Clipping:Implementing balls and strikes and the strike zone; early hint at the wides rule

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Date Saturday, November 18, 1871
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[discussing proposals for new rules] We now come to the most important of all, viz., that governing the pitcher’s department, Rule Second. The interpretation of this rule the past season has been very variable, some umpires observing the strict letter of the law, while others have ignored both the spirit and the letter, and been so lenient in their interpretation of the sections governing the calling of “balls” and “strikes,” as to allow both the pitcher and the batsman a license which the rules were neither intended to warrant nor legally admit of. ... Sections 2, 3 and 6...need re-wording in order to make a fair interpretation more clear to the average mind than now seems possible. While there can be no doubt in regard to the necessity of having every unfair ball–as described in section 4–called in the order of delivery, it is a matter of question in regard to what power the umpire shall possess in deciding upon balls pitched within what may be regarded as the fair reach of the bat, and yet not pitched the height called for, or so that the striker can fairly hit them to advantage. For instance, no one will deny that it should be the duty of the umpire to call every ball in the order of its delivery, which is pitched so as to strike the ground in front of the regular position, or such as are pitched over his head, out of reach of his bat, or opposite to the side he strikes from. All such balls are unfair in every respect, and should be called whenever delivered, even three in succession. But the balls which need to be specially referred to in other words than those contained in the existing rule are those which are too low or too high for the accustomed habit of the batsman’s style, or which, though within reach of the bat, are not sent in over the home plate. In considering the re-wording of the sections governing this point, it must not be forgotten that the interests of the game require that the pitcher should be allowed sufficient license for strategical play, or, otherwise, one of the finest points of the game will be sacrificed. In other words, we want to get rid of wile and reckless pitching by rigid penalties, and to keep pitchers down to a legitimate exercise of skillful play in their position.

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

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