Base-Ball: How to Become a Player
With the Origin, History and Explanation of the Game
By John Montgomery Ward of the New York Base-Ball Club
The author ventures to present this book to the public, because he believes there are many points in the game of base-ball which can be told only by a player. He has given some space to a consideration of the origin and early history of the game, because they are subjects deserving of more attention than is generally accorded them.
His principal aim, however, has been to produce a hand-book of the game, a picture of the play as seen by a player. In many of its branches, base-ball is still in its infancy; even in the actual play there are yet many unsettled points, and the opinions of experts differ upon important questions. The author has been as accurate as the nature of the subject would permit, and, though claiming no especial consideration for his own opinions, he thinks they will coincide in substance with those of the more experienced and intelligent players.
To Messrs. A. H. Wright, Henry Chadwick, Harry Wright, and James Whyte Davis, for materials of reference, and to Goodwin & Co., the Scientific American, and A. J. Reach, for engravings and cuts, acknowledgments are gratefully made.
JOHN M. WARD.
INTRODUCTION. AN INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF BASE-BALL, WITH A BRIEF SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY
CHAPTER I. THEORY OF THE GAME—A CHAPTER FOR THE LADIES.
CHAPTER II. TRAINING
CHAPTER III. THE PITCHER
CHAPTER IV. THE CATCHER
CHAPTER V. THE FIRST BASEMAN
CHAPTER VI. THE SECOND BASEMAN
CHAPTER VII. THE THIRD BASEMAN
CHAPTER VIII. THE SHORT-STOP
CHAPTER IX. THE LEFT-FIELDER
CHAPTER X. THE CENTRE-FIELDER
CHAPTER XI. THE RIGHT-FIELDER
CHAPTER XII. THE BATTER
CHAPTER XIII. THE BASE-RUNNER
CHAPTER XIV. CURVE PITCHING
INTRODUCTION. AN INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF BASE-BALL, WITH A BRIEF SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY.
It may or it may not be a serious reflection upon the accuracy of history that the circumstances of the invention of the first ball are enveloped in some doubt. Herodotus attributes it to the Lydians, but several other writers unite in conceding to a certain beautiful lady of Corcyra, Anagalla by name, the credit of first having made a ball for the purpose of pastime. Several passages in Homer rather sustain this latter view, and, therefore, with the weight of evidence, and to the glory of woman, we, too, shall adopt this theory. Anagalla did not apply for letters patent, but, whether from goodness of heart or inability to keep a secret, she lost no time in making known her invention and explaining its uses. Homer, then, relates how:
"O'er the green mead the sporting virgins play, Their shining veils unbound; along the skies, Tost and retost, the ball incessant flies."
And this is the first ball game on record, though it is perhaps unnecessary to say that it was not yet base-ball.
No other single accident has ever been so productive of games as that invention. From the day when the Phaeacian maidens started the ball rolling down to the present time, it has been continuously in motion, and as long as children love play and adults feel the need of exercise and recreation, it will continue to roll. It has been known in all lands, and at one time or another been popular with all peoples. The Greeks and the Romans were great devotees of ball-play; China was noted for her players; in the courts of Italy and France, we are told, it was in especial favor, and Fitz-Stephen, writing in the 13th century, speaks of the London schoolboys playing at "the celebrated game of ball."
For many centuries no bat was known, but in those games requiring the ball to be struck, the hand alone was used. In France there was early played a species of hand-ball. To protect the hands thongs were sometimes bound about them, and this eventually furnished the idea of the racquet. Strutt thinks a bat was first used in golf, cambuc, or bandy ball. This was similar to the boys' game of "shinny," or, as it is now more elegantly known, "polo," and the bat used was bent at the end, just as now. The first straight bats were used in the old English game called club ball. This was simply "fungo hitting," in which one player tossed the ball in the air and hit it, as it fell, to others who caught it, or sometimes it was pitched to him by another player.
Concerning the origin of the American game of base-ball there exists considerable uncertainty. A correspondent of Porter's Spirit of the Times, as far back as 1856, begins a series of letters on the game by acknowledging his utter inability to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion upon this point; and a writer of recent date introduces a research into the history of the game with the frank avowal that he has only succeeded in finding "a remarkable lack of literature on the subject."
In view of its extraordinary growth and popularity as "Our National Game," the author deems it important that its true origin should, if possible, be ascertained, and he has, therefore, devoted to this inquiry more space than might at first seem necessary.
In 1856, within a dozen years from the time of the systematization of the game, the number of clubs in the metropolitan district and the enthusiasm attending their matches began to attract particular attention. The fact became apparent that it was surely superseding the English game of cricket, and the adherents of the latter game looked with ill-concealed jealousy on the rising upstart. There were then, as now, persons who believed that everything good and beautiful in the world must be of English origin, and these at once felt the need of a pedigree for the new game. Some one of them discovered that in certain features it resembled an English game called "rounders," and immediately it was announced to the American public that base-ball was only the English game transposed. This theory was not admitted by the followers of the new game, hut, unfortunately, they were not in a position to emphasize the denial. One of the strongest advocates of the rounder theory, an Englishman-born himself, was the writer for out-door sports on the principal metropolitan publications. In this capacity and as the author of a number of independent works of his own, and the writer of the "base-ball" articles in several encyclopedias and books of sport, he has lost no opportunity to advance his pet theory. Subsequent writers have, blindly, it would seem, followed this lead, until now we find it asserted on every hand as a fact established by some indisputable evidence; and yet there has never been adduced a particle of proof to support this conclusion.
While the author of this work entertains the greatest respect for that gentleman, both as a journalist and man, and believes that base-ball owes to him a monument of gratitude for the brave fight he has always made against the enemies and abuses of the game, he yet considers this point as to the game's origin worthy of further investigation, and he still regards it as an open question.
When was base-ball first played in America?
The first contribution which in any way refers to the antiquity of the game is the first official report of the "National Association" in 1858. This declares "The game of base-ball has long been a favorite and popular recreation in this country, but it is only within the last fifteen years that any attempt has been made to systematize and regulate the game." The italics are inserted to call attention to the fact that in the memory of the men of that day base-ball had been played a long time prior to 1845, so long that the fifteen years of systematized play was referred to by an "only."
Colonel Jas. Lee, elected an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Club in 1846, said that he had often played the same game when a boy, and at that time he was a man of sixty or more years. Mr. Wm. F. Ladd, my informant, one of the original members of the Knickerbockers, says that he never in any way doubted Colonel Lee's declaration, because he was a gentleman eminently worthy of belief.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, several years since, said to the reporter of a Boston paper that base-ball was one of the sports of his college days at Harvard, and Dr. Holmes graduated in 1829.
Mr. Charles De Bost, the catcher and captain of the old Knickerbockers, played base-ball on Long Island fifty years ago, and it was the same game which the Knickerbockers afterward played.
In the absence of any recorded proof as to the antiquity of the game, testimony such as the foregoing becomes important, and it might be multiplied to an unlimited extent.
Another noticeable point is the belief in the minds of the game's first organizers that they were dealing with a purely American production, and the firmness of this conviction is evidenced by everything they said and did. An examination of the speeches and proceedings of the conventions, of articles in the daily and other periodical publications, of the poetry which the game at that early day inspired, taken in connection with the declarations of members of the first clubs still living, will show this vein of belief running all the way through. The idea that base-ball owed its origin to any foreign game was not only not entertained, but indignantly repudiated by the men of that time; and in pursuing his investigations the writer has discovered that this feeling still exists in a most emphatic form.
In view of the foregoing we may safely say that base-ball was played in America as early, at least, as the beginning of this century.
It may be instructive now to inquire as to the antiquity of the "old English game" from which baseball is said to have sprung. Deferring for the present the consideration of its resemblance to base-ball, what proof have we of its venerable existence? Looking, primarily, to the first editions of old English authorities on out-door sports, I have been unable to find any record that such a game as "rounders" was known. I may have been unfortunate in my searches, for, though I have exhausted every available source of information, I have not discovered any mention of it.
The first standard English writer to speak of rounders is "Stonehenge" in his Manual of Sports, London, 1856. Since then almost every English work on out-door sports describes the "old [with an emphasis] English game of rounders," and in the same connection declares it to be the germ of the American base-ball; and yet, curiously enough, not one of them gives us any authority even for dubbing it "old," much less for calling it the origin of our game. But in 1856 base-ball had been played here for many years; it had already attracted attention as the popular sport, and by 1860 was known in slightly differing forms all over the country. To all these later English writers, therefore, its existence and general principles must have been familiar, and it is consequently remarkable that, in view of their claim, they have given us no more particulars of the game of rounders. Are we to accept this assertion without reserve, when an investigation would seem to indicate that baseball is really the older game? If this English game was then a common school-boy sport, as now claimed, it seems almost incredible that it should have escaped the notice of all the writers of the first half of the century; and yet no sooner does base-ball become famous as the American game than English writers discover that there is an old and popular English game from which it is descended. Many of the games which the earlier writers describe are extremely simple as compared with rounders, and yet the latter game is entirely overlooked!
