Vintage Base Ball
There are actually several versions of Vintage Base Ball, each an attempt to replicate the game at various stages of it’s evolution. The Kents play the two “main” versions, 1860 Rules and 1867 Rules, separated mainly by the “bound rule”, where a ball caught on the first bounce, fair or foul, was an out. Please see the pulldown menu above for each version’s specific rules.
Also, you may find it helpful to visit Vintage Base Ball’s national site, which can be found in our LINKS page.
In addition, as you familiarize yourself with the vintage game, it is interesting to note some of the significant rule changes in the evolution to the modern game:
1857 The game was won when one side scored 21 aces. Now it is a 9 inning contest and the highest scoring team wins.
1858 Called strikes are introduced. A batter is out on a batted ball, fair or foul, if caught on the fly or after one bounce. The baserunner is no longer required to touch each base in order.
1863 Bat size is regulated. Pitcher’s box is now 12 feet by 4 feet. The pitcher is no longer allowed to take a step during his delivery and he had to pitch with both feet on the ground at the same time. Home base and pitcher’s box must be marked. No base can be made on a foul ball.
1864 Out on a fair bound is removed and the “fly catch” of fair balls is adopted. Each base runner must touch each base in making the circuit. Henry Chadwick’s scoring system is introduced.
1865 Batting averages are included.
1867 Pitcher’s box is now made into a 6 foot square. Pitcher is now permitted to move around inside this box. The batter is given the privilege of calling for a low or high pitch.
1872 Ball size and weight are regulated and remain the same to this date.
1877 Canvas bases 15 inches square were introduced. Home plate was placed in the angle formed by the intersection of the first and third base lines. The hitter was exempted from a time at bat if he walked.
1879 Player reserve clause was for the first time put into a contract. The number of “called balls” became 9 and all balls were either strikes, balls or fouls. The pitcher had to face a batsman before pitching to him. A staff of umpires was first introduced.
1880 Base on balls was reduced to 8 “called balls.” The base runner was out if hit by a batted ball. The catcher had to catch the pitch on the fly in order to register and out on a third strike.
1883 The “foul bound catch” was abolished and the pitcher could deliver a ball from above his waist.
1884 All restrictions on the delivery of a pitcher were removed. Six “called balls” became a base on balls. Championships were to be decided on a percentage basis.
1885 One portion of the bat could be flat (one side). Home base could be made of marble or whitened rubber. Chest protectors worn by catchers and umpires came into use.
1887 The pitcher’s box was reduced to 4 feet by 5 1/2 feet. Calling for high and low pitches was abolished. Five balls became a base on balls. Four “called strikes” were adopted for this season only. Bases on balls were recorded as hits for this season only. The batter was awarded first base when hit by a pitch. Home plate was to be made of rubber only – dropping the marble type and was to be 12 inches square. Coaches were recognized by the rules for the first time ever.
1888 Player reserve clause was written into the contracts of minor leaguers for the first time. The base on balls exemption from a time at bat was restored. A batsman was credited with a base hit when a runner was hit by his batted ball.
1889 Four balls became a base on balls. A sacrifice bunt was statistically recognized.
1891 Substitutions were permitted at any point in the game. Large padded mitts were allowed for catchers.
1893 Pitching distance increased from 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches. The pitching box was eliminated and a rubber slab 12 inches by 4 inches was substituted. The pitcher was required to place his rear foot against the slab. The rule exempting a batter from a time at bat on a sacrifice was instituted. The rule allowing a flat side to a bat was rescinded and the requirement that the bat be round and wholly of hard wood was substituted.
1894 Foul bunts were classified as strikes.
1895 Pitching slab was enlarged to 24 inches by 6 inches. Bats were permitted to be 2 3/4 inches in diameter and not to exceed 42 inches. Infield-fly rule was adopted. A held foul tip was classified as a strike.
1901 Catchers were compelled to remain continuously under the bat.
1903 Foul strike rule was adopted by the American League.
1904 Height of the mound was limited to 15 inches higher than the level of the baselines.
1908 Pitchers were prohibited from soiling a new ball. Shinguards were reintroduced. The sacrifice fly rule was adopted.
1910 The cork center was added to the official baseball.
1917 Earned-run statistics and definitions were added to the rules.
1920 All freak deliveries, including the spitball, were outlawed. The failure of a preceding runner to touch a base would not affect the status of a succeeding runner. The batter was given credit for a home run in the last of the ninth inning if the winning run was on base when the ball was hit out of the field. The number of runs batted in were to be included in the official score. Frivolous ninth-inning uncontested steals in one-sided games were discarded.
1925 Pitcher was allowed to use a resin bag. The minimum home-run distance was set at 250 feet.
1931 Sacrifice fly rule was brought back, this time with a man scoring after the catch only. Defensive interference was changed from an offense solely by a catcher to one by a fielder as well. No fielder could take a position in line with a batter’s vision with the deliberate intent to in any way distract the batter. Regulations referring to a batter contacting his own ball were clarified as was the area of bases awarded a batter when a defensive player threw his glove at a batted or thrown ball or in the case of spectator interference.
1953 Players were to remove their gloves from the field (in 1954) when batting and no equipment was to show on the field at any time.
1959 Regulations were set up for minimum boundaries for all new parks, 325-400-325 feet.
1968 The anti-spitball rule was rewritten and tightened up because of the wave of moistened pitches that floated plateward the prior season.
1969 The pitcher’s mound was dropped five inches. The strike zone was shrunken to the area from the armpits to the top of the batter’s knees. The save rule was added to the official rules for the first time.
1971 All major-league players were ordered to wear protective helmets.
1973 The rule on glove size and color was minutely outlined for standardization. The American League began using designated hitter for pitchers on an experimental basis.
1974 The save rule was rewritten. Minimum standards for individual championships were outlined.
1975 The ball was permitted to be covered with cowhide because of the shortage of horses. Suspension for three days became mandatory if batter were to hit a fair ball with a filled, doctored or flat-surfaced bat. The save rule was changed again.
Adopted from Vintage Base Ball in Texas, Wendel Dickason, Cedar Hills, TX
Kent Base Ball Club, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA