Baseball Judgments

Baseball Judgments |
Baseball: Progression to the turn of the century


By Roger Weber


By the 1890s baseball was fighting its own reputation and was being forced to conduce to regular society. The game was picked up by newspapers and was forced to meet fans' schedules. Baseball needed to earn more popular respect.


The National League did not hold baseball games on Sundays until 1892 in accordance with natural and popular standards. Ballparks on Sundays were usually used for various activities, often less than pristine fights or non-professional games. The Cincinnati Red Stockings were kicked out of the National League in 1880 for refusing to follow this practice. But closer to 1900 games began being scheduled on Sundays. Sunday was, after all, the one day of the week when there was no work or school except for religious varieties. This desire to accommodate the largest number of possible fans would later lead baseball to be played under the lights.


In 1882 the first postseason games were held, a two game series that was not meant to declare a champion but was instead an exhibition between the two best teams. Events like these were great moneymakers as stadiums sold out for big games. They also gave teams a greater incentive to play well during the season and attract fans to the ballpark. They also gave validity to a baseball season and gave the fans a real reason to be interested in late season games. The World Series was born later, in 1903. 


After many changes in baseball equipment and rules in the 1860s and '70s, 1895 was a notable year because it was the first year all major league players agreed to wear gloves in the field. Players had been wearing gloves since 1876 and catchers wearing masks since 1876, but as is often the case many were unwilling to change their personal practices and unwilling to tamper with a successful style of play.


By the late 1800s the "figure eight" stitched ball was the officially used ball of the majors, although its size was reduced in 1901. At baseball's inception, a "lemon stitch" ball was used. The difference came in the fact that the lemon stitch ball used two circular stitches that crossed while the still used figure eight stitch was simply one continuous stitch that curved in a peanut shell-like configuration on the ball. The modern figure eight stitch is what allows for the many different types of pitches that can be thrown. In 1910 cork was put in the center of the ball, creating a faster moving device that allowed for more offense.


On June 6th, 1892 Benjamin Harrison attended a Cincinnati Reds' 7-4, 11-inning victory over the Washington Senators in Washington. Although the game itself was exciting, Harrison's attendance was the real story of the day. Not only was he the first U.S. president ever to attend a major league game, he started a trend of presidents attending games while in office that has not been broken.


Changes to the playing field that would affect later ballparks came in 1893 and 1900. The first set the pitchers' mound at 60 feet, six inches. The pitcher's rubber, ten inches off the ground, is commonly believed to be set in the center of the square, which is often believed to be a diamond that is a baseball infield. In fact, it is not. Simple geometry and use of the Pythagorean Theorem shows that the real halfway point between home plate and second base is 63.6 feet. In original diagrams of the baseball field, the pitcher's mound is shown to be much closer to home plate than it is today. This made sense considering that in some of the original American rules the bases were over a hundred feet apart from each other. But in the original game in the Duchy of Golgatha the pitcher stood literally only a few feet away from the batter.


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