Chronology:Post-Knickerbocker Rule Changes
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- 1 1854.1 Three NY Clubs Meet: Agreed Rules Now Specify Pitching Distance "Not Less Than 15 yards"
- 2 1855.23 Modern Base Ball Rules Appear in NYC, Syracuse Papers
- 3 1856.13 General Base Ball Rules Are Published
- 4 1857.1 Rules Modified to Specify Nine Innings, 90-Foot Base Paths, Nine-Player Teams, but not the Fly Rule
- 5 1857.2 Interclub Meeting Reshapes the Game
- 6 1857.40 Rules Experiment Suggested-- Six outs
- 7 1858.2 New York All-Stars Beat Brooklyn All-Stars, 2 games to 1; First Admission Fee [A Dime] Charged
- 8 1858.4 National Association of Base Ball Players Forms
- 9 1859.55 First Fly Baseball Game
- 10 1859.58 NABBP Makes One Little Rule Change
- 11 1860.9 Fly Game Wings Its Way to Boston
- 12 1860.21 Clipper Backs Off Fly Game Support
- 13 1860.72 Fly Game Again Swatted Down
- 14 1864.37 Buzz For Fly Game Begins
- 15 1864.47 "Union" Games Started 1864 Season
- 16 1864.48 NABBP Hobbles Pitchers
- 17 1865.23 NABBP Meeting Sets Attendance Record
- 18 1866c.1 Umps Finally Begin to Call Strikes and Balls
- 19 1869.9 Playing the pre-New York Rules Game- 1869
- 20 1870.6 Dead Ball Adopted
- 21 1870.15 Chadwick Explains Rule Shifts on Called Strikes, Deliberate Flubs Afield
1854.1 Three NY Clubs Meet: Agreed Rules Now Specify Pitching Distance "Not Less Than 15 yards"
[A] Concordance: The Knickerbocker, Eagle, and Gotham Club agree to somewhat expanded rules. Sullivan writes: "In 1854 a revised version of the original Knickerbocker rules was approved by a small committee of NY baseball officials, including Dr. (Doc) Adams. This document describes the first known meeting of baseball club representatives. Three years later, a much larger convention would result in the NABBP."
[B] Pitching: The New York Game rules now specify the distance from the pitcher's point to home base as "not less than fifteen yards."
[C] The Ball: "The joint rules committee, convening at Smith's Tavern, New York, increased the weight of the ball to 5½ to 6 ounces and the diameter to 2¾ to 3½ inches, (corresponding to a circumference varying from 8 5/8 to 11 inches)."
[A] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), page 83.The rules standardization was announced in the New York Sunday Mercury, April 2, 1854.
[B] The 17 playing rules [the 1845 rules listed 14 rules] are reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995}, pp. 18-19.
[C] Peverelly, 1866, Book of American Pastimes, pp. 346 - 348. Submitted by Rob Loeffler, 3/1/07. See "The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872," March 2007.
Do we know what pitching distances were used in games played before 1854?
Is it seen as merely coincidental that the specifications of a base ball were so close to those of a cricket ball?
1855.23 Modern Base Ball Rules Appear in NYC, Syracuse Papers
[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.
1856.13 General Base Ball Rules Are Published
Rules and By-laws of Base Ball (New York, Hosford), 1856.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224
David Block reports that these rules are generic, not restricted to one club.
This may be the first publication specifically devoted to base ball.
1857.1 Rules Modified to Specify Nine Innings, 90-Foot Base Paths, Nine-Player Teams, but not the Fly Rule
"The New York Game rules are modified by a group of 16 clubs who send representatives to meetings to discuss the conduct of the New York Game. The Knickerbocker Club recommends that a winner be declared after seven innings but nine innings are adopted instead upon the motion of Lewis F. Wadsworth. The base paths are fixed by D.L. Adams at 30 yards - the old rule had specified 30 paces and the pitching distance at 15 yards. Team size is set at nine players." The convention decided not to eliminate bound outs, but did give fly outs more weight by requiring runners to return to their bases after fly outs.
Roger Adams writes that the terms "runs" and "innings" first appear in the 1857 rules, as well as the first specifications of the size and weight of the base ball.
Follow-up meetings were held on January 28 and February 3 to finalize the rule changes.
New York Evening Express, January 23, 1857; New York Herald, January 23, 1857; Porter's Spirit of the Times, January 31, February 28, March 7, 1857; Spirit of the Times, January 31, 1857 (Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 122-24).
The text of the March 7 Porter's Spirit article is found at http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2016/04/04/the-baseball-convention-of-1857-a-summary-report/. In addition to the complete text of the 35 rules, this article includes commentary on 8 or 10 of the Convention's decisions (chiefly the consideration of the fly rule). The coverage leaves the impression that the Knickerbockers supported a rules convention mainly to engineer the adoption of a fly rule and thus to swing the game into the cricket practice for retiring runners.
