Henry Chadwick is generally regarded as one of the fathers of “modern” base ball. An Englishman and writer, he invented scoring techniques, refined rules and helped popularize the game. For more on him, click HERE.
Henry Chadwick Explains….
Selected Excerpts from Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player for 1860
On Selection of a Ground.
In selecting a suitable ground, there are many points to be taken into consideration. The ground should be level, and the surface free from all irregularities, and, if possible, covered with fine turf; if the latter can not be done, and the soil is gravelly, a loamy soil should be laid down around the bases, and all the gravel removed therefrom, because, at the bases falls frequently occur, and on gravelly soil injury, in such cases, will surely result to both the clothes and body of the player, in the shape of scraped heads, arms, knees. etc.
The ground should be well rolled, as it adds greatly to the pleasure of playing to have the whole field smooth and in good order; it will be found that such a course will fully compensate for the trouble and expense attending it.
The proper size for a ground is about six hundred feet in length, by four hundred in breadth, although a smaller field will answer. The home base must be full seventy feet from the head of the field. The space of ground immediately behind the home base, and occupied by the catcher, should be not only be free from turf, but the ground should be packed hard and smooth, and free from gravel. To mark the position for the bases, square blocks of wood or stone should be placed in the ground, low enough to be level with the surface, at the base points, to each of which a strong iron staple should be attached. If the blocks are of stone, have the staples inserted with lead; and if made of wood, let the staples be screwed in, not driven, for in the latter case they will either become loose, or ultimately driven into the wood altogether; in either case, becoming entirely useless.
Measuring the Ground.
There are several methods by which the ground may be correctly measured; the following is as simple as any. Having determined on the point of the home base, measure from that point, down the field, one hundred and twenty-seven feet four inches, and the end will indicate the position of the second base; then take a cord one hundred and eighty feet long, fasten one end at the home base, and the other at he second, and then grasp it in the center and extend it first to the right side, which will give the point of the first base, and then to the left, which will indicate the position of the third; this will give the exact measurement, as the string will thus form the sides of a square whose side is ninety feet.
On a line from the home to the second base, and distant from the former forty-five feet, is the pitcher’s point. The foul ball posts are placed on a line with the home and first base, and home and third, and should be at least one hundred feet from the bases. As these posts are intended solely to assist the umpire in his decisions in reference to foul balls, they should be high enough from the ground, and painted, so as to be distinctly seen from the umpire’s position.
The bases should be made of the best heavy canvas, and of double thickness, as there will be much jumping on them with spiked shoes, and if the best material be not used, it soon wears out. Cotton or sawdust will be the most suitable filling for the bases, as they will be lighter than if filled with sand, and consequently easier to carry to and from the field.
The proper size of a base is about fourteen inches by seventeen; but as long as it covers one square foot of ground, when secured to the base post, the requirements of the rules will be fulfilled.
The straps with which the bases are held in position, should be made of harness leather, about one and a half inches wide. They must pass entirely around the bases, and securely fastened to them. New bases filled with hair and with patent fastenings have recently been introduced.
Pitcher’s Point and Home Base.
The location of the pitcher’s point and the home base are indicated by means of iron quoits painted white, and not less than nine inches in diameter. They should be cast with iron spikes running from the under side to keep them in place. The line of the pitcher’s position should be marked by the insertion in the ground of a piece of hard wood, six feet long, about two inches wide, and from six to eight deep. It should be inserted so as the umpire can see it.
The rule regulating the form and dimensions of the bat is as follows; 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.” While all are limited to a particular size in diameter, it will be observed that no objection is made as to any particular length or weight. Bats are from thirty to forty inches in length, and from two to three pounds in weight, the former weight being most desirable. The description of wood most in use is ash, but maple, white and pitch pine, and also hickory bats are in common use, weight for the size governing the selection.
For a bat of medium weight, ash is preferable, as its fiber is tough and elastic. The English willow has recently been used, and is favorably regarded by many. This later wood is very light and close in fiber, and answers the purpose better than any other wood for a light bat.