But upon what ground have these later writers based their assumption? Many, doubtless, have simply followed the writings from this side of the Atlantic; others have been misled by their ignorance of the actual age of our game, for there are even many Americans who think base-ball was introduced by the Knickerbocker and following clubs; a few, with the proverbial insular idea, have concluded that base-ball must be of English origin, if for no other reason, because it ought to be.
It is not my intention to declare the old game of rounders a myth. There is ample living testimony to its existence as early perhaps as 1830, but that it was a popular English game before base-ball was played here I am not yet ready to believe. Before we accept the statement that base-hall is "only a species of glorified rounders," we should demand some proof that the latter is really the older game. In this connection it will be important to remember that there were two English games called "rounders," but entirely distinct the one from the other. Johnson's Dictionary, edition of 1876, describes the first, and presumably the older, as similar to "fives" or hand-ball, while the second is the game supposed to be allied to base-ball. "Fives" is one of the oldest of games, and if it or a similar game was called "rounders," it will require something more than the mere occurrence of the name in some old writing to prove that the game referred to is the "rounders" as now played. And if this cannot be shown, why might we not claim, with as much reason as the other theory has been maintained, that the "old English game of rounders" is only a poor imitation of the older American game of base-ball?
Up to this point we have waived the question of resemblance between the two games, but let us now inquire what are the points of similarity.
Are these, after all, so striking as to warrant the assumption that one game was derived from the other, no matter which may be shown to be the older? In each there are "sides;" the ball is tossed to the striker, who hits it with a bat; he is out if the ball so hit is caught; he runs to different bases in succession and may be put out if hit by the ball when between the bases. But with this the resemblance ceases. In base-ball nine men constitute a side, while in rounders there may be any number over three. In base-ball there are four bases (including the home), and the field is a diamond. In rounders the bases are five in number and the field a pentagon in shape. There is a fair and foul hit in base-ball, while in rounders no such thing is known. In rounders if a ball is struck at and missed, or if hit so that it falls back of the striker, he is out, while in base-ball the ball must be missed three times and the third one caught in order to retire the striker; and a foul, unless caught like any other ball, has no effect and is simply declared "dead." In rounders the score is reckoned by counting one for each base made, and some of the authorities say the run is completed when the runner has reached the base next on the left of the one started from. In base-ball one point is scored only when the runner has made every base in succession and returned to the one from which he started. In rounders every player on the side must be put out before the other side can come in, while in base-ball from time immemorial the rule has been "three out, all out." The distinctive feature of rounders, and the one which gives it its name, is that when all of a side except two have been retired, one of the two remaining may call for "the rounder;" that is, he is allowed three hits at the ball, and if in any one of these he can make the entire round of the bases, all the players of his side are reinstated as batters. No such feature as this was ever heard of in base-ball, yet, as said, it is the characteristic which gives to rounders its name, and any derivation of that game must certainly have preserved it.
If the points of resemblance were confined solely to these two games it would prove nothing except that boys' ideas as well as men's often run in the same channels. The very ancient game of bandy ball has its double in an older Persian sport, and the records of literary and mechanical invention present some curious coincidences. But, as a matter of fact, every point common to these two, games was known and used long before in other popular sports. That the ball was tossed to the bat to be hit was true of a number of other games, among which were club ball, tip cat, and cricket; in both of the latter and also in stool ball bases were run, and in tip cat, a game of much greater antiquity than either base- ball or rounders, the runner was out if hit by the ball when between bases. In all of these games the striker was out if the ball when hit was caught. Indeed, a comparison will show that there are as many features of base-ball common to cricket or tip cat as there are to rounders.
In view, then, of these facts, that the points of similarity are not distinctive, and that the points of difference are decidedly so, I can see no reason in analogy to say that one game is descended from the other, no matter which may be shown to be the older.
There was a game known in some parts of this country fifty or more years ago called town-ball. In 1831 a club was regularly organized in Philadelphia to play the game, and it is recorded that the first day for practice enough members were not present to make up town-ball, and so a game of "two-old-cat" was played. This town-ball was so nearly like rounders that one must have been the prototype of the other, but town- ball and base-ball were two very different games. When this same town- ball club decided in 1860 to adopt base-ball instead, many of its principal members resigned, so great was the enmity to the latter game. Never, until recently, was the assertion made that base-ball was a development of town-ball, and it could not have been done had the writers looked up at all the historical facts.
The latest attempt to fasten an English tab on the American game is noteworthy. Not content to stand by the theory that our game is sprung from the English rounders, it is now intimated that baseball itself, the same game and under the same name, is of English origin. To complete the chain, it is now only necessary for some English writer to tell us that "in 1845 a number of English gentlemen sojourning in New York organized a club called the Knickbockers, and introduced to Americans the old English game of base-ball." This new departure has not yet gained much headway, but it must be noticed on account of the circumstances of its appearance.
The edition of Chambers' Encyclopedia just out, in its article on "base- ball" says that the game was mentioned in Miss Austen's Northanger Abbey, written about 1798, and leaves us to infer that it was the same game that we now know by that name. It was not necessary to go into the realm of fiction to find this ancient use of the name. A writer to the London Times in 1874 pointed out that in 1748 the family of Frederick, Prince of Wales, were represented as engaged in a game of base-ball. Miss Austen refers to base-ball as played by the daughters of "Mrs. Morland," the eldest of whom was fourteen. In Elaine's Rural Sports, London, 1852, in an introduction to ball games in general, occurs this passage: "There are few of us of either sex but have engaged in base- ball since our majority." Whether in all these cases the same game was meant matters not, and it is not established by the mere identity of names. "Base," as meaning a place of safety, dates its origin from the game of "prisoners' base" long before anything in the shape of base-ball or rounders; so that any game of ball in which bases were a feature would likely be known by that name. The fact that in the three instances in which we find the name mentioned it is always a game for girls or women, would justify the suspicion that it was not always the same game, and that it in any way resembled our game is not to be imagined. Base- ball in its mildest form is essentially a robust game, and it would require an elastic imagination to conceive of little girls possessed of physical powers such as its play demands.
Besides, if the English base-ball of 1748, 1798, and 1852 were the same as our base-ball we would have been informed of that fact long ago, and it would never have been necessary to attribute the origin of our game to rounders. And when, in 1874, the American players were introducing base-ball to Englishmen, the patriotic Britain would not have said, as he then did, that our game was "only rounders with the rounder left out," but he would at once have told us that base-ball itself was an old English game.
But this latest theory is altogether untenable and only entitled to consideration on account of the authority under which it is put forth.
In a little book called Jolly Games for Happy Homes, London, 1875, dedicated to "wee little babies and grown-up ladies," there is described a game called "base-ball." It is very similar in its essence to our game and is probably a reflection of it. It is played by a number of girls in a garden or field. Having chosen sides, the "leader" of the "out" side tosses the ball to one of the "ins," who strikes it with her hand and then scampers for the trees, posts, or other objects previously designated as bases. Having recovered the ball, the "scouts," or those on the "outs," give chase and try to hit the fleeing one at a time when she is between bases. There must be some other means, not stated, for putting out the side; the ability to throw a ball with accuracy is vouchsafed to few girls, and if the change of innings depended upon this, the game, like a Chinese play, would probably never end. It is described, however, as a charming pastime, and, notwithstanding its simplicity, is doubtless a modern English conception of our National Game.
To recapitulate briefly, the assertion that base-ball is descended from rounders is a pure assumption, unsupported even by proof that the latter game antedates the former and unjustified by any line of reasoning based upon the likeness of the games. The other attempt to declare base-ball itself an out-and-out English game is scarcely worthy of serious consideration.
But if base-ball is neither sprung from rounders nor taken bodily from another English game, what is its origin? I believe it to be a fruit of the inventive genius of the American boy. Like our system of government, it is an American evolution, and while, like that, it has doubtless been affected by foreign associations, it is none the less distinctively our own. Place in the hands of youth a ball and bat, and they will invent games of ball, and that these will be affected by other familiar games and in many respects resemble them, goes without saving.
