Clipping:Balls and strikes under the new rules

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Date Saturday, March 20, 1875
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...[the umpire] must remember that there are now but two classes of balls delivered by the pitcher, which are, first, fair balls, viz., balls pitched over the home plate and “high” or “low,” as called for by the striker; and, secondly, unfair balls, which include every ball not pitched over the home base and “high” or “low,” as the striker calls for. Last year the rules defined three classes of balls, viz., those fairly over the plate, those which were out of all fair reach of the bat–wides–and those which, though not fair exactly, were still within reach of the bat. Now there are, but two classes of balls, viz., actually fair balls, and the reverse. The umpire will find it very easy, when he takes his stand in a game, to settle in his mind what a fair ball is, inasmuch as the rules expressly confine him to a distinct and unmistakable definition:

Section 4 of Rule IV says: “Every ball fairly delivered (viz., not a foul balk, etc.,) and sent in over the home base and at the height called for by the batsman, shall be considered a fair ball.”

This defines fair balls; and unfair balls are all balls which are not sent in as above described. This simplifies matters considerably, and the umpire can therefore have no difficulty in defining an unfair ball. Having done this, the next thing he has to consider is, How am I to call these unfair balls? And the following section of the rules gives him the required instruction pretty plainly, as we read it:

Section 6 of Rule IV says: “All balls delivered to the bat which are not sent in over the home base, and at the height called for by the batsman, shall be called in the order of every third ball thus unfairly delivered, etc.

Here, then, are the two classes of balls defined as clearly as they can be; and under these two rules no umpire, howsoever dull of apprehension, can readily err in his interpretation of their reading. But let us see how they are to be practically carried out. We will suppose the umpire to be in his position and the striker in his, ready to receive the first ball. The umpire first asks the striker whether he wants a “high” or a “low” ball, and he must then instruct the pitcher to deliver the ball “high” or “low,” accordingly. Should the striker, however, fail to designate the height of the ball, the umpire must then (see the section of the rules under the heading of “Failing to Call”) regard each ball as fair which is sent in over the home-base, and not lower than a foot from the ground nor higher than the striker’s shoulder.

Suppose the first ball send in is wide of the base, the second goes over the batman’s position, and the third over the base, but not as called for: in such case the umpire calls “one ball,” as three unfair balls have been delivered–the first ball is not now excepted, but has to be counted like the rest. Suppose, in continuation, that the fourth and fifth balls are equally unfair, and the sixth is at the height called for, but not over the base, though pretty near: in such case “two balls” must be called; and if three more unfair balls are sent in, “three balls” must be called and the striker sent to his base. It will thus be seen that the rule does not admit of the striker having a base given him on called balls until nine unfair balls have been sent in. Last season the striker could be sent to his base on three wide balls in succession, or on four balls, including the first delivered, which was not then counted. Now he cannot take a base on called balls until nine unfair balls have been delivered. The order of calling is plain. It is every third ball. The pitcher, therefore, can under this new rule send in in succession no less than nine balls out of possible reach before the striker can have his base given him on called balls. And yet, on the other hand, if he send in three balls in succession over the homeplate and high or low as called for, and the batsman fails to hit at any one of such balls, the striker can be given out on three successive called strikes; indeed, he must be so given out, or the umpire violates the rules. This, it will be seen, is rather one-sided. Every second ball would have answered the purpose well enough and been more equitable. But the rule is as we have stated it, and it must be abided by, or the umpire who violates the rule renders himself ineligible to act in the position.

Source New York Clipper
Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings

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