In the choice of a bat, select a light one, as it can be wielded better, and in match games it is desirable that the player be able to strike quick enough to meet the rapid pitching that has recently come in vogue. We would not recommend a bat much under two pounds in weight, as some weight is required to overcome the resistance of the ball.
Players have different modes, and adopt different styles of batting; some take the bat with the left hand on the handle, and slide the right from the large end toward the handle; others grasp it nearly one-third of the distance from the small end, so that both hands appear near the middle of the bat; others again take hold with both hands well down on the handle, and swing the bat with a natural and free stroke, while great force is given to the hit; all give good reasons for their several styles.
Practice with one bat, as a player thereby becomes more sure of striking than he would were he constantly to change his bat. In striking at the ball, do not try to hit it so hard that you throw yourself off your balance, but plant your feet firmly on the ground, and swing the bat in as natural a manner as possible. The secret of hard-hitting lies in the quick stroke and firm position of the batsman the moment the ball is struck This will account for some small and light men being hard hitters. Let the left foot be placed on the line indicated as the striker’s position, and then every ball that comes perpendicular from the bat to the ground will be a foul ball; but should you stand back of the line, it will not.
The rule states that the ball must be composed of India rubber and yarn, covered with leather, the proper weight being five and three-quarter ounces avoirdupois, and its circumference nine and three-quarters inches. The balls are easily made, but it would be advisable to obtain them from some well known maker, as there will then be no chance of their being wrong in size or weight. The covering is usually sheepskin, and on a turf ground this covering will last some time.
Base Ball is played by nine players on a side: one side taking the bat, and the other the field. The latter occupy the following positions in the field: Catcher, Pitcher, First, Second and Third Basemen, Short Stop and Right, Left and Center Fieldsman. The side that wins the toss have the choice of taking the bat or the field at their option.
The batsman stands at the home base, on a line drawn through its center — parallel to one extending from first to third base — and extending three feet on each side of it. When he hits the ball, he starts for the first base, and is succeeded by player after player until three are put out, at which time the side occupying the field take their places at the bat, and, in like manner, play their innings.
When the batsman succeeds in reaching the home base, untouched by the ball in the hands of an adversary, and after successively touching the first, second, and third bases, he is entitled to score one run and when he hits the ball far enough to admit of his making of the four bases before it is returned, he makes what is termed a home run.
Nine innings are played on each side, and the party making the greatest number of runs win the match. In case of a tie, at the close of the ninth inning, the game, by mutual consent, can be prolonged innings after innings until one or the other of the contesting sides obtain the most runs.
And if any thing occur to interrupt or put a stop to the game before five innings on each side have been played, the game must be drawn. The rules and regulations of the game define all further particulars in reference to it.
This player must take his position on a line drawn through the center of the home base, not exceeding in length three feet from either side thereof, and parallel with the line of the pitcher’s position.
He can await the coming of a suitable ball for him to strike, but he should not be too fastidious in this respect, or otherwise he will be liable to incur the penalty attached to a violation of Section 37 of the rules. Some Batsmen are in the habit of waiting until the player who has previously reached the first base, can make his second, but a good Batsman strikes at the first good ball pitched to him, and this is decidedly the fairest and best method to be adopted, as it is the most likely to lead to a successful result, and keeps the game lively and interesting.
It is exceedingly annoying to the spectators, and creates a bad impression of the merits of the game on those not familiar with it, to see good balls repeatedly sent to the Batsman without being hit, or the ball being passed to and from the pitcher and catcher , while the Batsman stands still, awaiting the movements of the player on the first base. No good players resort to this style of play, except in very rare instances, and it would therefore be desirable to avoid it as much as possible.
The Batsman, when he has hit the ball, should drop his bat, not throw it behind him, and run for the first base, not waiting to hear whether the ball has been declared foul or not, as if it be a foul ball, he can easily return to the base, but should it be fair, he will be well on his way to the base. The umpire will call all foul balls immediately when they are struck, but will keep silent when the ball is a fair one.
