The ball must weigh not less than five and one-half, nor more than five and threefourths ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and one-half, nor more than nine and three-fourths inches in circumference. It must be composed of India rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.
The VBBA recommends that clubs use balls constructed in this manner. Balls of the era varied considerably in their degree of hardness and/or liveliness.
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.
The intention of the rule is that bats be made entirely of wood (though not necessarily a single piece of wood). The VBBA strongly discourages the use of modern, thin handled bats, or bats with a modern profile or markings such as laser engraving or manufacturers logo, even if they meet the technical requirements of the rule.
The bases must be four in number, placed at equal distances from each other, and securely fastened upon the four corners of a square, whose sides are respectively thirty yards. They must be so constructed as to be distinctly seen by the umpire, and must cover a space equal to one square foot of surface. The first, second, and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or sawdust; the home base and pitcher’s point to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white.
By 1864, there were actually two pitcher’s points (see Sec. 5), though Sec. 3 refers only to a single point. Very few vbb teams use a pitcher’s point, a practice we would encourage. They are easy to make, or can be ordered from some of the major vbb vendors.
Chadwick recommends home base to be no less than 9” in diameter. A 13” diameter plate would be just less than 1 square foot in area. There is some ambiguity as to the placement of bases on the line. Beadle’s shows the bases inside the line of the base. Most committee members felt strongly that the center of the base should be placed on the line. This would make 1st and 3rd bases half in fair and half in foul territory. Home base would be one fourth fair, three fourths foul.
There is clear instruction that the bases should be securely anchored, with further instruction in the Beadle’s. VBBA members may find there are many occasions where anchoring the base is not possible or practical. If the base moves from its position, the base, not the place, is the safe haven for the base runner. Many 1860 era field diagrams March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 2 show the bases rotated 45 degrees from the modern, so that the corners of the bases are parallel to the base lines.
The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated the Home Base, and must be directly opposite to the second base; the first base must always be that upon the right-hand, and the third base that upon the left-hand side of the striker, when occupying his position at the Home Base. And in all match games, a line connecting the home and first base and the home and third base, shall be marked by the use of chalk, or other suitable material, so as to be distinctly seen by the umpire.
Third base, which is on the batsman’s left, and first base, on the batsman’s right, when facing the pitcher.
The base line passes through the center of the home base as well as the center of the first and third bases. However, field markings do not yet extend beyond the bases into the outfield – the line stops at the bases. Additionally, although there is not yet a rule requiring the use of a foul flag the Beadle’s suggests the use of foul ball posts 100 feet past the bases.
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 centers upon that line at two fixed iron plates, placed at points fifteen and sixteen yards distant from the home base. The pitcher must stand within the lines, and must deliver the ball as near as possible over the center of the home base, and for the striker.
We believe that the clear intention of the rule is that the distance to the pitcher’s line should be measured from the center of home base, assuming home base is centered on the line of the bases. The pitcher must deliver a hittable ball, a requirement with no penalty until the 1864 season, when the calling of balls was introduced. “Hittable” is defined by Chadwick, as one foot from the ground to head high, within legitimate reach of the bat. Speed of the pitch is not a factor in the determination of a hittable ball.
Note [ from 1864 Beadle’s] It will be seen that the rule requires the ball to be pitched as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker; the pitcher, therefore, has no right to pitch the ball to the catcher especially, as is often done when a player is on the first base, and umpires should see that the rule is enforced.
This important change was made by the Convention of 1863. The object being to do away with the unfair style of pitching that was in vogue during 1861, 2, and 3, during which period those pitchers who failed in achieving the success attained by the lamented Creighton offset their want of skill by trying to intimidate the batsmen by pitching the ball at them instead of for them as the rules require.
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 March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 3 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 that time, each player occupying them shall be entitled to one base without being put out.
Called balls were introduced into the rules for the 1864 season. Although not yet called a “walk”, 1864 required the umpire to call balls, unasked, after an initial warning if the pitcher did not deliver “fair balls” (hittable pitches). The umpire shall warn the pitcher after repeated unfair pitches with language such as “ball to the bat” although no specific wording is required. After the warning and three called balls, the batsman is awarded first and all runners advance, even if not “forced”.
