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Greenfield Village Historic Base Ball
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World Series of Historic Base Ball
Rules of the Game

rules of the game

The Greenfield Village Lah-De-Dahs and the Greenfield Village National Base Ball Club play their games by the rules of 1867 as set down in Haney’s Base Ball Book of Reference.

Baseball was changing rapid through its early history. As it evolved from a simple children’s game with few rigorous rules into a gentlemen’s pastime, more stringent rules and a governing organization to maintain and communicate them was necessary. In the late 1860s, the books of Henry Chadwick, a member of the National Base Ball Associations rules committee and the game’s first great journalist, provided that.

Highlights of the rules of 1867
Though a game played by 1867 rules would still be identifiable to modern spectators as baseball, there are several important differences from the modern game.

The First Pitch
In 1867 the job of the pitcher was to get the ball in play by pitching the ball “fairly for the striker” as close to the center of home base and where the batsman requested it. Trickery was not part of the game. Pitchers delivered the ball under hand with a straight arm for “the ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown” to the striker.

If the pitcher does not succeed in throwing hittable balls, the umpire would give him a warning. After the warning, the umpire would begin to call balls. Three balls after the warning is a walk.

Striker to the Line!
Batters were referred to as “Strikers” or “Batsmen” in 1867. A new rule this year was quite unpopular with strikers. The rule stated that batsmen “shall not step forward or backward” while swinging at the ball. Players complained that this rule took power from their swings and the next year the rule was revoked, but in 1867 strikers had to struggle to keep those feet still.

Strike Three!
From baseball’s earliest written rules on, if the striker swung at a pitch and missed, it was a “strike.” Three strikes meant an out. A more recent rule allowed called strikes also. If the striker does not swing at hittable pitches, the umpire would give him a warning. After the warning, the umpire would begin to call strikes. Three strikes after the warning is an out.

Ball Three!
In 1863 a new rule was introduced. Just as he might warn the striker and call strikes if fair pitches were not swung at, the umpire now, after a warning to the pitcher, could call balls also. After the warning to the pitcher, “Ball to the Bat,” three more unfair pitchers were ruled a “base on balls” or a walk.

Fair – Foul
Unlike modern rules, if a struck ball lands anywhere in fair territory and then rolls foul, even if it rolls into foul territory between home base and first base, for instance, the ball is fair. Some players would take advantage of this rule and purposely hit the ball so it bounced just in front of the home base and then went immediately deep into foul territory.

On the Fly
Early baseball rules stated that a ball caught on the fly or on the first bounce put the striker out. As baseball changed from a children’s game to one played by gentlemen, catching a ball on the first bounce came to be viewed as childish. Chadwick called the one-bound catch “ a feat a boy ten years of age would scarcely be proud of.” So in 1865 the rule was changed and fair balls had to be caught on the fly to put the batsman out. Foul balls, however, could still be caught on the fly or on one bound to count as an out.

Caught Stealing
Even though pitching was under hand in 1867, stealing was becoming fairly common. In some games in the Worlds Base Ball Tournament there were more than 30 total stolen bases!

Slapping Leather
In the early days of baseball, fielders were almost exclusively bare-handed. By 1867, however, the game was getting more competitive and balls were wound tighter and harder. As a result, the use of gloves was becoming more and more common. However, gloves of the period were merely fingerless leather gloves worn on both hands. Players not only had to deal with the difficulty of throwing the ball with a glove on their throwing hand, but also were derided by their teammates and opposition for stooping to the unmanly tactic of wearing gloves. In spite of not infrequent pain and injuries to fingers, gloves were yet seen as unmanly and unnecessary.  Fielding was done bare handed.  Yet in the course of this tournament the Free Press reported that some players were seen with "buckskin on their hands" - a practice that "we think can not be too highly condemned", as the fingerless palm gloves worn on both hands interfered with throwing.  The multiple games of the tournament may have been a factor in them appearing on just a catcher or first baseman.  Gloves of any sort at any position remained rare through the remainder of the decade.


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Lah-De-Dahs Nationals