached the batter, not coming in straight.
1860.85 Twist That Ball
The following commentary by Henry Chadwick confirms that despite the requirement that the ball be “pitched, not thrown”, pitchers by 1860 were finding a way to get not just movement, but predictable movement, on their deliveries.
“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 of the pitcher’s position.”
Umpires should especially see that this rule is abided by. The necessity of it is obvious to every one familiar with the game; and to those who are not, I will endeavor to explain the matter. I will suppose a striker to stand on the line referred to, the pitcher sends him a slow ball to hit, but one with a great twist on it; the striker hits it below the centre line of his bat, and it strikes the ground perpendicularly almost from the bat; the consequence is, a ball that is easily fielded by the pitcher or short stop to first base, the pitcher thereby getting the reward for his twisting ball. Now, suppose the same kind of ball is sent by the pitcher and similarly received by the striker, as the above one, but the striker, instead of standing on the line of the base, stands one or two feet back of it, the result is, that the ball, falling as before, falls behind the line of the base, instead of in front of it, and becomes a foul ball, instead of a fair one—and the pitcher loses the benefit of his good pitching and twisting of the ball."
New York Sunday Mercury, May 27, 1860
Early slow-ball pitcher Phonney Martin claimed in a retrospective letter to have originated "twist" or drop pitching in 1862; this is apparently an exaggeration, but his description of how it was done using the pitching restrictions of the day is apropos:
"This was accomplished by the first two fingers and thumb of the hand holding the ball, and by bending the fingers inward and turning the ball around the first two fingers I acquired the twist that made the ball turn towards me...This conformed to the rules, as the arm was straight in delivering the ball, and the hand did not turn outward." (quoted in Peter Morris, A Game of Inches, 2010, p.97
1862.25 Hitting Creighton: Patience Pays
"The question will naturally be asked, how came the Unions to score so well against Creighton's pitching? and the reply is, that they waited until they got a ball to suit them, Creighton delivering, on an average, 20 or 30 balls to each striker in four of the six innings played."
New York Sunday Mercury, Aug. 2, 1862
The report goes on to disclose the secrets of Creighton's success as a pitcher. The Union of Morrisania club had defeated Creighton and the Excelsior of South Brooklyn, 12-4.
1862.55 They Do It Differently in Philadelphia
"THE GRAND MATCHES IN PHILADELPHIA. BROOKLYN VS. PHILADELPHIA...On the first day's play, there was no chalk line made between the home and 1st and 3rd bases, as the rule requires...It would be well, to,, to mark the home base line of six feet in length on which the striker is required to stand. Every player running the bases should be required to touch them...In cases of foul balls, too, the player running the bases should remain on the base, after he has returned to it, until the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher...we would also call the Philadelphians' attention to Section 20 of the rules. It applies to the striker as well as anyone else. (Section 20 deals with obstruction).
[A] New York Clipper, July 12, 1862
1862.59 Thirsty Baserunning
"The Newburg boys excel in running bases with bottles of soda-water, sucking
as they run."
To a previous report of player Holder smoking while batting (see 1860.89) in a game in 1860,this head-scratcher can be added, from a report in the New York Sunday Mercury, June 29, 1862, of a game between the Hudson River Club of Newburg, NY, and the Eclipse Club of Kingston.
They won, either because or in spite of such skills, 39-21.
New York Sunday Mercury, June 29, 1862.
1863.63 NABBP Curbs Swift Pitching, Swats Fly Rule Again
The (NABBP) meeting of December 9 (1863) adopted all recommendations made by the Rules Committee. Though the suggestion of counting wild pitches as runs was not approved, three measures were taken to curb fast, wild pitching: a back line was added to the pitcher’s position, ending the practice of taking a run-up to increase speed, as in cricket; pitchers were required to have both feet on the ground at the time of delivery; and, finally, walks...:
"Should a pitcher repeatedly fail to deliver fair balls to the striker, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or for any other cause, the umpire after warning him, shall call one ball, and if the pitcher persists in such action, two and three balls, and when three balls have been called, the striker shall be entitled to his first base, and should any base be occupied at that time each player occupying them shall be entitled to one base.
The exception to the meeting’s unanimous acceptance of the Rules Committee’s action concerned the fly game, which, as with all previous attempts, was rejected, by a vote of 25 to 22.
Robert Tholkes, "A Permanent American Institution: The Base Ball Season of 1863", in Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Vol.7 (2013), pp. 143-153
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 10, 1863
1864.40 Signals for Throwing to Base
"THE SIXTH RULE OF THE GAME...all pitchers should follow the example of the Excelsior players in 1860. The pitcher and catcher of the Excelsiors had regular signals whereby the pitcher knew when to throw to the bases. This is the only right plan to pursue in playing this point of the game."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 13, 1864
1864.41 Legal Pitching Deliveries
"Base Ball in Albany...The Mutual Club had a fine time in Utica...although the Utica nine had a pitcher who "bowled" the ball to the bat, he being a cricketer...by the way, bowling is fair, provided full pitched balls be sent in, as it is neither a jerk nor a throw, and what is neither one nor the other is fair pitching, according to the rules."