Any pitch that bounced before reaching home, was over the batsman’s head or out of his reach was required to be called by rule. Not all pitches have to be called. Given the importance placed on this rule, vintage programs and umpires should be in the habit of calling balls and strikes (see Sec. 39) after the requisite warning to prevent delay of game, and as a point that enhances the presentation. However, it is important to remember that umpires varied in their ability and enthusiasm in performing the requirements of their position regarding calling balls and strikes. Those that erred were not infrequently recognized in the press. Whether they are being called or not, it would be important to interpret this point for the game’s spectators.
The phrase “or for any other cause” was intended to refer to pitchers who were unable to deliver the ball fairly, usually because of their efforts to deliver the ball swiftly.
The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown to the bat; and whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, or moves with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it; and must have neither foot in advance of the front line 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 baulk.”
Pitching is underhand, with the arm perpendicular to the ground, the motion likened to that of a clock pendulum. The “time of delivering the ball” is not yet well defined and is seen interpreted as the moment the ball leaves the hand, the entire foreswing of the arm or even the entire motion, negating any step. Bias or spin may be applied to the pitched ball. The ball may be pitched at any speed. Jerking is touching the body during the forward motion of the arm. Jerking is a baulk according to the note in Beadle’s; throwing is not specifically mentioned in this note. Whether throwing is called as a baulk, we leave to the discretion of the umpire. Failing to deliver the ball after the pitcher begins his regular motion(s), and stepping over the line are clearly baulks. The purpose of this rule is to be fair to base runners who may be attempting to steal a base. There is nothing in the rules requiring a pitcher to cross his legs, stand in any particular manner, or present the ball to the striker.
In an attempt to limit the velocity of the pitch, the rules for 1864 require the pitcher to have both feet in contact with the ground at the time the ball leaves his hand. (See Appendix 1: Citation on 1864 Pitching) March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 4
When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases in entitled to one base, without being put out.
One of four calls the umpire MUST make, immediately and unasked. All runners get the next base.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864]: According to Section 7, 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 off the ground at the time of delivering the ball, or moves his hand or arm with the apparent purpose of pitching, without actually delivering the ball.
If the ball, from a stroke of the bat, first touches the ground, the person of a player, or any other object, behind the range of home and the first base, or home and the third base, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, either upon, or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864]: Nothing is mentioned in Section 9 in reference to any ball that is caught, either on the fly or first bound, after touching the side of a building, a fence, or a tree. In such cases a special rule is requisite before beginning a match.
Defines fair and foul. One of the most important duties the umpire has is to call foul balls, immediately and loudly. A muffed ball cannot be knocked into foul territory to make it foul. The committee feels that balls that come to rest on an object (blanket, chair, tree, etc.) could not be retrieved for an out, as these balls are not “caught”. Clubs must come to an understanding prior to the game, as to whether objects should be considered as the ground, for the purposes of defining “first bound”
A player making the home base, shall be entitled to score one run.
Base runners must touch each base in order to be entitled to score a run, according to the Beadle’s. There is neither requirement in the rules, nor primary source evidence of any custom, that a runner should “check in” with a scorer, or ring a bell of any kind. Actually, there is no scorer, per se. By rule, there were 2 scorers, each club supplying one. Runners did not have to check in with either of them.
If three balls are struck at, and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.
On a third strike swung at and missed, the striker MUST attempt to make his base. (NOTE: Rule 39 adds that this includes a called third March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 5 strike.) This rule applies whether first base is occupied or not, and regardless of the number of outs at the time of the play.
The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound.
Chadwick recommends always trying for the fly catch: “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.” Note that the ball must be caught; the committee strongly rejected the notion that a ball, having come to rest on any object, can be merely picked up, or retrieved for an out.
Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound;
Note that to get three strikes, you have to have three swings and misses, or a combination of swing and misses and called strikes. Foul balls are not strikes.
Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground, or upon the first bound;
Same note as Sec. 12. “Base-runners do not need to tag up if an out is made by a fielder catching a ball on the first bound – they are free to advance on any ball hit that bounces, whether it is then caught for an out or not.”
Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base.
There is commentary in period guides and press to indicate that touching the ball to the base without some portion of the hand or body also touching the base does not fulfill the requirement. We leave this to the judgment of the umpire.