The tradition among the earliest players of the game now living, is that the root from which came our present base-ball was the old-time American game of "cat-ball." This was the original American ball game, and the time when it was not played here is beyond the memory of living man. There were two varieties of the game, the first called "one-old-cat," or one-cornered-cat, and the other "two-old-cat."
In one-old-cat there were a batter, pitcher, catcher, and fielders. There were no "sides," and generally no bases to run, but in every other respect the game was like base-ball. The batter was out if he missed three times and the third strike was caught, or if the ball when hit was caught on the fly or first bound. When the striker was "put out" the catcher went in to bat, the pitcher to catch, and the first fielder to pitch, and so on again when the next striker was retired. The order of succession had been established when the players went on the field by each calling out a number, as "one," "two," "three," etc., one being the batter, two the catcher, three the pitcher, four the first fielder, etc. Thus, each in order secured his turn "at bat," the coveted position. Sometimes, when the party was larger, more than one striker was allowed, and in that case, not only to give the idle striker something to do, but to offer extra chances for putting him out, one or more bases were laid out, and having hit the ball he was forced to run to these. If he could be hit with the ball at any time when he was between bases he was out, and he was forced to be back to the striker's position in time to take his turn at bat. This made him take chances in running. No count was kept of runs. Two-old-cat differed from one-old-cat in having two batters at opposite stations, as in the old English stool-ball and the more modern cricket, while the fielders divided so that half faced one batter and half the other.
From one-old-cat to base-ball is a short step. It was only necessary to choose sides, and then the count of runs made by each would form the natural test of superiority. That base-ball actually did develop in this way was the generally accepted theory for many years.
In 1869 an article in The Nation, from A. H. Sedgwick, commenting upon the features of baseball arid cricket as exemplifying national characteristics, said: "To those other objectors who would contend that our explanation supposes a gradual modification of the English into the American game, while it is a matter of common learning that the latter is of no foreign origin but the lineal descendant of that favorite of boyhood, 'two-old-cat,' we would say that, fully agreeing with them as to the historical fact, we have always believed it to be so clear as not to need further evidence, and that for the purposes of this article the history of the matter is out of place."
Without going further into a consideration that might be greatly prolonged, I reassert my belief that our national game is a home production. In the field of out-door sports the American boy is easily capable of devising his own amusements, and until some proof is adduced that base-ball is not his invention I protest against this systematic effort to rob him of his dues.
The recorded history of the game may be briefly sketched; it is not the object here to give a succinct history:
In 1845 a number of gentlemen who had been in the habit, for several years, of playing base-ball for recreation, determined to form themselves into a permanent organization under the name of "The Knickerbocker Club." They drew up a Constitution and By-laws, and scattered through the latter are to be found the first written rules of the game. They little thought that that beginning would develop into the present vast system of organized base-ball. They were guilty of no crafty changes of any foreign game; there was no incentive for that. They recorded the rules of the game as they remembered them from boyhood and as they found them in vogue at that time. For six years the club played regularly at the Elysian Field, the two nines being made up from all the members present. From 1851 other clubs began to be organized, and we find the Washington, Gotham (into which the Washington was merged), Eagle, Empire, Putnam, Baltic, Union, Mutual, Excelsior, Atlantic, Eckford, and many other clubs following in the space of a few years.
In Philadelphia town-ball was the favorite pastime and kept out base- ball for some time, while in Boston the local "New England game," as played by the Olympic, Elm Tree, and Green Mountain Clubs, deferred the introduction of base-ball, or, as it was called, "the New York game," until 1857.
Base-ball grew rapidly in favor; the field was ripe. America needed a live out-door sport, and this game exactly suited the national temperament. It required all the manly qualities of activity, endurance, pluck, and skill peculiar to cricket, and was immeasurably superior to that game in exciting features. There were dash, spirit, and variety, and it required only a couple of hours to play a game. Developed by American brains, it was flaw to us, and we took to it with all the enthusiasm peculiar to our nature.
In 1857 a convention of delegates from sixteen clubs located in and around New York and Brooklyn was held, and a uniform set of rules drawn up to govern the play of all the clubs.
In 1858 a second general convention was held, at which twenty-five clubs were represented. A committee was appointed to formulate a Constitution and By-laws for a permanent organization, and in accordance with this "The National Association of Baseball Players" was duly organized. The game now made rapid strides. It was no boys' sport, for no one under twenty-one years of age could be a delegate. Each year a committee of men having a practical knowledge of the game revised the playing rules, so that these were always kept abreast of the time.
During 1858 a series of three games between picked nines from New York and Brooklyn was played on the Fashion Course, Long Island. The public interest in these games was very great and the local feeling ran high. The series, which terminated in favor of New York, two to one, attracted general attention to the game.
In 1861 a similar game was played called "the silver ball match," on account of the trophy, a silver ball, offered by the New York Clipper. This time Brooklyn won easily, and it is said some 15,000 people were present.
At the second annual meeting of the "National Association" in 1860, seventy clubs had delegates present, representing New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Detroit, New Haven, Newark, Troy, Albany, Buffalo, and other cities. During this year the first extended trip was taken by the Excelsior Club, of Brooklyn, going to Albany, Troy, Buffalo, Rochester, and Newburgh. All the expenses of the trip were paid from the treasury of the traveling club, for there were no inclosed grounds in those days and no questions as to percentage or guarantee were yet agitating the clubs and public. The Excelsiors won every game, and their skillful display and gentlemanly appearance did much to popularize the game in the cities visited.
Already in 1860 the game was coming to be recognized as our national pastime, and there were clubs in all the principal cities. Philadelphia had forsaken her town-ball, and Boston's "New England" game, after a hard fight, gave way to the "New York" game. Washington, Baltimore, Troy, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, all had their champion teams. From Detroit to New Orleans, and from Portland, Maine, to far-off San Francisco, the grand game was the reigning out-door sport.
With the outbreak of the Civil War came a very general suspension of play in the different cities, though the records of occasional games in camp show that "the boys" did not entirely forget the old love. In 1865 the friendly contests were resumed, though the call of the rolls showed many "absent" who had never been known to miss a game. More than one of those who went out in '61 had proven his courage on the crimson field.
During the seasons of '65, '66, and '67 amateur base-ball, so-called, was in the height of its glory. At the annual Convention of the National Association in '66 a total of two hundred and two clubs from seventeen States and the District of Columbia were represented; besides, there were present delegates from the Northwestern and Pennsylvania Associations, representing in addition over two hundred clubs.
In 1867 the trip of the "Nationals" of Washington was the first visit of an Eastern club to the West, and helped greatly to spread the reputation of the game.
For a number of years, however, certain baneful influences had crept into the game and now began to work out their legitimate effect.
The greatest of these evils was in the amount of gambling on the results of games. With so much money at stake, the public knew that players would be tampered with, and when finally its suspicions were confirmed, it refused further to patronize the game.
The construction of inclosed grounds and the charge of admission proved another danger. No regular salaries were paid, so that the players who were depending on a share of the "gate" arranged to win and lose a game in order that the deciding contest might draw well.
Doubtless there were more of these things existing in the public imagination than in actual fact, but distrust once aroused, there was no faith left for anything or anybody.
Very early in the history of the Association the practice prevailed among certain clubs of offering inducements to crack players in order to secure them as members. The clubs which could afford this grew disproportionately strong, and in the face of continual defeat the weaker clubs were losing interest. In 1859 a rule was made forbidding the participation in any matches of paid players, but it was so easily evaded that it was a dead letter. In 1866 the rule was reworded, but with no improved effect, and in 1868 the National Association decided, as the only way out of the dilemma, to recognize the professional class of players. By making this distinction it would no longer be considered a disgrace for an amateur to be beaten by a professional nine.
For the professionals the change was most beneficial. It legitimized their occupation and left them at liberty to pursue openly and honorably what they had before been forced to follow under false colors. The proud record of the Cincinnati "Reds" in '69 proved that professional base- ball could be honestly and profitably conducted, and from that time forth it was an established institution.
But with the introduction of professionalism there began a great competition for players, and this brought in a new evil in the form of "revolvers," or, as they were sometimes called, "shooting stars." Players under contract with one club yielded to the temptations of larger offers and repudiated the first agreements. It became evident that a closer organization was necessary to deal with these affairs.
In 1871 the professional and amateur organizations concluded to dissolve partnership. Two distinct associations were formed, and the first regular championship contests were engaged in by the Professional Association. After a few years the Amateur National Association passed out of existence.
In 1876 eight clubs of the "Professional National Association" formed an independent body, calling themselves "The National League," and this is the present senior base-ball organization.
In 1881 a new body of professional clubs, The American Association, entered the field, and is now, with the National League, one of the controlling factors of the game.