For other full accounts of the convention, see Frederick Ivor-Campbell, "Knickerbocker Base Ball: The Birth and Infancy of the Modern Game," Base Ball, Volume 1, Number 2 (Fall 2007), pages 55-65, and John Freyer & Mark Rucker, Peverelly's National Game (2005), p. 17.
See also Eric Miklich, "Nine Innings, Nine Players, Ninety Feet, and Other Changes: The Recodification of Baseball Rules in 1857," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1, Fall 2011 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 118-121; and R. Adams, "Nestor of Ball Players," found in typescript in the Chadwick Scrapbooks. (Facsimile contributed by Bill Ryczek, December 29, 2009.)
In a systematic review of Games Tabulation data from the New York Clipper, the only exception to the use of a 9-player team for match games among senior clubs was a single 11-on-11 contest in Jersey City in 1855.
The rules were also amended to forbid "jerked" pitches. Jerking was not defined. See Peter Morris's A Game of Inches (2006), p. 72.
1857.40 Rules Experiment Suggested-- Six outs
"We have, in a former number, recommended a new rule...It is to make six out all out, instead of making three and all out. A player who is caught out on the fly, being marked 00, or two out to his side."
Porter's Spirit of the Times, March 7, 1857.
Seen by Porter's as a compromise solution to the controversy over continuing the bound catch rule.
1858.2 New York All-Stars Beat Brooklyn All-Stars, 2 games to 1; First Admission Fee [A Dime] Charged
"The Great Base Ball Match of 1858, which was a best 2 out of 3 games series, embodies four landmark events that are pivotal to the game's history"
1. It was organized base ball's very first all-star game.
2. It was the first base ball game in the New York metropolitan area to be played on an enclosed ground.
3. It marked the first time that spectators paid for the privilege of attending a base ball game -- a fee of 10 cents gave admission to the grounds.
4. The game played on September 10, 1858 is at present  the earliest known instance of an umpire calling strike on a batter." The New York Game had adopted the called strike for the 1858 season. It is first known to have been employed (many umpires refused to do so) at a New York vs. Brooklyn all-star game at Fashion Race Course on Long Island. The umpire was D.L. (Doc) Adams of the Knickerbockers, who also chaired the National Association of Base Ball Players Rules Committee. But see Warning, below.
These games are believed to have been the first the newspapers subjected to complete play-by-play accounts, in the New York Sunday Mercury, July 25, 1858.
The New York side won the series, 2 games to 1. But Brooklyn was poised to become base ball's leading city.
Schaefer, Robert H., "The Great Base Ball Match of 1858: Base Ball's First All-Star Game," Nine, Volume 14, no 1, (2005), pp 47-66. See also Robert Schaefer, "The Changes Wrought by the Great Base Ball Match of 1858," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 122-126.
Coverage of the game in Porter's Spirit of the Times, July 24, 1858, is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 27-29.
The Spirit article itself is "The Great Base Ball Match," Spirit of the Times, Volume 28, number 24 (Saturday, July 24, 1858), page 288, column 2. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.
"The All-Star Game You Don't Know", Our Game, http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/07/08/the-all-star-game-you-dont-know/, by John Thorn
See also John Zinn, "The Rivalry Begins: Brooklyn vs. New York", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century.(SABR, 2013), pp.10-12.
Richard Hershberger (email of 10/6/2014) points out that the Sunday Mercury account of this game's key at bat "makes it clear that they were swinging strikes."
These games were reoportedly most intensely-covered base ball event to date-- items on the planning and playing of the "Fashion Race Course" games began during the first week in June. Coverage can be found in both the sporting weeklies (New York Clipper, New York Sunday Mercury, Porter's Spirit Of The Times, The Spirit Of The Times) and several dailies (New York Evening Express, New York Evening Post, New York Herald, New York Tribune). Note --Craig Waff turned up 26 news accounts for the fashion games in Games Tab 1.0: see http://protoball.org/Games_Tab:Greater_New_York_City#date1859-9-7.
The Sunday Mercury's path-breaking play-by-play accounts were probably written by Mercury editor William Cauldwell and are enlivened with colorful language and descriptions, such as describing a batting stance as "remindful of Ajax Defying the lamp-lighter", a satire on the classical sculpture, Ajax Defying the Lightning.