Brooklyn Daily eagle, Sept. 2, 1864
1864.42 Is THIS How Bunting Started?
"EXCELSIOR VS. ENTERPRISE.-- The "muffins" of these clubs played their return game yesterday on the Excelsior grounds...The feature of the play was the batting of Prof. Bassler of the Enterprise team...Being an original of the first water, he adopted an original theory in reference to batting, which we are obliged to confess is not of the most striking character. His idea is not a bad one though, it being to hit the ball slightly so as to have it drop near the home base, therefore necessitating the employment of considerable skill on the part of the pitcher to get at the ball, pick it up and throw it accurately to first base."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 16, 1864
1864.56 Muffin Game Tactics
MUFFINS EXTRAORDINARY—THE GAME OF THE AMATEURS—FOSSILS vs SAPLINGS.—The base ball match on Saturday, between the married and single amateurs, or the Fossils and Saplings, as they called themselves, went off in proper style and made the day, if not the players, famous. It had been agreed to play with elevens instead of nines. All were on the spot at three o’clock, and eager for the contest. Lads of ten never engaged in sport with heartier zest than did these old lads, whose ages probably ranged from twenty to sixty or sixty-five. Two or three hundred ladies and gentlemen officiated as spectators and critics—looked, laughed, cheered, commented, exclaimed, asked and answered questions. The respective clubs, flattered by so large an attendance no less than by pride of party were inspired to do what they did do. And it is no disparagement to the Saplings to say that the crowd of witnesses will testify and the score plainly indicates, that the Fossils carried off the principal honors—accomplished fewer bats, fewer catches and fewer runs, more outs, more fouls, more balks, more wild throws and more miscellaneous blundering; excited more laughter and more commiseration.—Some of their feats should be handed down to posterity. For instance, our neighbor of the Telegraph, Mr. CRANDALL, made a home run on a miss (instead of a hit)—a thing never before known in the annals of the game. Judge BACON succeeded in knocking eight foul balls during a single turn at the bat—believed to be the most brilliant thing of the kind on record. Dr. FOSTER run from base to base after fouls, three or four several times, and then returned again in safety and triumph. Others performed similar feats.—Fielders and shortstops instead of throwing to bases which their adversaries were approaching, considerately threw in another direction and allowed them to make tallies.
The Fossils also accomplished gratifying results by standing out of the way of balls, and letting them pass out into the fields, by forgetting to pick them up when they came near, and by throwing haphazard, when, after due deliberation, they had decided to throw; also by the base men omitting to touch adversaries or bases when the ball was in their hands and by the runners omitting to run when they had opportunities. It is not denied that the Saplings won considerable distinction in similar ways, but they must admit themselves outdone...in the fourth inning, when they scored thirteen, it became pretty clear that they could not successfully compete in the admirable science of blundering which constituted the cream or essence of the game...But it should be noted that the superiority was established in spite of the incapacity or else the determined and continued opposition of two of the members of the Fossil Club...These were the catcher, Mr. McMILLAN, and the pitcher, Mr. WHITE. Why was it that Mr. McMILLAN lost not a single run, and caught and threw out CALLENDER and PORTER, of the Utica Club? Why is it that Mr. WHITE pitched a la THOMPSON of the same club and caught no less than three balls on the fly—the only fly balls caught during the entire game? These things need explaining...The practice of pitchers WHITE and ADAMS had one feature that should be mentioned for the benefit of the old base ball organizations of this and other cities. Getting the ball in hand while an adversary was en route for the bases, instead of throwing it to the base man, (the chances being a hundred to ne that he wouldn’t catch it) a race for the base resulted between pitcher and batter, and it became a question of comparative fleetness and wind whether the batter should make a score or no.
Utica Morning Herald, August 29, 1864
The Morning Herald offers in this excerpt a rare glimpse into how a true muffin game, that phenomenon of the 1860s where unskilled social members of clubs sponsoring baseball teams would have a game of their own. Typically they were played for laughs; occasionally a club would slip a skilled player or two into the lineup, but this was frowned upon.
1865.19 The "Slide Game" Protested
"You will appreciate my motive in calling the attention of first-class players of the game of Base-Ball, to a notorious custom practiced by players of the present day...The system of which I disapprove...is, that on the field we notice the 'slide game,' or when a player in an effort to gain his base will throw himself on the ground, feet foremost, sliding for fully a distance of twenty feet. It is not only the unmanliness of such a proceeding, but the danger encountered by a basekeeper from his opponent dashing at the base, feet first, convincing you that in the attempt to 'put him out' half a dozen steel spikes may enter your hands or body, hence the necessity of abolishing such an unfair practice, benefiting only the party in play, and angering or humiliating the base players. It is almost impossible to put a player out who is determined to enforce this manner of avoiding the ball, unless you are willing to risk the severe injury of your hands. It is not only an improper play, but destroys the spirit of the game."
Anonymous reader communication in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 24, 1865
1865.24 Change Pitchers
"Their nine [the Stars], however, needs two pitchers on it, no nine being
complete without a change pitcher."
New York Clipper, June 10, 1865
Earliest comment on need for more than one pitcher on a club. From a 19cbb post by Robert Schaefer, Nov. 9, 2003
1867.8 Signs Go Back To At Least 1867
"Always have an understanding with your two sets of fielders in regard to private signals, so as to be able to call them in closer, or place them out further, or nearer the foul-ball lines, as occasion may require, without giving notice to your adversaries."
Haney's Book of Base Ball Reference, 1867
19cbb post by Peter Morris, Nov. 8, 2002