There have been a number of other base-ball associations formed from time to time, but, unable to compete with the larger Leagues, and despoiled of their best players, they have been forced to withdraw. Under a new regime there are at present quite a number of these minor organizations, and some of them are in a most flourishing condition.
In 1882 the National League, American Association, and Northwestern League entered into what was called the "Triparti Agreement," which the following year was developed into the "National Agreement." The parties to this document, which is become the lex suprema in base-ball affairs, are now, primarily, the National League and the American Association. It regulates the term of players' contracts and the period for negotiations; it provides a fine of five hundred dollars upon the club violating, and disqualifies the player for the ensuing season; it prescribes the formula necessary to make a "legal" contract; the clubs of each Association are to respect the reservations, expulsions, blacklistments, and suspensions of the clubs of the other; it declares that no club shall pay any salary in excess of two thousand dollars; finally, it provides for a Board of Arbitration, consisting of three duly accredited representatives from each Association, to convene annually, and, "in addition to all matters that may be specially referred to them," to have "sole, exclusive, and final jurisdiction of all disputes and complaints arising under, and all interpretations of, this Agreement." It shall also decide all disputes between the Associations or between club members of one Association and club members of the other.
To this main agreement are tacked "Articles of Qualified Admission," by which the minor base-ball associations, for a consideration and upon certain conditions, are conceded certain privileges and protection. These articles are an agreement between the League and American Association, party of the first part, and the minor leagues as party of the second part.
The most important feature of the National Agreement unquestionably is the provision according to the club members the privilege of reserving a stated number of players. No other club of any Association under the Agreement dares engage any player so reserved. To this rule, more than any other thing, does base-ball as a business owe its present substantial standing. By preserving intact the strength of a team from year to year; it places the business of baseball on a permanent basis and thus offers security to the investment of capital. The greatest evil with which the business has of recent years had to contend is the unscrupulous methods of some of its "managers." Knowing no such thing as professional honor, these men are ever ready to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to an associate club. The reserve rule itself is a usurpation of the players' rights, but it is, perhaps, made necessary by the peculiar nature of the base-ball business, and the player is indirectly compensated by the improved standing of the game. I quote in this connection Mr. A. G. Mills, ex-President of the League, and the originator of the National Agreement: "It has been popular in days gone by to ascribe the decay and disrepute into which the game had fallen to degeneracy on the part of the players, and to blame them primarily for revolving and other misconduct. Nothing could be more unjust. I have been identified with the game more than twenty-five years—for several seasons as a player—and I know that, with rare exceptions, those faults were directly traceable to those who controlled the clubs. Professional players have never sought the club manager; the club manager has invariably sought—and often tempted—the player. The reserve rule takes the club manager by the throat and compels him to keep his hands off his neighbor's enterprise."
It was not to be expected that club managers of the stamp above referred to would exhibit much consideration for the rights of players. As long as a player continued valuable he had little difficulty, but when, for any reason, his period of usefulness to a club had passed, he was likely to find, by sad experience, that base-ball laws were not construed for his protection; he discovered that in base-ball, as in other affairs, might often makes right, and it is not to be wondered at that he turned to combination as a means of protection.
In the fall of 1885 the members of the New York team met and appointed a committee to draft a Constitution and By-laws for an organization of players, and during the season of 1886 the different "Chapters" of the "National Brotherhood of Ball-Players" were instituted by the mother New York Chapter. The objects of this Brotherhood as set forth by the Constitution are:
"To protect and benefit its members collectively and individually;
"To promote a high standard of professional conduct;
"To foster and encourage the interests of 'The National Game.'"
There was no spirit of antagonism to the capitalists of the game, except in so far as the latter might at ally time attempt to disregard the rights of any member.
In November, 1887, a committee of the Brotherhood met a committee of the League, and a new form of players' contract was agreed upon. Concessions were made on both sides, and the result is a more equitable form of agreement between the club and players.
The time has not yet come to write of the effect of this new factor in base-ball affairs. It is organized on a conservative plan, and the spirit it has already shown has given nothing to fear to those who have the broad interests of the game at heart. That it has within it the capacity for great good, the writer has no manner of doubt.
And thus the erstwhile schoolboy game and the amateur pastime of later years is being rounded out into a full-grown business. The professional clubs of the country begin to rival in number those of the halcyon amateur days; and yet the latter class has lost none of its love for the sport. The only thing now lacking to forever establish base-ball as our national sport is a more liberal encouragement of the amateur element. Professional base-ball may have its ups and downs according as its directors may be wise or the contrary, but the foundation upon which it all is built, its hold upon the future, is in the amateur enthusiasm for the game. The professional game must always be confined to the larger towns, but every hamlet may have its amateur team, and let us see to it that their games are encouraged.
CHAPTER I. THEORY OP THE GAME. A CHAPTER FOR THE LADIES.
On account of the associations by which a professional game of base-ball was supposed to be surrounded, it was for a long time thought not a proper sport for the patronage of ladies. Gradually, however, this illusion has been dispelled, until now at every principal contest they are found present in large numbers. One game is generally enough to interest the novice; she had expected to find it so difficult to understand and she soon discovers that she knows all about it; she is able to criticize plays and even find fault with the umpire; she is surprised and flattered by the wonderful grasp of her own understanding, and she begins to like the game. As with everything else that she likes at all, she likes it with all her might, and it is only a question of a few more games till she becomes an enthusiast. It is a fact that the sport has no more ardent admirers than are to be found among its lady attendants throughout the country.
Whoever has not experienced the pleasure of taking a young lady to her first game of ball should seize the first opportunity to do so. Her remarks about plays, her opinions of different players and the umpire, and the questions she will ask concerning the game, are all too funny to be missed. She is a violent partisan and at once takes strong sides, and if her favorite team fails to bat well she characterizes the opposing pitcher as a "horrid creature;" or when the teams have finished practicing she wants to know, with charming ingenuousness, "which won." But as she gets deeper into the principles of the game her remarks become less frequent and her questions more to the point, until her well-timed attempts to applaud good plays and the anxious look at critical points of the game indicate that she has at last caught the idea.
Unfortunately, some men are not able to intelligibly explain the theory of base-ball, while others are so engrossed with the game that they do not care to be disturbed. For the benefit of those ladies whose escorts either cannot, or will not, answer their questions, I will attempt to set forth as clearly as possible the fundamental principles of the game.
There are always two opposing teams of nine players each, and they play on a field laid out in the shape of a diamond, as seen in time diagram on the following page.
At each corner of the diamond is a base, and these are known respectively as home base, first base, second base, and third base. One of the teams takes "the field," that is, each of its nine players occupies one of the nine fielding positions shown in the diagram, and known as pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, third base, short stop, left field, centre field, and right field; the other team goes to "the bat" and tries to make "runs." A run is scored in this way: One of the nine batting players takes his position at the home base and endeavors to hit the ball, thrown to him by the opposing pitcher, to some part of the field where it can neither be caught before touching the ground, nor thrown to first base before the batter himself can run there; if he can hit it far enough to allow him to reach not only first base, but second or third or even home, so much the better, for when he has made the complete circuit of the bases his side is credited with one run. If he cannot make home on his own hit he may be helped around by the good hits of succeeding batsmen, for each one of the nine takes his regular turn at the bat. This batting and running goes on until three of the batting side have been "put out," whereupon the batting side take the field and the other team comes in to take its turn at bat and make as many runs as possible. When three of a batting side have been "put out," that side is said to have had its "inning," and each side is entitled to nine innings.
A player is "put out" in various ways, principal among which are the following: If he strikes three times at the ball and misses it and on the third strike the ball is caught by the catcher; a ball which passes over the plate between the height of the knee and shoulder and not struck at, is called a strike just as though it had been struck at and missed. The batsman is also "out" if the ball which he hits is caught by some fielder before touching the ground; or if, having touched the ground, it is thrown to time first-baseman before the batter himself can reach that base. He is out if, at any time after having hit the ball, he is touched with it in the hands of a fielder, when no part of his person is touching a base.
There are lines drawn from the home base through the first and third- base corners and continued indefinitely into the field. These are called "foul lines," and any hit ball falling outside of them counts as nothing at all, unless, of course, it be caught before touching the ground; in which case it puts the striker "out."
Outside of the nine players on each side there is another important personage, known as "The Umpire." He is not placed there as a target for the maledictions of disappointed spectators. He is of flesh and blood, and has feelings just the same as any other human being. He is not chosen because of his dishonesty or ignorance of the rules of the game, neither is he an ex-horse thief nor an escaped felon; on the contrary, he has been carefully selected by the President of the League from among a great number of applicants on account of his supposed integrity of character and peculiar fitness for the position; indeed, in private life he may even pass as a gentleman.