This series of games has also been cited as the source of the oldest known base balls: "Doubts about the claims made for the 'oldest' baseball treasured as relics have no existence concerning two balls of authenticated history brought to light by Charles De Bost . . . . De Bost is the son of Charles Schuyler De Bost, Captain and catcher for the Knickerbocker Baseball Club in the infancy of the game." The balls were both inscribed with the scores of the Brooklyn - NY Fashion Course Games of July and September 1858. Both balls have odd one-piece covers the leather having been cut in four semi-ovals still in one piece, the ovals shaped like the petals of a flower." Source: 'Oldest Baseballs Bear Date of 1858,' unidentified newspaper clipping, January 21, 1909, held in the origins of baseball file at the Giamatti Center at the HOF.
If this game did not give us the first called strikes, when did suchactually appear?
1858.4 National Association of Base Ball Players Forms
"[A] "We should add that the convention have adopted, as the title of the permanent organization, 'The National Association of Base Ball Players,' and the association is delegated with power to act upon, and decide, all questions of dispute, and all departures from the rules of the game, which may be brought before it on appeal."
William H. van Cott is elected NABBP President. The chief amendment to the playing rules was to permit called strikes. The "Fly game" was again rejected, by a vote of 18-15.
[B] "The delegates adopted a constitution and by-laws and began the governance of the game of baseball that would continue [to 1870]."
The NA was not a league in the sense of the modern American and National Leagues, but more of a trade association in which membership as easily obtained. . . . Admission was open to any club that made a written application . . . and paid a five dollar admission fee and five dollars in annual dues (later reduced to two dollars per year). The Association met in convention each year, at which time new clubs were admitted."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, April 11, 1858.
Other coverage: New York Evening Express, March 11, 1858; New York Sunday Mercury, March 14 and 28, 1858; Porter's Spirit of the Times, March 20, 1858; New York Herald, March 14, 1858; New York Clipper, March 20 & April 3, 1858.
[B] William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 49.
Formation of the NABBP, according to the New York Clipper, was really a "misnomer" because there were "no invitations to clubs of other states," and no one under age 21 can join." "National indeed! Truth is a few individuals wormed into the convention and have been trying to mould men and things to suit their views. If real lovers of the game wish it to spread over the country as cricket is doing they might cut loose from parties who wish to act for and dictate to all who participate. These few dictators wish to ape the New York Yacht Club in their feelings of exclusiveness. Let the discontented come out and organize an association that is really national - extend invitations to base ball players every where to compete with them and make the game truly national."
1859.55 First Fly Baseball Game
On June 30, 1859, the Knickerbocker Club hosted the Excelsior club of South Brooklyn in the first interclub match played without the bound rule. The 1859 NABBP convention had okayed such games if agreed upon between the clubs.
New York Sunday Mercury, July 3, 1859
Craig Waff, "Caught on the Fly-- Excelsiors of South Brooklyn vs. the Knickerbockers of New York", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), p. 16-17
1859.58 NABBP Makes One Little Rule Change
"Rule 16.-- No ace or 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 the former instance 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."
New York Sunday Mercury, March 20, 1859
The NABBP meeting had decisively rejected the "fly game", 47-15, but accepted this compromise: when a ball was caught on the fly, runners had "tag up" before advancing. On balls caught on one bounce, they did not.
1860.9 Fly Game Wings Its Way to Boston
"Base Ball. Bowdoin vs. Trimountain. These two Clubs played a friendly match on the Common Saturday afternoon...This is the first "fly" game played between the clubs.
Boston Herald, Sep. 24. 1860
The NABBP had at its March 1860 convention permitted member clubs to elect to play fly games.
1860.21 Clipper Backs Off Fly Game Support
"We have hitherto warmly advocated the adoption of the "fly game"...but our experience this season has led us to modify our views somewhat...base ball is a superior school for fielding to cricket...(because of) the greater degree of activity required to field well...owing principally to the additional effort necessary...to catch the ball on the bound...any alteration of the rules in relation to the catch on the bound will not have that tendency to improve the character of the fielding ...that many suppose it will."
New York Clipper, Nov. 10, 1860
The "Fly game" again failed of passage at the NABBP convention in December 1860.
1860.72 Fly Game Again Swatted Down
For the fourth year in a row, the NABBP convention of March, 1860, rejected the adoption of the "fly game"; batters could still be put out by catching their hits on the first bound:
"The yeas and nays were then called for by Mr. Brown, and seconded by a sufficient number of others (four) to necessitate the taking of the vote in that manner. The vote was then taken, with the following result: Ayes, 37, nays, 55.
New York sunday Mercury, March 18, 1860
1864.47 "Union" Games Started 1864 Season
[A] "...These practice games are simply nothing more or less than substitutes for the useless and uninteresting ordinarily played on practice days by our first-class clubs. It has been suggested, time and again...that they devote one day in a week...to practicing their men together as a whole against the field; but as yet, not a solitary club has ever practiced their best players together in this way...It is this neglect on the part of or clubs, to improve the character of the practice games on their club grounds, that has led to the arrangement of these Union Practice Games.”