Although the rules expressly state what the Batsman is to do, it will be as well to refer here to the rules applicable to the striker, as they can not be too familiar to him. The Batsman is out if he strikes at the ball three times without hitting it, and the third time the ball is caught by the catcher either on the fly or first bound; or, if the ball be fielded to the first base before the striker reaches it; or, if he runs from any base, except the home base, on a foul ball, and the ball reaches the base before he can return to it; or, if a fair ball be caught on the fly or first bound; or, if at any time while running the bases, he be touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on the base.
He is also out if he try to make either the second, third or home bases after the ball has been struck, and caught on the fly, and he fails to return to the base he has left before the ball reaches it. If, however, he should succeed in this case in reaching the base before the ball, he can immediately re-endeavor to make the base he was running to without being obliged to return to the base he has left.
In the case where he is running for a base on a foul ball, he should see that the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher — who need not be in his position to receive it — before it reaches the base, or otherwise he can not be put out without being touched by the ball.
In running the bases, he should use his own judgment as to the proper time to make a base, unless the captain calls to him to run, in which case he should obey the call; but it will be as well not to mind the suggestion of other persons on the field, as the captain is the only proper person to direct a player in his movements.
Umpires and their Duties.
The umpire should be a player familiar with every point of the game. The position of an umpire is an honorable one, but its duties are anything but agreeable, as it is next to an impossibility to give entire satisfaction to all parties covered in a match.
It is almost unnecessary to remark that the first duty of an Umpire is to enforce the rules of the game with strictest impartiality; and in order to do so, it would be well for him, the moment he assumes his position on the ground, to close his eyes to the fact of there being any one player, among the contestants, that is not an entire stranger to him; by this means he will free his mind from any friendly bias.
He should also be as prompt as possible in rendering his decisions, as promptitude, in this respect, implies good judgment, whereas hesitancy gives rise to dissatisfaction, even where the decision is a correct one. Whenever a point is to be decided upon, rest the decision upon the first impression, for however incorrect it, at times, may be, it is invariably the most impartial one.
When the point, on which judgment is required, is a doubtful one, the rule is to give the decision in favor of the ball. The Umpire should avoid conversation with any party during a match game, and also turn a deaf ear to all outside comments on his decisions, remembering that no gentleman, especially if a player, will be guilty of such rudeness, and none others are worthy of notice.
He should give all his decisions in a loud tone of voice, especially in cases of foul balls, keeping silent when a fair ball is struck.
When a striker persists in refusing to hit at good balls, in order to allow the player who has reached his first base, to make his second, the Umpire should not hesitate to enforce Section 37 of the rules, by calling out “one strike,” and then two and then three strikes, if such conduct is continued. A few instances of prompt enforcement of this rule, in such cases, would soon put a stop to this objectionable habit.
The Umpire should keep a strict watch on the movements of the pitcher in delivering the ball, being careful to notice, firstly, that he has neither foot in advance of the line of his position; secondly, that his arm, in the act of delivering, does not touch his side, and thereby cause the ball to be jerked instead of being pitched; and, thirdly, that he does not move his arm with any apparent purpose of delivering the ball, unless he does actually deliver it; in either case, his failure to abide by the rules renders him liable to the penalty of a baulk.
The Umpire should also require the batsman to stand on a line, running through the center of the home base, parallel to a line from the first to the third base, and extending three feet on each side thereof. Should the striker fail to do so, and in consequence, the ball, when struck, fall behind the base, the Umpire should consider it a fair ball, as, had Section 17 of the rules been strictly adhered to, the same ball would have been legitimately a fair one.
Whenever the ball is caught after rebounding from the side of a building, a fence, or a tree, provided it has touched the ground but once, it should be considered a fair catch, unless a special arrangement to the contrary be made previous to the commencement of the match. This rule will also hold good in the case of a catch without touching the ground at all.
The Umpire should see that the spectators are not allowed to stand near, and especially within, the line of the foul-ball posts, or in any way interfere with or crowd upon the scorers.
