Clipping:Why umpires have difficulty calling balls and strikes; high and low strike zone

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Date Tuesday, July 27, 1886
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[“Chadwick’s Chat] I met Tommy York near the Brooklyn bridge last week and I had quite an interesting interview iwth him, during which we discussed umpiring in general and Tom’s disagreeable experience in the business in particular. I asked tom why it was that no umpire could decide the question of balls and strikes correctly. I told him that I had noted the work of all the League umpires at the Polo Grounds for the past hree years vary particularly, and that I had as yet to see the first umpire give thoroughly correct decisions in calling balls and strikes. My seat in the reporters’ gallery at the Polo Grounds enabled me to see correctly whether the balls came over the plate or not, but, of course, I could not judge as to their being correct in respect to the height called for, as the gallery is too high for that. I said, “You, yourself, Tom, called strikes on balls yesterday, which were wide of the plate, I have seen Ferguson do it, and, in fact, every umpire I have seen in the position there. Now, why is this, Tom?”

“Well, Mr. Chadwick,” replied Tom, “the difficulty is in judging of balls which suddenly curve in when near to the plate. They look as if sure to come over the base and they generally cross the corner of the plate.”

“But,” I replied, “the balls I refer to, on which strikes were called, were sometimes nearly a foot wide of the plate, and it is in calling strikes on such balls which I do not understand.”

Tom said: “It’s a pretty hard position to fill, anyway, and to judge such speedy balls which curve in, suddenly, correctly, is might hard work, I tell you.”

The fact is I think umpires decide on strikes and balls too much on the impression created by the direction of the ball from the pitcher’s hands rather than from the actual passage of the ball over the pate or wide of it. There was one suggestion made by York, which I think merits the attention of the coming Joint Committee on Rules, and that is to do away with the dividing line at the waist, he finding it extremely difficult to decide whether waist-high balls are above or below the belt and therefore high or low accordingly. A high ball should not exceed the line of the batsman’s shoulder, nor a low ball be lower than the line of his knee when standing upright. St.

Source St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings

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