His duties are arduous; he must decide all points of play, though taking place on widely separated portions of the field; he determines whether a ball has been fairly pitched over the home-base, whether a hit is "fair" or "foul," or whether a player has been put out in accordance with the rules. In brief, he is expected to see all parts of the field at once and enforce all the principal and incidental rules of the game. It would not be strange, therefore, if he made an occasional mistake or failed to decide in a way to suit all.
I have given thus concisely, and with the use of as few technical terms as possible, the first principles of the game. Many things are purposely left for the novice to learn, because any attempt to go into detail would prove confusing. For the instruction of those who wish to master the technical terms generally used, I subjoin some definitions. They are intended for beginners, and though not in all cases covering the entire ground, will yet convey the idea.
A batsman, batter, or striker is the player who is taking his turn at bat.
A base-runner is what the batter becomes instantly after having hit a fair ball, though for convenience of distinction he is often still called a batter until he has reached first base.
A fielder is any one of the nine fielding players.
A coacher is one of the batting players who takes his position within certain prescribed limits near first or third base to direct base- runners and to urge them along.
A fair hit is, generally speaking, a ball hit by a batsman which falls within the foul lines.
A foul hit is one which falls without the foul lines. A base hit is a fair hit by a batsman which can neither be caught before touching the ground nor fielded to first base in time to put out the striker. It may be either a two-base hit, a three-base hit, or a home run, according as two or three or four bases have been made on the hit without an intervening error.
An error is made when a fielder fails to make a play that he should fairly have been expected to make.
A fly is a hit caught before touching the ground.
A muff is made when a "fly" or thrown ball, striking fairly in the hands of a fielder, is not caught.
A grounder is a hit along the ground.
A steal is made when a base-runner gets from one base to another without the assistance of a base hit or an error.
A wild pitch is a ball thrown by the pitcher out of the fair reach of the catcher, and on which a base-runner gains a base.
A passed ball is a throw by the pitcher which the catcher should stop but fails, and by his failure a base-runner gains a base.
For the purpose of distinction, the nine fielders are subdivided into The Battery, The In-field, and The Out-field. The Battery means the Pitcher and Catcher, the In-field includes the First, Second, and Third Basemen, and the Short-stop; and the Outfield is composed of the Left, Centre, and Right Fielders.
As for the theory of the game, remember that there are opposing sides, each of which has nine turns at the bat, i.e., nine innings, and the object each inning is to score as many runs as possible. A run is scored every time a player gets entirely around the bases, either by his own hit alone or by the help of succeeding batters, or by the errors of the opposing fielders, and the team making the most runs in nine innings is declared the winner. An inning is ended when three of the batting side have been "put out," and a player may be put out in various ways, as before enumerated. The umpire is not trying to be unfair, he is doing the best he can, and instead of abuse he is often deserving of sympathy.
CHAPTER II. TRAINING.
Some one has truthfully said, that ball players, like poets and cooks, are born, not made, though once born, their development, like that of their fellow-artists, may be greatly aided by judicious coaching. Of what this training shall consist becomes then a question of much importance.
The only way to learn base-ball is to play it, and it is a trite saying that the best practice for a ball player is base-ball itself. Still, there are points outside of the game, such as the preliminary training, diet, and exercise, an observance of which will be of great advantage when the regular work is begun. The method and style of play and the points of each position are given in the subsequent chapters, so that I shall here speak only of those points which come up off the field and are not included in the game proper.
But first of all, let me say, that no one will ever become an expert ball player who is not passionately fond of the sport. Base-ball cannot be learned as a trade. It begins with the sport of the schoolboy, and though it may end in the professional, I am sure there is not a single one of these who learned the game with the expectation of making it a business. There have been years in the life of each during which he must have ate and drank and dreamed baseball. It is not a calculation but an inspiration.
There are many excellent books devoted exclusively to the general subject of training, and a careful reading of one such may be of much service in teaching the beginner the ordinary principles of self-care. It will show him how to keep the system in good working order, what are proper articles of diet, how to reduce weight, or what exercises are best calculated to develop certain muscles; but for the specific purposes of a ball player such a book is entirely wanting, for the reason that the "condition" in which he should keep himself, and therefore the training needful, differ from those for any other athlete. To perform some particular feat which is to occupy but a comparatively brief space of time, as to run, row, wrestle, or the like, a man will do better to be thoroughly "fit." But if the period of exertion is to extend over some length of time, as is the case with the ball player, working for six months at a stretch, his system will not stand the strain of too much training. Working solely on bone and muscle day after day, his nervous system will give way. He will grow weak, or as it is technically known, "go stale." This over-training is a mistake oftenest made by the young and highly ambitious player, though doubtless many of the instances of "loss of speed" by pitchers and "off streaks" by older players are really attributable to this cause.
The "condition" in which a ball player should keep himself is such that his stomach and liver are in good order, his daily habits regular, his muscles free and firm, and his "wind" strong enough to allow him to run the circuit of the bases without inconvenience. He must not attempt to keep in what is known as "fine" condition. He should observe good hours, and take at least eight hours sleep nightly; and he may eat generously of wholesome food, except at noon, when he should take only a light lunch. There are many players who eat so heartily just before the game that they are sleepy and dull the entire afternoon. The traveling professional player needs to pay particular attention to the kind and quality of his food. The sudden changes of climate, water, and cooking are very trying, and unless he takes great care he will not get through a season without some trouble. Especially should he avoid under or over ripe fruit, for it is likely that many of the prevalent cases of cholera morbus are due to indiscretions in this particular.
If he finds it necessary to take some light stimulant, let it be done with the evening meal. Never take any liquor at any other time: I do not favor the indiscriminate use of any drink, but, on the contrary, oppose it as a most harmful practice; I do believe, however, that a glass of ale, beer, or claret with one's meal is in some cases beneficial. A thin, nervous person, worn out with the excitement and fatigue of the day, will find it a genuine tonic; it will soothe and quiet his nerves and send him earlier to bed and asleep. The "beefy" individual, with plenty of reserve force, needs no stimulant, and should never touch liquor at any time. If taken at all, it should be solely as a tonic and never as a social beverage.
The force of the above applies with special emphasis to the young professional player. Knowing so well the numberless temptations by which he is surrounded, I caution him particularly against indiscriminate drinking. In no profession in life are good habits more essential to success than in baseball. It is the first thing concerning which the wise manager inquires, and if the player's record in this respect is found good it is the most hopeful indication of his future success. Keep away from saloons.
The amount of work necessary to keep a player in the proper form must be determined in each particular case by the individual himself. If he is inclined to be thin a very little will be enough, and he should not begin too early in the spring; while if prone to stoutness he may require a great deal, and should begin earlier. It is scarcely necessary to say that all exercise should be begun by easy stages. Commencing with walks in the open air and the use of light pulley weights or clubs or bells, the quantity of exercise may be gradually increased. Never, however, indulge in heavy work or feats of strength. Such exercise is not good for any one, but especially is it dangerous for ball players. They do not want strength, but agility and suppleness; besides, the straining of some small muscle or tendon may incapacitate one for the entire season, or even permanently. Right here is the objection to turning loose a party of ball players in a gymnasium, for spring practice. The temptation to try feats of strength is always present, and more than likely some one will be injured.
The best preliminary practice for a ball player, outside of actual practice at the game, is to be had in a hand-ball court. The game itself is interesting, and one will work up a perspiration without noticing the exertion; it loosens the muscles, quickens the eye, hardens the hands, and teaches the body to act quickly with the mind; it affords every movement of the ball field except batting, there is little danger from accident, and the amount of exercise can be easily regulated. Two weeks in a hand-ball court will put a team in better condition to begin a season than any Southern trip, and in the end be less expensive to the club.
But whatever preliminary work is found advisable or necessary to adopt, the player should be particular in the following: Having determined the amount of exercise best suited to his temperament, he should observe regular habits, keep the stomach, liver, and skin healthy, attend carefully to the quality of food taken, and if he takes any stimulant at all let it be with the evening meal.
CHAPTER III. THE PITCHER.
Of all the players on a base-ball nine, the pitcher is the one to whom attaches the greatest importance. He is the attacking force of the nine, the positive pole of the battery, the central figure, around which the others are grouped. From the formation of the first written code of rules in 1845 down to the present time, this pre-eminence has been maintained, and though the amendments of succeeding years have caused it to vary from time to time, its relative importance is more marked to-day than at any preceding period. In a normal development of the game the improvement in batting would unquestionably have outstripped the pitching, and finally overcome this superiority; but the removal of certain restrictions upon the pitcher's motions, the legalization of the underhand throw instead of the old straight-arm pitch, the introduction of "curve" pitching, and, finally, the unrestricted overhand delivery, have kept the pitching always in the lead. At several different times, notably in the rules of 1887, an effort has been made to secure a more even adjustment, but recent changes have undone the work, and the season of 1888 will see the inequality greater, if anything, than ever.