Any player running the bases is out, if at any time he is touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on a base.
If the fielder has the ball in his hand, and is in control of the ball, once he touches the runner the out is recorded, and anything that happens after that does not affect the call. Control of the ball after the tag is not necessary, and won’t become so until 1877. Thus, whether the defensive player holds or drops the ball on a tag is irrelevant, and there is March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 6 never any reason for an intentional collision to try to knock the ball out of a player’s hands.
No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball: such a ball shall be considered dead, and not in play until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher. In such cases players running bases shall return to them, and may be put out in so returning in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.
On a foul ball, the base runners must return to their base. They may be put out in returning after the pitcher has possession of the ball. The pitcher may be anywhere on the field. Runners may advance once they have returned to their base, AND the pitcher has held the ball. They may not advance at any time prior to the pitcher holding the ball”
No ace nor base can be made when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground; such a ball shall be considered alive and in play. In such case players running bases shall return to them, and may be put out in so returning, in the same manner as the striker when running to first base; but players, when balls are so caught, may run their bases immediately after the ball has been settled in the hands of the player catching it.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864]: It will be seen by the above two Sections that a player running a base on a foul ball must return to the base he last left and remain on it until the ball has been fairly settled in the hands of the pitcher. But in case of fly-catches, a player running a base is only required to return and touch the base, after which he can leave it at once and try and make the next base. He must, however, touch the base after the ball has been caught.
In 1864 rules there are no “free backs” to the base. On a fair ball, caught on the fly, base runners must return to their base and they may be put out in returning, directly (no pitcher needed). On a caught fair fly, the base runner may immediately advance after successfully returning to his base (“tagging up”)
The striker must stand 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 occupied by the pitcher. He shall be considered the striker until he has made the first base. Players must strike in regular rotation, and after the first innings is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.
Note [from 1864 Beadle’s] The line referred to, in the above rule, is one parallel to a line extending from the first to the third base. The striker should keep one foot on this line; as, if he stands back of the base, a ball striking the ground perpendicularly from his bat, will be considered a fair ball-if the umpire strictly enforces the rule-though it March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 7 actually strikes the ground behind the home base. If this rule be not strictly enforced, many a ball that ought to be a fair one will be declared foul.
The striker’s line may or may not be marked with chalk, but it should be marked in some way (e.g., as a line marked in the dirt with the head of the bat). The rule requires the striker to place and keep his foot on that line and not stand behind the line to effectively increase the pitching distance; however it is a requirement without a penalty. There is substantial documentation that players and umpires alike in the 1860s often, or mostly, ignored this rule, and a historically correct interpretation allows for either approach. As long as strikers have their feet in proximity to the line, history is served. If a batsman takes a position with both feet fully behind the line, the umpire may well bring this violation to his attention, but there is no language to indicate an umpire may negate a hit if he fails to. Once a striker has reached first, he is considered to be a player running the bases. This will impact rule 26. The rule spells out the batting succession.
Players must make their bases in the order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying (or on the first bound), the first base must be vacated, as also the second and third bases, if they are occupied at the same time. Players may be put out on any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.
Describes the force out. Chadwick’s description in the 1864 Beadle’s under the duties of the First Base clarifies that the sequence of applying the force play is the same as in the modern day.
Players running bases must touch them; and, so far as possible, keep upon the direct line between the bases; and must touch them in the following order: first, second, third, and home; and if returning must reverse this order; and should any player run three feet out of this line, for the purpose of avoiding the ball in the hands of an adversary, he shall be declared out.
The runner can be more than 3 feet out of the line between the bases if his speed around the bases compels it. The rule only penalizes the act of leaving the base line in avoidance of a tag out. “Unless he leaves the line of the bases to avoid the ball, he does not infringe on the rule”
Note [from Beadle’s 1864]: According to the above rule every player failing to touch his base must be declared out, at once, by the umpire, if an appeal be made, Neither the runner nor the base need be touched to initiate an appeal. A call of judgment to the umpire and stating that the runner did not touch the base is sufficient.
Now per Sec 21 runners that miss a base may be declared out immediately upon appeal to the umpire with no requirement to tag the runner or touch the missed base. The appeal would simply be to call for judgment from the umpire (e.g., “Judgment! He never touched the second base!”) March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 8
Any player, who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.