His position is to the right of, and between, the striker and the catcher, in a line with the home and first base; in the case of a left-handed striker, he should stand on the left of the striker.
Whenever a disposition is evinced on the part of either side of the contestants in a match to prolong the game until darkness puts a stop to it, in order to secure an advantage obtained, but which, by fair play, would in all probability be lost, the Umpire should decide the game either by the last innings that had been fairly played, or draw the game. There has been one or two instances where this contemptible conduct has been resorted to, and as it is a course that is discreditable to all concerned in it, it can not be too much condemned.
The Umpire should constantly bear in mind that upon his manly, fearless, and impartial conduct in a match mainly depends the pleasure that all, more or less, will derive from it.
The same person should invariably be appointed to keep the score of all match games, and he should be one whose familiarity with the game will admit of his recording every point of it that occurs in a match.
He should be one also whose gentlemanly conduct will render him acceptable to all who are liable to make inquiries of him relative to the score of the game.
The position occupied by the scorers should be kept entirely clear of all persons, except those who are regularly engaged to report matches for the press; for the latter are entitled to every attention under such circumstances, in return for their efforts to promote the interests of the game by giving publicity to the many contests that take place.
To avoid annoyance to the scorers, the reporters should furnish the scorers with blank sheets containing the requisite headings only, for them to fill up at the close of the game. Every regular reporter should, however, be fully competent to record every point of the game himself, for unless he does so, his report can never be either an accurate or impartial one.
THE POSITIONS ON THE FIELD.
This player is expected to catch or stop all balls pitched or thrown to the home base. He must be fully prepared to catch all foul balls, especially tips, and be able to throw the ball swiftly and accurately to the bases, and also keep a bright look-out over the whole field.
When a player has made his first base, the Catcher should take a position nearer the striker, in order to take the ball from the pitcher before it bounds; and the moment the ball is delivered by the pitcher, and the player runs from the first to the second base, the Catcher should take the ball before bounding, and send it to the second base as swiftly as possible, in time to cut off the player before he can touch the base; in the latter case it would be well, in the majority of cases, to send the ball a little to the right of the base. The same advice holds good in reference to a player running from the second base to the third.
As the position occupied by the Catcher affords him the best view of the field, the person filling it is generally chosen captain, although the pitcher is sometimes selected for that honor. We would suggest, however, that some other player than the pitcher be selected as captain, from the fact that the physical labor attached to that position tends to increase the player’s excitement, especially if the contest is a close one, and it is requisite that the captain should be as cool and collected as possible.
We would suggest to the Catcher the avoidance of the boyish practice of passing the ball to and from the pitcher when a player is on the first base; let the discredit of this style of game fall on the batsman, if any one, as then the umpire can act in the matter; we have referred to this mater elsewhere, as it is a feature of the game that is a tiresome one.
The Catcher, whenever he sees several fielders running to catch a ball, should designate the one he deems most sure of taking it, by name, in which case the others should refrain from the attempt to catch the ball on the fly, and strive to take it on the bound in case of its being otherwise missed.
This player’s position is behind a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to second base, and having its center upon that line at a point distant forty five feet from the former base.
He should be a good player at all points, but it is especially requisite that he should be an excellent fielder, and a swift and accurate thrower. He must pitch the ball, not jerk or throw it; and he must deliver the ball as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker, and sufficiently high to prevent its bounding before it passes the base.
When in the act of delivering the ball, the Pitcher must avoid having either foot in advance of the line of his position, or otherwise a baulk will be declared; this penalty is also inflicted when he moves his arm with the apparent purpose of delivering the ball, and fails to do so.
He should be exceedingly cautious and on the alert in watching the bases when the players are attempting to run, and in such cases should endeavor to throw a swift and true ball to the batsman.
