Monday, August 27, 2007


I like baseball.

If you've been following this little blog ... or if you look at the posts here almost any time from April to September ... you'll pick right up on that.

My three sisters don't like baseball nearly as much as I do. And, because they aren't quite that big a fan as am I, they know the basics of baseball, but not all the little quirks that make it so much fun the the fanatic.

So, for my sisters, who really don't care, I'm going to talk a little bit about baseball.

Everyone knows baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday. And everyone who knows that is wrong.

Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball. But he did command the cannon that fired the first Union response to the Confederate fire on Ft. Sumter, SC, at the start of the War between the States. But he didn't invent baseball.

Baseball may go back to the mid-1700s. There were several games similar to each other that had different aspects of baseball. One was even called "base-ball."

But the father of the current game of baseball wasn't Abner Doubleday. Instead, it was Alexander Cartwright headed up a group that put together the first rules of baseball. And it was quite different that it is today.

At first, it wasn't a 9-inning game. It was, instead, a "first team to score 21" game. And it wasn't 21 runs. It was 21 aces, as runs were called. And, it could be 1 inning, or 100, or however many it took. But each team took its inning, or turn at bat.

Baseball was a strictly amateur sport. Officially. There were ringers, paid professionals, that played on teams. It was frowned upon, but done anyway.

More about paid players later.

The diamond

Baseball is played on a field with four bases. The "home" base, commonly called a plate, is where the batter will stand. The other three bases make up a square. Actually, a diamond.

90 feet away from home base, down a line to the right, is first base. 90 feet away, on the opposite side of the diamond from home base, is second base. And 90 feet away from there, on the final point of the diamond, is third base. And, if you're doing your math, you realize that it's another 90 feet back to home base.

If the batter puts the ball in play, he will run to first base, and try to move to second base, then third base, then home base. If he makes it back home safely, he scores a run.

And, beyond the bases, there is the outfield, bounded on the outside by a fence or wall. The wall must be 250 feet away. But the rules encourage 320 feet at the closest, and at least 400 feet at the deepest point.

Pitchers vs batters

At first, batters stood on a line, awaiting a pitch from the pitcher. The pitcher stood within a box. There was no pitcher's mound.

Nowadays, a batter stands in a box next to home plate. He must have both feet in or partly on the line of the batter's box, as the official rules state.
A batter is out for illegal action when --
(a) He hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box.

In 1965, the Braves' last year in Milwaukee, they had a series at the St. Louis Cardinals. Aaron, facing Curt Simmons, hit the ball out over right field ... and was called out. Umpire Chris Pelekoudas said Aaron had a foot out of the batter's box.

And the pitcher? Like we said, he used to have to stand in a box. Now, he must have one foot on a piece of rubber that's officially called the "pitcher's plate," although it's commonly called "the rubber." And, since 1893, it's been on a raised area, called the pitcher's mound.

The pitcher's mound varied in height until 1903, when it was set at 15 inches. After 1968, the mound was pared to 10 inches high.

Balls and strikes

The pitcher puts the ball in play by throwing it to the catcher, who stands behind home plate. The batter tries to hit the ball and advance around the bases, scoring a run when he safely rounds the bases and returns home.

The batter doesn't have to hit the ball if he doesn't want to. But, if he tries to hit the ball, and misses, it's called a "strike." And, after 3 strikes, the batter is "out."

But, that's not the only way for a strike to be called.

Suppose the batter hits the ball, and it's a foul ball?

"What's a foul ball?" you might ask.

Well, if you look at a baseball field, you'll see lines from home plate that run all the way to the outfield wall. Those are the foul lines. Though they should probably be called "fair lines," since a ball on the line is fair.

So, if a batter hits a ball, and it lands outside the foul lines, it's a foul ball. And it's a strike. But it's never strike three. Well, with one exception. We'll talk about that exception later. It's a good rule that a ball hit foul is strike one or strike two.

Some pick-up games, particularly at school playgrounds, play that "four foul balls is an out." Well, that's all well and good. But it's not the rules of baseball.

So, let's recap. If a batter swings and misses, it's a strike. If a batter hits a foul ball, it's a strike, except it's never strike three.

But there's one more ... okay, two more ... okay, three more ... ways to get a strike.

If the batter doesn't swing at the ball ... and the ball is in the "strike zone," it's a strike.

Okay, what's a "strike zone?"
The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

Most players have numbers on the front of their uniform. And those numbers usually, but don't always, coincide with the top of the strike zone. So, you can say the strike zone is from the knees to the numbers. And if the ball is in any part of the strike zone, it's a strike.

The other two strikes?

There's a foul tip. That's when the batter hits the ball, but just tips it, not really changing its trajectory. If the catcher catches it, it's a strike. And, if it's strike three, it's a strikeout.

And the other strike? Well, the batter doesn't have to swing the bat. He can hold the bat out, still, and let the ball hit the bat. That's called a "bunt." And, if the batter bunts a ball foul, it's a strike. And, if it's strike three, it's a strikeout.

That's it?

Those are the basics of baseball. Actually, there's a lot more to it. A lot.

But you start out on a field with 4 bases making up the points of a 4-sided square, with an outfield on the opposite side of home base.

And you have a pitcher trying to throw the ball past a batter.

Yes, there's a lot more to baseball. But you must know that before you go any further.

And we'll go further in a little bit. And I can tell by the look of joy on your face that you can hardly wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please choose a Profile in "Comment as" or sign your name to Anonymous comments. Comment policy