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Was it ever really "Ball nine, take your base?"

Long Title:

Are we misinterpreting the early base-on balls rule?

Protoball Sub-area: Chronologies

Objective and Expected Result:

Over and over, in print and pixels, we are informed that the original number of balls for a free pase was 9, whittled down in the 1880s to the modern 4.  But was it ever really 9?  I can't find any rule that actually says so.  I am wondering if that figure was arrived at by interpreting, actually misinterpreting 1863's Rule 6.

The rule appears to imply that after one "unfair" pitch, the pitcher would receive a warning, and that if he "persisted" in this conduct by throwing two more, the umpire would penalize his unsportsmanlike behavior by calling one ball; and then this three-pitch sequence would be repeated twice more, for a total of nine before the striker trotted to first.  But was this actually how the rule was implemented?

It certainly does not seem consonant with Chadwick's commentary on the rule, which appears to contemplate a total of five bad pitches: 

In warning the pitcher before calling balls on him, all that is necessary is to call “ball to the bat;” and if two balls are pitched unfairly after such warning, “one ball” should be called, and if one unfair ball be delivered after that call, then “two” and “three” balls should be promptly called. A pitcher “repeatedly” fails if he fails twice in succession; and he “persists” in his unfair delivery if he pitch one ball after the first penalty has been imposed. (1865 Beadle's)

In other words, that after the first ball was called, ball 2 and ball 3 would follow immediately, without further warning or re-establishment of "persistence", and that the intent of the rule was that 3 called balls should be the penalty for 5, not 9 (or more), "unfair" pitches.


There are in addition press comments from the 1864 season, the first in which the called ball was in effect. Many of these are complaints that a given umpire was either too strict or too lenient (that sort of thing never, ever happens today), but of particular interest are the clippings from the

NY Clipper, 5/16/64

Bkn Eagle 6/16/64

NY Sunday Mercury 6/19/64

NY Clipper 7/9/64

NY Sunday Mercury 7/24/64


Scale of Effort: Mini-task

Suggested by: Bill Hicklin May 2020


A Lingering Death for Old-Style Plugging?

Long Title:

Protoball Chronology Item 1837.1 reports that William Wheaton said that the plugging of base-runners had been outlawed in the late 1830s in New York. However, Henry Chadwick (item 1850s.24)reported that, nearly two decades later, some base ball clubs in Greater New York still retained the practice.

Protoball Sub-area: Chronology

Objective and Expected Result:

Do we have any other contemporary evidence that plugging was still found in modern base ball into the 1850s?


Scale of Effort: Mini-task

Suggested by: Larry McCray February 2013

General Maintenance

Track Newly-Released Research Reports

Long Title:

Add new research findings to appropriate parts of the Protoball site.

Protoball Sub-area: General Maintenance


Scale of Effort: Variable; tasks can be broad or limited in topic or time range.

Suggested by: Larry McCray July 2018

Glossary of Baserunning Games

The Origins of the Hungarian game of Longa Meta

Long Title: We do not know if Hungarian game of "meta," a baserunning game, has been documented prior to 1945.

Protoball Sub-area: Glossary of Baserunning Games Objective and Expected Result: Can someone do online and/or bibliographic searches in Hungarian and report findings in Protoball? Status: Unassigned This request is unassigned as of January 2018.

Scale of Effort: Micro-task

Suggested by: Larry McCray January 2018

Glossary of Games

Locate Depictions of Less Well-Known Baserunning Games

Long Title:

YouTube and other sources have videos that help conveys the nature of various baseball-like games, including many listed on Protoball’s Glossary of Games.  URLs cos such can be added to the Glossay entries.

Protoball Sub-area: Glossary of Games


Scale of Effort:

Suggested by: September 2022

Potential Protoball article on the evolution of the base ball

Was the 'Double Eight' Style of Base Ball Cover Invented in the United States?

Long Title:

The now-familiar single-seam base ball covering appears to have been introduced to base ballin about 1876 [?]  Was it a new innovation, or had prior ballgames (real tennis, cricket, stoolball) already adopted the pattern in earlier days?

Protoball Sub-area: Potential Protoball article on the evolution of the base ball

Status: dip-dive This subject will be explored as one element in a Protoball "dip-dive" project in 2018. Corky Gaskell has agreed to moderate this effort, and to post initial results on Protoball.

Scale of Effort: Mini-task

Suggested by: Larry McCray, Corky Gaskell January 2018

Potential Protoball article on the influence of English base ball on the American game

How Many of the 14 Knickerbocker Playing Rules Can be Traced Back to English Baserunning Games?

Long Title:

While base ball has long been seen as an American game, many of the modern game's earliest rules are known in juvenile games in Britain.  Which of the Knickerbocker's initial 14 playing rules had precedents in prior English games?

Protoball Sub-area: Potential Protoball article on the influence of English base ball on the American game

Status: Unassigned This request is unassigned as of January 2018.

Scale of Effort: Mini-task

Suggested by: Larry McCray January 2018

Pre-Pro Data Base

Contribute by adding new data on early ballplaying in your area

Long Title:

Protoball is undertaking to document the local origins of modern base ball -- and the baserunning games than may have preceded base ball -- throughout the US.  

Protoball Sub-area: Pre-Pro Data Base

Status: This request is ongoing: Protoball's Pre-Pro Data Base records known early games and clubs. But local sources may have more to add.

Scale of Effort:

Suggested by: Protoball Project January 2018

Pre-Pro Data Base, Chronlogies

Support Host Chapters of SABR Conventions in Documenting Local Base Ball Origins

Long Title:

To support the presentation of local origins of base ball in cities that will host Annual SABR Conventions, it may be useful to support local chapter members on available data on earliest base ball -- and local predecessor games -- for summary in Convention handouts, possibly including a article in the National Pastime. 

Protoball Sub-area: Pre-Pro Data Base, Chronlogies


Scale of Effort: Variable, depending on local chapter interest in local origins

Suggested by: PBall Functionary August 2018

Protoball's Glossary of Games

Adding Links to You-Tube-Style Clips on Baserunning Games

Long Title:

We have identified nearly 150 baseball varients.  For many. YouTube clips show how such baserunning games are or were played.  Such clips often convey a sense of the game that words alone cannot describe.

Protoball Sub-area: Protoball's Glossary of Games

Objective and Expected Result:

Add links to sources of such clips to Protoball's material on the listed game.


Scale of Effort: Variable; a volunteer could easiiy focus first on games of special current interest

Suggested by: PBall Functionary August 2018 Assigned to: Larry McCray has researched a few such links, But there's much more easy harvesting to do.