A runner who intends to interfere is declared out. A player who is accidentally hit by a batted ball is not out. It is up to the umpire to determine intent. No indication that actual contact with the ball or the fielder is required. Intentionally interfering with the fielder’s vision is interference.
If the player is prevented from making a base, by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and not be put out.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864] These two latter sections are, of course, intended solely for any willful and unnecessary obstruction. It is impossible that a player, while in the act of fielding a swiftly-sent ball, can always be on the look-out as to where his adversary is running; or that a player running the bases can always be equally careful in regard to his preventing an adversary from getting to his base.
Blocking a runner off the base, with or without the ball (including setting up to take a throw in front of the base) is obstruction, and the runner is given the base. As with the previous rule, determining intent is the key to making the call, but the fielder has the responsibility to avoid obstruction if at all possible.
If an adversary stops the ball with his hat or cap or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can be put out unless the ball shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864] It would be as well for the umpire to warn the spectators previous to the commencement of the game, of the fact that any stoppage of the ball, such as referred to in the above rule, will act equally against both parties, and request them to let the ball pass in every case.
The pitcher may be anywhere on the field of play.
If a ball, from the stroke of a bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in Section 22d (sic (24)), and without having touched the ground more than once, the striker is out.
This is a clarification of the rule 24, “no hat” rule. This to further describe the word “caught” – that a ball did not have to be caught in the hands – that it could be trapped between the arm and the body, for instance. The available documentation strongly suggests that this rule did not overturn the intent of “caught” in rules 9, 12, and 14, and should not be applied to a ball that has come to rest on any object. March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 9
If two hands are already out, no player running home at the time a ball is struck, can make an ace if the striker is put out.
If putting the striker out makes the third out of an inning, either by a fly catch, a tag before he reaches first base, or holding the ball at first base, then no runs can score on that play. This is because the striker is no longer the striker after he has safely reached his first (rule 19). At that point he is a base runner, and the issue becomes a matter of timing. However, in any other situation, a run scoring on the 3rd out of an inning is an issue of timing. The umpire must determine if the run scored before the 3rd out was made regardless of whether the third out is a force or a tag. In other words, if the player who hits the ball were ultimately put out at second base for the third out, any runs that had already touched home base would count, because the hitter is no longer the striker at the time he is put out.
An innings must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out.
Further clarifies when a runner can score. No runs can be counted after the 3rd out is made.
The game shall consist of nine innings to each side, when, should the number of runs be equal, the play shall be continued until a majority of runs, upon an equal number of innings, shall be declared, which shall conclude the game.
In 1864, there were technically 18 innings, 9 for each side. An inning was one club’s turn at bat. Note that the rule requires there to be “nine innings to each side” – in other words, the bottom of the 9th innings is played regardless of whether the club batting then is already ahead.
In playing all matches, nine players from each club shall constitute a full field, and they must have been regular members of the club which they represent, and of no other club, for thirty days prior to the match. No change or substitution shall be made after the game has been commenced, unless for reason of illness or injury. Position of players and choice of innings shall be determined by captains previously appointed for that purpose by the respective clubs.
This is the “no ringers” rule. No substitution is a rule that is not practical in most modern vintage game play, where inclusion of volunteers is a significant issue. Clubs are encouraged that when they allow substitutions to advise spectators of the actual rule.
The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting balls, bats, bases, and the pitcher’s and striker’s positions, are strictly observed. He shall keep a record of the March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 10 game, in a book prepared for the purpose; he shall be the judge of fair and unfair play, and shall determine all disputes and differences which may occur during the game; he shall take especial care to declare all foul balls and baulks, immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner. He shall, in every instance, before leaving the ground, declare the winning club, and shall record his decision in the score books of the two clubs.
The record-keeping portion is eliminated by the next rule. Allows the umpire to decide issues not specifically covered in the rules. Foul balls, baulks, and calling balls and strikes are the calls the umpire is required to make unasked. The umpire did not call most other plays, unless judgment was asked.
In all matches the umpire shall be selected by the captains of the respective sides, and shall perform all the duties enumerated in Section 28 (sic (30)), except recording the game, which shall be done by two scorers, one of whom shall be appointed by each of the contending clubs.
In 1864 there is not a lone scorer; there are 2 scorers, each club supplying one.
No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be either directly or indirectly, interested in any bet upon the game. Neither umpire, scorer, nor player shall be changed during a match, unless with the consent of both parties (except for a violation of this law) except as provided in Section 27 (sic (29)), and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressor.
No gambling on the game, gentlemen. As with the players, there are no substitutions for the umpire or scorers, although this is hardly a critical issue for vintage game play.
The umpire in any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game can not be concluded, it shall be decided by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played, and the party having the greatest number of runs shall be declared the winner.
5 even innings is the minimum amount necessary for a match (game) to be official.
Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of the bounds of the field, as the circumstances of the ground may demand; and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, previous to the commencement of the game.
Special ground rules should be agreed on prior to the match. Ground rules were specific to the peculiarities of the field itself. March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 11
There is no documentation of which we are aware of fields where a ball hit a great distance was considered to be a home run.
There is no historical precedent for “gentleman’s agreements” to alter or modernize other rules as is sometimes done in modern vintage base ball. Significant contemporary evidence suggest that even in small towns, base ball clubs were eager to be “up to date” and play by the rules promulgated by the National Association.
No person shall be permitted to approach or to speak with the umpire, scorers, or players, or in any manner to interrupt or interfere during the progress of the game, unless by special request of the umpire.
This section is not intended to mean that players are not allowed to address the umpire. Rather, it is designed to prevent spectators from interfering with the attention of the umpire, scorers, or players.
No person shall be permitted to act as umpire or scorer in any match, unless he shall be a member of a Base-Ball Club governed by these rules.
Prohibits “ceremonial” umpires, such as local politicians or other prominent citizens who may have little knowledge of the game. For our purposes, it is important that umpires be very familiar with the specific year’s rules and playing customs.
Whenever a match shall have been determined upon between two clubs, play shall be called at the exact hour appointed; and should either party fail to produce their players within fifteen minutes thereafter, the party so failing shall admit a defeat.
This is self-explanatory, but not typically an issue that would be considered in modern vintage match play.
No person who shall be in arrears to any other club, or who shall at any time receive compensation for his services as a player, shall be competent to play in any match.
Prohibits professional players. Also prohibits players from creating financial difficulties for clubs they leave by failing to pay their dues, uniform costs, or other fees owed to the former club.
Should a striker stand at the bat without striking at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or of giving advantage to a player, March 2016 Rules and Custom Comm. 1864, p. 12 the umpire, after warning him, shall call one strike, and if he persists in such action, two and three strikes. When three strikes are called, he shall be subject to the same rules as if he had struck at three fair balls.
Note [from Beadle’s 1864]: Section 39 is a rule that should be strictly enforced, as it refers to a point of the game that is oft-times a very tedious and annoying feature. How often do we see the striker-the moment his predecessor has made his first base-stand still at the home base, and await the moment when the player on the first base can avail himself of the first failure of the pitcher and catcher to hold the ball, while tossing it backward and forward to each other. Some catchers – chiefly among boys however – actually stand to the right of the home base purposely for this style of game; and even when the pitcher and catcher are inclined to do their duty, the batsman is not, and the latter is frequently allowed to stop the progress and interest of the game, by his refusal to strike at good balls, under the plea that they do not suit him, when it is apparent to all that he simply wants to allow his partner to get to his second base. In every respect it is preferable to play the game manfully and without resorting to any such trickery-for it is little else-as this, which not only tires the spectator, but detracts from the merit of the game itself.
Called strikes are a remedy for the once common practice of extending a turn at bat while the striker waits for base runners to advance on passed balls, or by stealing their next base. The umpire must warn the batter after two or more good pitches are ignored with language such as “warning to the striker” although no specific wording is required. Speed is not factor in the determination of a hittable pitch. As with calling balls; after the warning, the umpire must call strikes. Not all pitches have to be called. Given the importance placed on this rule, vintage programs and umpires should be in the habit of calling balls and strikes after the requisite warning to prevent delay of game.
Every match hereafter made shall be declared by a single game, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the contesting clubs.
Prior to 1860 and after 1865, a match (what we would consider a “series”) was typically a “best of 3” game format.