The qualities of mind and body necessary to constitute a good modern pitcher are rarely combined in a single individual. First-class pitchers are almost as rare as prima donnas, and out of the many thousand professional and amateur ball players of the country not more than a dozen in all are capable of doing the position entire justice.
Speaking first of the physical requirements, I will not discuss the question of size. There are good pitchers of all sizes, from Madden and Kilroy to Whitney and McCormick, though naturally a man of average proportions would have some advantages.
The first thing necessary before one can become a star pitcher is the ability to throw a ball with speed. The rules, which at present govern the pitching, place a premium on brute strength, and unless one has a fair share of this he will never become a leading pitcher. There are a few so-called good professional players whose sole conception of the position is to drive the ball through with all possible speed, while others whose skill and strategy have been proven by long service, are forced out of the position because they have not sufficient speed for the modern game.
Next, one must be possessed of more than an ordinary amount of endurance. It is by no means a simple task to pitch an entire game through and still be as effective in the ninth inning as in the first; and when, as sometimes happens, the contest is prolonged by an extra number of innings, the test is severe. This being true of a single game, how much more tiresome it becomes when continued regularly for an entire season, during the chilly days of the spring and fall, and under a broiling July sun, can be appreciated only by one who has gone through it. And what with all day and all night rides from city to city, broken rest and hasty meals, bad cooking and changes of water and climate, the man is extremely fortunate who finds himself in condition to play every day when wanted. Only a good constitution, a vigorous digestion, the most careful habits, and lots of grit, will ever do it.
Besides force and stamina, there are certain mental characteristics necessary. A pitcher must be possessed of courage and of self-control. He must face the strongest batter with the same confidence that he would feel against the weakest, for it is only so that he can do himself entire justice; and he must be able to pitch in the most critical situations with the same coolness as at any other stage. He must control his own feelings so as not to be disconcerted by anything that may happen, whether through his own fault, that of a fellow-player, or through no fault at all. He should remember that all are working for a common end, and that the chances of victory will be only injured if he allows his attention to be diverted by unavoidable accidents. And then, too, it is more manly to play one's own game as best one can, no matter what occurs, than to continually display an ugly temper at the little mishaps sure to occur in every game.
The next point is to acquire a correct position in the "box," and an easy, yet deceptive, style of delivery. The position is, to a great extent, prescribed by the rules, and so much of it as is not can be learned by observing the different pitchers. The position which seems most natural should be chosen. The ball should be held in exactly the same way, no matter what kind of curve is to be pitched. Being obliged by rule to keep the ball before the body, in sight of the umpire, any difference in the manlier of holding it will be quickly noticed by a clever batter, and if for a particular curve it is always held in a certain way, he will be forewarned of the kind of ball to expect.
Some batters pay no attention to these little indications; but the majority are looking for them all the time, and once they detect any peculiarities, they will be able to face the pitcher with much greater confidence. The correct manner of holding the ball for every kind of delivery is between the thumb and the first and middle fingers, as shown in the accompanying cut of Clarkson.
It is true there are some curves which may be better acquired by holding the ball differently in the hand, but this fact is outweighed by the other considerations of which I have just spoken. Pitcher Shaw might still be a "wizard" had he not neglected this precaution; by noticing his manner of holding the ball the batter always knew just what was coming; and there are other pitchers yet in the field who would find their effectiveness greatly increased by a closer observance of this point.
As for the style of delivery, it should be remembered that the easiest movement is the best. A long, free sweep of the arm, aided by a swing of the body, will give more speed, be more deceiving to the batter, and allow of more work than any possible snap or jerky motion. Facing the striker before pitching, the arm should be swung well back and the body around so as almost to face second base in the act of delivery; this has an intimidating effect on weak-nerved batters; besides, not knowing from what point the ball will start, it seems somehow to get mixed up with the pitcher's arm and body so that it is not possible to get a fair view of it. It will be understood what motion is meant if there is an opportunity to observe Whitney, Clarkson or Keefe at work.
Next comes the knowledge of how to throw the different curves. I have yet to see an article written on this subject which is of the least value in instructing a complete novice. In the chapter on "Curve Pitching" will be found the theory of the curve, but as for describing intelligibly the snap of the wrist and arm by which the various twists are imparted to the ball, I am convinced it cannot be done, and will waste no effort in the attempt. To curve a ball is not a difficult feat, and a few practical lessons, which any schoolboy can give, will teach the movement. But, while not attempting myself to tell how this is done, to one already possessed of the knowledge, I may offer some valuable suggestions.
Not only must the ball always be held in the same way before pitching, but in the act of delivery the swing of the arm must be identical or so nearly so that the eye of the batter can detect no difference. All this means that the pitcher must not give the striker the slightest inkling of the kind of ball to expect, so that he will have the shortest possible time in which to prepare to hit. I advise against the use of too many different curves. The accomplished twirler can pitch any kind of curve, but there are some which he seldom employs. It is impossible to be accurate when too many deliveries are attempted, and accuracy is of far greater importance than eccentric curves. Almost all professional pitchers now use the overhand delivery and pitch only a fast, straight ball and a curve. The fast ball, on account of its being thrown overhand and the twist thereby given, "jumps" in the air, that is, it rises slightly, while the curve, pitched with the same motion, goes outward and downward. The curve will necessarily be slower than the straight ball, and this will give all the variation in speed needed to unsettle the batter's "eye" and confuse him in "timing" the ball. Some pitchers are able, keeping the same motions, to vary the speed even of the curve and straight balls, but, as before said, this is apt to be at the expense of accuracy, and should not be attempted by the young player. Occasionally, say once an inning, a pitcher may make a round arm or underhand motion simply to mislead the batsman, and if the game is safely won he may use an underhand delivery if he finds it rests his arm, but these are exceptional instances.
I have already spoken of the importance of accuracy, but it cannot be too strongly emphasized. The more marked the control of the ball the greater will be the success, for no matter how many wonderful curves he may be able to get, unless he has perfect command he will never be a winning pitcher; seasoned batsmen will only laugh at his curves and go to first on balls. To acquire thorough control requires long and patient practice. A pitcher should always pitch over something laid down to represent a plate, and if possible get a batter to stand and hit against him. Let him practice with some method, pitching nothing but a straight ball, and trying to put it directly over the plate every time. He should not be annoyed if the batter hits him, as he is only practicing. When a pitcher is able to cut the centre of the plate eight times out of ten he may begin with his curve and work it in the same way. Finally, when he can also control the curve, he should try to alternate it with a straight ball. He will find that he cannot do this at first and retain command of each, but he should keep at it, an hour or more regularly every day, till he can.
Up to this point he has been learning only the mechanical part of pitching, and if he has learned it well he is now ready to try his skill and mettle on the field of actual contest. And here comes in an element not before mentioned, which is called strategy, or "head-work." It means the attempt to deceive the batter, to outwit him so that he cannot hit safely. This may be accomplished in many ways, though the particular way best suited to each case can only be determined at the time by the pitcher himself. It depends, therefore, upon his own cleverness and wits, and it is not possible for any one else to supply these for him. An intelligent catcher may help him greatly, but there will still remain many points which he himself must decide. I may be able, however, to furnish some hints which will indicate the process of reasoning by which the pitcher may arrive at certain conclusions; I can point out some things he should notice, and describe what these generally mean.
But first as to the question of "signs." Every battery, by which is meant a pitcher and catcher, must have a perfectly understood private code of signals, so that they may make known their intentions and wishes to one another without at the same time apprising the opposing players. The first and, of course, most important of these is the signal by which the catcher is to know what kind of ball to expect.