When a player attempts to run in to the home base while he is pitching, he should follow the ball to the home base as soon as it leaves his hand, and be ready to take it from the catcher. The Pitcher will frequently have to occupy the bases on occasions when the proper guardian has left it to field the ball. And in cases when a foul ball has been struck, and the player running a base endeavors to return to the one he has left, he should be ready to receive the ball at the point nearest the base in question, in order to comply with Section 16 of the rules, wherein, in such cases, it is required that the ball be settled in the hands of the Pitcher before it is in play.
The Pitcher, who can combine a high degree of speed with an even delivery, and at the same time can, at pleasure, impart a bias or spin to the ball, is the most effective player in that position. We would remind him that in cases where a player has reached his first base after striking, it is the Pitcher’s duty to pitch the ball to the bat, and not to the catcher; and should the batsman refuse to strike at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, it will be the umpire’s duty to call one strike, etc., according to Section 37 of the rules.
This position on the field is a very important one, for on the activity and judgment of the Short Stop depends the greater part of the in-fielding.
His duties are to stop all balls that come within his reach, and pass them to whatever base the striker may be running to — generally, however, the first base.
In each case his arm must be sure, and the ball sent in swiftly, and rather low than high. He must back up the pitcher, and, when occasion requires, cover third base when the catcher throws to it; also back up second and third bases when the ball is thrown in from the field.
He should be a fearless fielder, and one ready and able to stop a swift ground-ball; and if he can throw swiftly and accurately, it would be as well to be a little deliberate in sending the ball to the first base, as it is better to be sure and just in time, than to risk a wild throw by being in too great a hurry.
His position is generally in the center of the triangle formed by the second and third bases and the pitcher’s position, but he should change it according to his knowledge of the striker’s style of batting.
He must also be on the alert to take foul balls on the bound that are missed on the fly by either the third baseman or pitcher, or indeed any other player he can get near enough to be effective in this respect. In doing this, however, he should be careful not to interfere with the fielder who is about catching the ball; so as to present him doing so, the catcher will call to that fielder who he thinks will best take the ball on the fly.
An effective Short Stop and a good first base player, especially if they are familiar with each other’s play, will materially contribute to the successful result of a well-contested game.
The First Baseman should play a little below his base and inside the line of the foul-ball post, as he will then get within reach of halls that would otherwise pass him.
The moment the ball is struck, and he finds that it does not come near him, he should promptly return to his base, and stand in readiness, with one foot on the base, to receive the ball from any player that may have fielded it.
The striker can be put out at this base without being touched by the ball, provided the fielder, with the ball in hand, touches the base with any part of his person before the striker reaches it.
The player will find it good practice to stand with one foot on the base, and see how far he can reach and take the ball from the fielder; this practice will prepare him for balls that are thrown short of the base. In the same manner he should learn to jump up and take high balls.
This position requires the player filling it to be the very best of catchers, as he will be required to hold very swiftly-thrown balls. The moment he has held the hall, he should promptly return it to the pitcher, or to either of the other bases a player is running to, as in some instances two and sometimes three players are put out by promptitude in this respect.
For instance, we will suppose a player to be on each of the first, second, and third bases, and the striker hits the ball to the short field, the latter sends it to First Base, (he should, however, send it to the catcher, that being the proper play), in time to cut off the striker running to it; the First Baseman seeing the player on the third base running home, immediately sends the ball to the catcher, who, in turn, sends it to third base; and if this is done rapidly in each case, all three players will be put out, as it is only requisite, under such circumstances, for the ball to be held — not the player to be touched with it — for each player to be put out.
Should, however, there only be players on the second and third bases when the striker is put out at the first, and the ball is sent to the catcher as above, and by him to the third baseman, it will be requisite that each player be touched with the ball, as in the first case they are forced from their bases, but in the latter they are not.
We give this as an illustration of a very pretty point of the game. For the rule in reference to it, see Sections 15 and 16.
This position is considered by many to be the key of the field, and therefore requires an excellent player to occupy it.
He should be an accurate and swift thrower, a sure catcher, and a thorough fielder.
He should play a little back of his base, and to the right or left of it, according to the habitual play of the striker, but generally to the left, as most balls pass in that direction.