[B] “THE GRAND PRIZE-MATCH IN BROOKLYN. The prize-game of the series of Union practice-games inaugurated by Mr. Chadwick, which took place on Saturday, May 21st...proved to be a complete success in every respect, and one of the best-played and most interesting games seen for several seasons past...(it) afforded those present proof of the advantage of such a class of games...”
[C] “THE SECOND PRIZE-GAME IN BROOKLYN.—...the Atlantics refused to play according to the rules of these series of games...They also seemed to regard the match as one on which their standing as a playing-club was concerned, rather than...one of a series of games designed to test the merits of the flygame.”
[D] "The Eckford was defeated by the field at the so-called prize game, and the Atlantic won the game with the field. The prize game, so far as it interferes with the rules of the Convention, should be frowned down by all clubs, as it was repudiated by the Atlantic and Enterprise clubs.”
[A] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 21, 1864
[B] Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, May 28, 1864
[C] New York Sunday Mercury, June 5, 1864
[D] New York Evening Express, June 13, 1864
See Supplemental Text for further newspaper coverage.
1864.48 NABBP Hobbles Pitchers
[A] “THE NEW RULES.—...’Section 5. Should the pitcher repeatedly fail to deliver to the striker fair balls, 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; when three balls shall have been called, the striker shall be entitled to the first base, and should any base be occupied at that time, each player occupying them shall be entitled to one base. Section 6. The pitcher’s position shall be designated by two lines, four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to second base, having their centres upon that line at two fixed iron plates, placed at points fifteen and sixteen yards distant from the home-base, and for the striker...Section 7...whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, or moves with the apparent purpose or pretention to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it, and must have neither foot in advance of the line of his position 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 balk.’”
—“THE NEW RULES—adopted by the last Convention, promise to work out a desirable reform. The Pitcher can no longer push a game into the dark, by the old style of baby-play, but is ‘compelled’ to deliver balls to the Striker, or else a base is given. And then again, instead of taking a wide range, in which to swing a bill and move the feet, he must keep within his circumscribed limit, and deliver a fair ball.”
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, March 27, 1864
[B] New York Evening Express, April 22, 1864
For various reasons, umpires enforced the new rules only inconsistently. See Supplemental Text.
1865.23 NABBP Meeting Sets Attendance Record
[A] "The ninth annual convention...proved to be most numerously attended...ever held...over ninety clubs were present."
[B] "...forty-eight clubs from New York State; fourteen from Pennsylvania; thirteen from New Jersey; four from Connecticut; four from Washington, D. C.; two from Massachusetts; and one each from Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maine, making a grand total of 91 clubs represented..."
[A] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 15, 1865
[B] New York Clipper, December 23, 1865
1866c.1 Umps Finally Begin to Call Strikes and Balls
Association rules permitted umps to call strikes in 1858, and to call balls in 1864, and it's a little hard for us to imagine a game in which those features were missing. But when did they become common?
"The safe generalization is that balls and strikes were rarely called before 1866, gradually became more and more a routine part of the game, with the process reaching completion at some point in the professional era."
Having found and summarized over 25 newspaper articles from 1858 to 1872, Richard suggests three factors that delayed implementation of the key rules:
 Close calls were disputed, making umpiring uncongenial.
 Players didn't insist on called pitches, even though longer games resulted when umpires declined to make calls.
 Resistance to novelty, especially outside greater New York city.
Richard Hershberger, "When Did Umpires
Start Calling Balls and Strikes?," available on Protoball at <url>. Page 5 of 7.
1869.9 Playing the pre-New York Rules Game- 1869
"The game played was the old-time "stinging" one, and no better opportunity to note the many and great changes that have been made, during the past score years, in the manner of playing Base Ball, could have been obtained than was thus offered.
The revolution has certainly been complete. Instead of the nicely rounded ash, miniature bread shovels and exaggerated exercise clubs were used as bats: and wooden stakes, standing some fifteen inches high, served as bases. The principal qualification of the pitcher was to send in balls which could be struck, while fouls were ignored and "tick and catch" was the decision instead of "foul,out.'"
Newark Evening Courier,May 25, 1869
description of the annual game of the "old Knickerbocker Club",with a box score showing 19 players on each side. Per 19cbb post by John Zinn, Aug. 8, 2008
1870.6 Dead Ball Adopted
On November 30, 1870, the National Association of Base Ball Players reduced the amount of rubber permitted in base balls to one ounce, effectively inaugurating a "dead" ball. Balls had previously contained as much as 2 1/2 ounces.
Peter Morris, A Game of Inches, 2005, p.37
Critics of the game had long insisted that low-scoring games were indicated play of higher quality.
1870.15 Chadwick Explains Rule Shifts on Called Strikes, Deliberate Flubs Afield
[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.)