There is no necessity of more than one "sign" for this, because all that any experienced catcher asks is to know when to expect a fast, straight ball; not having received the signal for this, he will understand that a curve is to be pitched, and the difference in curve or speed will not bother him after a few moments' practice. Until within a few years this sign was always given by the pitcher, but now it is almost the universal practice for the catcher to give it to the pitcher, and if the latter doesn't want to pitch the ball asked for he changes the sign by a shake of the head. I think the old method was the better, because it is certainly the business of the pitcher not only to do the pitching, but to use his own judgment in deceiving the batsman. He should not act as a mere automaton to throw the ball; moreover, the catcher has enough of his own to attend to without assuming any of the duties of the pitcher. Of course, if the pitcher is young and inexperienced, while the catcher is seasoned and better acquainted with the weak points of batters, the latter will be the better one to signal. It may be thought that the right of the pitcher to reverse the sign by a shake of the head practically gives him the same control as though he himself gave the signs, but this is not strictly true; it is impossible for the pitcher not to be more or less influenced by the catcher's sign, and he will often pitch against his own judgment. At least I found this to be true in my own experience, and therefore always preferred myself to do the "signing." If the pitcher gives this sign he must be careful to choose one that will not be discovered by the other side, for there are certain players always watching for such points. Some years ago the Chicago Club gave me the roughest kind of handling in several games, and Kelly told me this winter that they knew every ball I intended to pitch, and he even still remembered the sign and told me what it was. Chicago finished first that year and we were a close second. That point which they gained upon me may have cost Providence the championship, for they beat us badly in the individual series. When I suspected a club of knowing my sign I used a "combination," that is, I gave two signs; either one of them given separately was not to be understood as a signal at all, but both had to be given together. I found this to work admirably, and it was never discovered by any club, so far as I know. If it be agreed that the catcher is to give this sign, it is still not necessary that the pitcher be entirely influenced by him. The pitcher should rely upon his own discretion, and not hesitate to change the sign whenever his judgment differs from that of the catcher.
There are certain signs which the catcher gives to basemen when there are runners on the bases, and with these, too, the pitcher must be perfectly familiar, so that he may be able to pitch the ball in accordance with what is about to be done. For instance, if the catcher has signaled to the first baseman that he will throw there, he will probably ask the pitcher for an out curve. In order, then, to help him out with the play and give him plenty of room, the pitcher will not only pitch the out curve asked, but he will keep it well out and wide of the plate, so that it can't possibly be hit, and he will pitch it at the height where it may be best handled by the catcher. So, too, if there is a runner on first who is likely to attempt to steal second, he will "pitch for the catcher," and he should shorten his pitching motion so as to give the catcher as much time as possible to throw. When runners "steal" on a catcher it is oftener not so much his fault as the pitcher's. It is almost impossible to make a clean steal of second, even with a very ordinary thrower behind the bat, if the pitcher will not give the runner too much "start."
The pitcher should also receive a signal from the catcher notifying him when to throw to second base to catch a runner leading off too far. This point will, however, be noticed more appropriately under the duties of "The Catcher."
As for the other bases, first and third, the pitcher should look after them himself without any signal from the catcher. I could always stand in the pitcher's position facing the batter and still see out of "the corner of my eye" how much ground the runner on first base was taking. As the baseman is already on the base, there is no necessity of notifying him of an intention to throw, so, watching the opportunity, I would throw across my body without first having changed the position of my feet or body at all. The throw is, of course, not so swift as by first wheeling toward the base and then throwing, but it will catch a runner oftener. "Smiling Mickey" Welch plays the point to perfection, and last season caught many men "napping" in this way. Its advantage is that it is entirely legitimate. Some pitchers, in order to catch a runner at first, make a slight forward movement, visible to the runner but not to the umpire, as if about to pitch. This, of course, starts the runner, and before he can recover, the pitcher has turned and thrown to first. Notwithstanding the strictest prohibition last season of any motion even "calculated" to deceive the runner, there were umpires weak- kneed enough to allow these balks.
The easiest men to catch are the best base-runners, because they are always anxious to "get away," and they take the most chances. An ambitious runner will keep moving up and down the line trying to get his start. The pitcher should not appear to notice him, pretending to be interested only in the batter, but watching the runner closely all the time. Suddenly, and without the least warning, he should snap the ball to the baseman. If the pitcher will choose a time when the runner is on the move away from the base the batter will be off his balance and may be caught before he can recover.
For the third base it may be advisable to have a signal with the baseman to notify him of a throw. It is very seldom possible to catch a runner off third by a throw from the pitcher, though it may sometimes be done. Clarkson and Galvin both accomplish it at times, though they always do it by the aid of a "balk." Clarkson's method is this: With a runner on first and one on third, the man on first will usually try to steal second, and if the ball is thrown there to catch him, the runner on third tries to score. In this situation Clarkson makes a slight forward movement of the body as though about to pitch, and the runner on third, being anxious to get all possible ground, moves forward. With the same motion, and before the runner can recover, Clarkson, by a prior understanding with the third baseman, throws to the base, the baseman meets the ball there, and before the runner has quite realized what has happened, he is "out." I have reason to know the working of this little scheme, because I was caught by it in Chicago last season in a very close game. The "balk" was palpable, and I made a strenuous "kick," but the umpire refused to see it that way.
A pitcher should not be misled by what I have said into too much throwing to bases. He should throw only when there is a fair chance of making the put-out; for all other purposes, as to hold the runner close to the base, a feint will answer just as well and does not entail the possibility of an error.
A strategic pitcher is one who depends for success not simply on speed and curves, but who outwits the batsman by skill, who deceives his eye, and plays upon his weaknesses. What will be the best method for a particular case must be decided in each instance by the pitcher himself, and his success will depend upon his judgment and cleverness. But while no general rule can be laid down, I may still be able to offer some useful suggestions.
Assuming that a pitcher has never seen the batters whom he is about to face, there are certain points to be noted as each of them takes his place at the bat. First, his position and manner of holding his bat should be observed. If he carries it over his shoulder and in an almost perpendicular position, the chances are that he is naturally a high ball hitter and is looking for that kind of a pitch, because that is the position of the bat from which a high ball is most easily hit. If, on the contrary, he carries his bat in a more nearly horizontal position, he is ready either to "chop" over at a high ball, or "cut" under at a low one, the chances being that he prefers the latter. Of still more importance is his movement in hitting, and this the pitcher must try to discover before the batter has hit the ball at all. An out-curve should be pitched just out of his reach; being so near where he wants it, it will draw him out and he will make every movement, except the swing of the bat, as in hitting. This movement should be carefully noted. If, in stepping forward to hit, he also steps away from the plate toward the third base, it is at once a point in the pitcher's favor. The batsman is timid and afraid of being hit. If, however, he steps confidently forward, almost directly toward the pitcher, he is a dangerous man and all the pitcher's skill will be needed to outwit him. Again, if in stepping forward he makes a very long stride, it is another point for the pitcher, because it shows that he is not only anxious to hit but means to hit hard, and such a man is easily deceived. But if he makes a short stride, keeping easily his balance and standing well upright, he is more than likely a good hitter, even though he steps away from the plate, and if in addition to stepping short he also steps toward the pitcher, the pitcher should look out for him.
Without going into too much detail I will try to illustrate: If my batter is one who steps away from the plate I will pitch a fast, straight ball in over his shoulder too high and too far in to be hit. The next time he will step still further away, but this time I should put a fast, straight one over the outside corner of the plate. From his position he will probably not be able to reach it at all, or if he does he will hit with no force. I might pitch the next ball in the same place, and then I should consider it time to drive him away from the plate again and I would send the next one in over his shoulder as before. He may hit at one of these high "in" balls, but if he does he will probably not touch it; at any rate, another fast, straight one over the outside corner ought to dispose of him. It will be observed I have not thrown a single curve, nor would I to such a batter except occasionally, say two or three during the game, and then only to keep him "guessing."
Taking another kind of hitter, suppose that he steps up in the best form, making a short stride toward the pitcher, keeping his balance well and his form erect. As already said, he is a dangerous batter and likely to hit in spite of my best efforts, but I must do the best I can with him. I therefore observe his manner of holding the bat and note whether he prefers a high or low ball, and we will say that it is a low one. I send a couple of low drop curves just out of his reach. It is just what he wants if he could only get at them, and the next time he steps well in toward the plate. This time, however, I send a fast, straight, high ball over the plate, and if he hits it at all, it will be in the air. Another fast, straight, high one might not escape so easily, but I have two balls called and can't take the chances of giving him his base. I therefore try it again. If he has missed that I now have two strikes, and only two balls, and can afford to throw away a ball or two, which I do as before by pitching a couple of low drop curves out of his reach, until his mind is again fixed upon that point. Then I would probably again try a fast, high ball on the inside corner of the plate. These two cases, are given merely to illustrate the line of reasoning, and in practice each would be governed by its own particular circumstances. To avoid confusing details, I will add only a few observations: A batter who steps away from the plate, should be worked on the outside corner; one who steps in, on the inside corner; one who makes a long, vicious swing at the ball, will be easily deceived by a slow ball, much more readily than one who "snaps" or hits with a short, quick stroke; one who strides long must necessarily stoop or crouch, and is in bad form to hit a high ball; if he swings his bat always in a horizontal plane, he will not be able to hit a shoulder or knee ball as well as one who swings in a perpendicular plane, i.e., who "cuts" under at a low ball and "chops" over-hand at a high ball; there are some batters who prefer to hit only at a fast, straight ball, while others wait for a curve, and in such a case the pitcher may get a strike or two by pitching what he will not care to hit at; some are never ready to hit at the first ball pitched, so that by sending this in over the plate a strike may be secured; some are known as great "waiters," who will only hit when forced, and these should be forced to hit at once; others are anxious and cannot wait, and may be safely "worked" wide of the plate. Then occasionally there will be found a batter who betrays by his manner when he has made up his mind to hit, and in that case he will let go at anything within reach; therefore a ball should be pitched where he will be least likely to hit it. If the pitcher finds a batter facing for a hit to right field, he should not give him the ball out from him, but crowd him with it, keeping it on the inside corner, and it will be almost impossible for him to succeed.
It does not do to work the same batter always in the same way, or he will discover a pitcher's method. Sometimes the pitcher must "cross" him and at times it is even advisable to give him a ball just where he would like to have it, but where, for that very reason, he least expects it.
Finally, a pitcher should not be in a hurry to deliver the ball. As soon as the catcher returns the ball the pitcher should assume a position as though about to pitch and stand there; he should take all the time the umpire will give him. This will allow him to give and receive any necessary signal from the catcher, it will rest him and thus enable him to hold his speed, and, finally, it will work upon the nerves and eyesight of the batter. The batter will grow impatient and anxious, and unless his eyes are very strong the long strain in a bright light will blear his sight.
FIELDING THE POSITION.
Some pitchers seem to harbor the impression that nothing else is expected of them but to pitch the ball, and the effect of this opinion is to diminish their worth to a very great extent: A pitcher is just as much a fielder as any of the other players, and may render his side efficient service by his ability to properly care for this part of his work.
I have already spoken of throwing to bases to catch runners, and it is unnecessary to say anything further except to again caution against too much of it. A pitcher should throw only when there is a chance of making the put-out.
In fielding ground-hits he must exert considerable activity on account of the very short time allowed him. He should have the courage to face a hard hit, because on account of the position of the second baseman and short-stop such a hit will generally be safe if he does not stop it, or at least turn its course. It is his place to get all "bunted" hits. It is a mistake to break up the in-field by bringing a third baseman in close to get hits which a live pitcher should be able to field. When a batter who is likely to bunt the ball comes to the bat, the pitcher must be ready at every ball pitched to move in the direction of the third base line, where such hits are always made. There are some pitchers, such as Galvin and Van Haltren, against whom it is not safe to try a bunt, but, as I have said, many others seem to think they are expected only to pitch.
On a hit to the first baseman the pitcher should cover the base, and if the hit is slow or if the baseman fumbles it he may still have time to toss the ball to the pitcher. The pitcher should not wait until he sees the fumble before starting, but the instant the hit is made go for the base; he will then be there and ready to receive the ball and not be forced to take it on the run. So, too, the occasion may arise when he should cover second or third, where some combination of play has taken the baseman away and left the base uncovered. In all cases where a runner is caught between bases the pitcher must take part in the play. If the runner is between first and second, the pitcher will back up the first baseman, leaving the short-stop to back the second baseman; if between second and third, he will back up the third baseman; and if between third and home, he will back the catcher.
The pitcher must back up the catcher, the first and third basemen, on all throws from the out field. He must not wait until the throw is made before getting in line, but the moment the probability of such a throw arises, he should get there, and then he can see the entire play, and will be sure to get in a line with the throw. In backing up he must not get too close to the fielder he is backing, otherwise what is a wild throw to him will be likewise to the pitcher. He should keep from fifty to seventy-five feet away.
With runners on bases he should be sure that he understands the situation perfectly before pitching, and he must keep it in mind; then, if the ball is hit to him, he need lose no time in deciding upon the proper place to throw it. If his play is to try for a double by way of second base, he should not wait until the baseman gets there and then drive the ball at him with all his might; but he should toss it to the baseman as he runs for the base, timing the speed of the throw so that the baseman and the ball will reach the base together. Thus no time will be lost, and the throw being easy, may be much more quickly and safely handled.
In short, a pitcher should make himself useful wherever he can, and use his wits in fielding as well as in pitching. He should not be disheartened by poor support or unavoidable accidents, but should keep up his courage, and the entire team will be infused with his spirit. There are some pitchers who are not hit hard and yet seldom win because they display such a lazy disposition in the box that they put all the other players to sleep; and, again, there are others not so successful in the matter of base hits, who yet win more games, on account of the aggressive spirit they impart to their fellow-players. Let the pitcher be alive, then, and if he has any "heart" let him show it; let him keep up his spirits, have a reason for every ball pitched, and use his brain as well as his muscle, for it is only in this way that he, can ever take a place in the front rank.
CHAPTER IV. THE CATCHER.
Next after the pitcher, in regular order, comes the catcher. Though the negative pole of "the battery," his support of the pitcher will largely influence the latter's efficiency, and he therefore becomes an important factor in the attacking force. Were it not for the extreme liability to injury, the position of catcher would be the most desirable on the field; he has plenty of work of the prettiest kind to do, is given many opportunities for the employment of judgment and skill, and, what is clearer than all to the heart of every true ball player, he is always in the thickest of the fight. Moreover, his work, unlike that of the pitcher, always shows for itself, and is therefore always appreciated. A pitcher's success depends upon many circumstances, some of which are beyond his own control, so that, no matter how faithfully or intelligently he may work, he must still suffer the annoyance and mortification of defeat. But the catcher has almost complete control of his own play, he is dependent upon no one but himself, and, in spite of everything and everybody, the nature of his work remains the same.
There are some cases in which a steady, intelligent catcher is of more worth to a team than even the pitcher, because such a man will make pitchers out of almost any kind of material. Bennett, the grandest of every-day catchers, has demonstrated this fact in many instances, and I have no doubt that much of the success of the St. Louis pitchers has been due to the steady support and judicious coaching of Bushong.
There are certain qualifications necessary to produce a good catcher, and if a person has any ambition to play the position, he should first examine himself to see whether he is the possessor of these. Here again the size of the candidate seems not to be of vital importance, for there are good catchers, from the little, sawed-off bantam, Hofford, of Jersey City, to the tall, angular Mack, of Washington, and Ganzell, of Detroit. Still, other things being equal, a tall, active man should have an advantage because of his longer "reach" for widely pitched balls, and on account of the confidence a big mark to pitch at inspires in the pitcher. Besides, a heavier man is better able to stand against the shocks of reckless runners to the home plate.
More important than size are pluck and stamina, especially if one contemplates becoming a professional catcher. In every well-regulated team nowadays the pitchers and catchers are paired, and the same pair always work together. Perfect team work involves a perfect understanding by each man of all the points of play of the others, and it is believed that a battery will do better team-work where its two ends are always the same. But to be able to work regularly with one pitcher through an entire season, catching every day when he pitches, a catcher will more than once find his powers of endurance strongly taxed; and if, for real or fancied injuries, he is often obliged to lay off, then, no matter how brilliant his work when he does catch, he will lose much of his value to the team. Certain injuries are inevitable and necessitate a rest, but there are others of minor importance to which some men will not give way. I do not laud this as pure bravado, but because it sets an example and infuses a spirit into a team that is worth many games in a long race. I have the greatest respect and admiration for the Bennetts and the Bushongs of base-ball.
But there are other features necessary before a person can hope to become a first-class catcher. As before said, he has many chances offered for the employment of judgment and skill; and to make the best use of these he must be possessed of some brains. The ideal catcher not only stops the ball and throws it well, but he is a man of quick wit, he loses no time in deciding upon a play, he is never "rattled" in any emergency, he gives and receives signals, and, in short, plays all the points of his position, and accomplishes much that a player of less ready perception would lose entirely. Two of the best catchers in the country are neither of them remarkable back-stops nor particularly strong and accurate throwers, and yet both, by their great generalship and cleverness, are "winning" catchers. I refer to Kelly, of Boston, and Snyder, of Cleveland. Ewing, of New York, combines with wonderful skill and judgment the ability to stop a ball well and throw it quicker, harder, and truer than any one else, and I therefore consider him the "King" of all catchers—when he catches.
In learning to catch, the first thing, of course, is to acquire a correct style, that is, an approved position of body, hands, and feet, the best manner of catching a ball, the proper place to stand, how to throw quickly, and the best motion for throwing. After this comes the study of the different points of play. There are as many different styles in detail as there are individual catchers, and yet, through all, there run certain resemblances which may be generalized.