He should back up the pitcher well, allowing no balls to pass that player and himself too.
When the striker reaches first base, the Second Baseman should immediately return to his base and stand prepared to receive the ball from the catcher, and put out his opponent by touching him with the ball, which it is requisite to do on this base as well as on the third and home bases, except in the cases of balls caught on the fly, or foul balls, in both of which instances a player can be put out in returning to the base he has left, in the same manner as when running to the first base — see rule 16.
When the catcher fails to throw the ball with accuracy to the Second Baseman, the latter should, by all means manage to stop the ball, if he can not catch it, in time to put out his opponent. He should also promptly return the ball to the pitcher.
The Third Base is not quite as important a position as the others, but it nevertheless requires its occupant to be a good player, as some very pretty play is frequently shown on this base.
Its importance, however, depends in a great measure upon the ability displayed by the catcher, who, if he is not particularly active, will generally sacrifice this base by giving his principal attention to the second.
A player who catches with his left hand will generally make a good Third Baseman. The same advice in regard to the proper method of practice for the first base, is equally applicable to the second and third, but it is not quite as necessary to the two latter as to the former.
Should a player he caught between the bases, in running from one to the other, it is the surest plan to run in and put the player out at once, instead of passing the ball backward and forward, as a wild throw, or a ball missed, will almost invariably give the player the base.
All three of the basemen should avoid, by all fair means, obstructing the striker from reaching the base, as the penalty for any willful obstruction is the giving of the base to the striker. We scarcely need to remind each of the basemen that whenever they ask for judgment from the umpire, on any point of play, that they should forbear from commenting on same, be it good or bad, but receive it in entire silence. Such is the course a gentleman will always pursue.
This position requires the fielder who occupies it to be a good runner, a fine thrower, and an excellent and sure catcher; as probably three out of every six balls hit are sent toward the left field.
The same qualities are requisite also in this position, as necessary in the left field, but not to the extent required by the latter fielder. The Center Fielder should always be in readiness to back up the second base, and should only go to long field in cases where a hard-hitter is at the bat.
This is the position that the poorest player of the nine — if there be any such — should occupy; not that the position does not require as good a player to occupy it as the others, but that it is only occasionally, in comparison to other portions of the field, that balls are sent in this direction.
In all cases, the above fielders should be able to throw the ball from long field to the home base, and after they have either caught or stopped the ball, they should promptly return it, either to the base requiring it, or to the pitcher, but they should never hold the ball a moment longer than is necessary to throw it.
Another point of their fielding should be to start the moment the ball is hit, and try their utmost to take it on the fly, and not wait until it is about touching the ground, and then, boy-like, try to take it on the bounce. Nothing disappoints the spectator, or dissatisfies the batsman so much, as to see a fine hit to the long field caught on the bound in this simple, childish manner.
If the ball, in such a case, be taken on the fly, or even on the bound, after a good run for it, the catch being a difficult one, none will regret it, but on the contrary, applaud the skill that has been so successfully displayed — it is only the simple catch on the bound that we object to.
Bear in mind that it is easier to run forward to take a ball, than, by being too eager, to try and take it running backward; remember, however, that a ball hit high to long field invariably appears to be coming further than it really does, as after it has reached its height, it falls at a far more acute angle than it arose with; it, therefore, requires considerable judgment to measure the precise distance it will fall.
We need not impress on all fielders the propriety of endeavoring to take every ball they can on the fly. In many instances it is really easier and a surer method than waiting for the bound, and unquestionably is the prettiest mode of catching, for though we see some exceedingly difficult and skillful catches on the bound, they are few and far between; besides, a fielder has two chances in attempting a catch on the fly, for should he fail in the first instance, he has the resource of the catch on the bound afterward.
We would not envy the position of the fielder who mars the beauty of a fine hit by waiting until the force of the ball is spent on the ground, and then catching it on the rebound — a feat a boy ten years of age would scarcely be proud of.
TRANSCRIBED BY: JOHN R. HUSMAN, January 1997
Kent Base Ball Club, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA