The Language of 19th Century Base Ball

In addition to variations in the rules, the vocabulary of the 19th century game was also different. Some examples are:

“cranks”, “bugs”, “rooters” = fans
“hands down” = out
“hurler” = pitcher
“striker” = batter
“captain” = manager
“matches” = games
“ace” = run
“leg it!” = running
“huzzah!” = cheer
“sky ball”, “cloud hunter”, “skyscraper”, “air ball” = pop up
“muff”, “boot”, “juggle”,“mug” = error
“ginger” = determination
“striker to the line” = batter up
“whitewash” = shutout
“garden” = outfield
“daisy cutter”, “bug bruiser”,“grass killer”, “ant killer” = grounder
“ballist” = ballplayer
“behind” = catcher
“tally” = final/ining score
“dead” = out
“muffin” = poor player
“foul tick” = foul ball
“pitcher’s point” = mound
“muffin”, “milkboy” = insults

Some Vintage Base Ball Rules

There are several era brackets for rules and equipment that the Simsbury Taverneers plays within, 1868/1871 and 1886. The most common bracket is 1886 rules although we do play some 1868/1871 games each season. However, the challenge is to be able to play both sets of rules since certain visiting or away games will require the Taverneers to play different era brackets. Following are some excerpts of rules from the different eras (Source: 2003 Vintage Base Ball Times):

Equipment: Each era of play does not permit sunglasses, batting gloves, batting helmets or exposed protective gear. Bats and baseballs must be official 19th century standards. Catchers equipment and fielding gloves are only permitted in 1886 era games.

Baseballs: 1868/1871 baseballs are 9.75 inches round and 5.75 ounces weight with lemon peel or “X” stitching. 1886 baseballs are 9.25 inches round and 5.25 ounces weight with figure 8 stitching.

Timeouts: In each era of play, 1868/1871 and 1886, only the umpire may call for time out to suspend play. In 1886 era, timeouts will be in effect only with the pitcher holding the ball within the pitcher’s box.

Base Coach: In each era, only one appointed team Captain and Assistant Coach may coach first or third base. Depending on the captain/coach situation of playing, batting, on base, this will result in unique base coaching situational strategies, movement between first and third base box, or even a vacant coaching box. Base runners will sometimes be exposed to base advancing disadvantages and making their own running decisions.

Umpiring: There is one umpire per game. His positioning of calling the game was generally within 10 to 15 feet of home plate, just outside the home plate area or several feet behind the catcher. Umpires maintain complete control over every aspect of the game. Umpires can be vocal when calling plays but hand signals and gestures were not used. No player shall argue or contest any call made. In the event of a call being questioned by the umpire, each club Captain will be summoned to offer input. The umpire has the right to request a "gentleman's call" if the umpire is uncertain of the play due to disadvantaged line of sight or some other condition unsuitable for a definitive call. The field players must make a best gentlemanly effort to make the call regardless of whether it is to their team's advantage or disadvantage.

Dimensions: Base distances for each era are 90 feet. The pitching mound in both eras did not exist and in place was a Pitcher’s Box measuring 6 foot by 6 foot. For 1868/1871 rules, the pitching distance was 45 feet. In 1886 the pitching distance was 50 feet.

1868/1871 Games Rules

Umpire calls the “striker to the line”. Batter shall stand within one stride of a line extending midway through home plate. Batter will request high or low strikes prior to entering the box and that strike zone will remain in effect for the duration of the entire at-bat. The pitcher is then required to throw a strike in the zone specified. Any fouled ball that hits the ground and bounces back to the catcher and is caught by the catcher on once bounce is an out.

The first pitch delivered is a “dead pitch” with no ball or strike called. The Striker has the option to hit the ball if desired.

Any subsequent pitch that enters in the opposite strike zone than requested by the batter and is not swung at, is a no pitch.

A ball is any pitch outside of the “high/low” strike zone.

A strike is for any pitch where the striker swings and misses or for a pitch within the striker requested strike zone.

Foul balls are not strikes.

A foul tip caught by the catcher regardless of the count is an out.

Base on Balls: 3

Strike Out: 3

Hit Batsman: Striker not awarded first base. Pitch is a ball.

Fair Foul Rule: Any ball that is struck and first hits in fair territory shall be deemed a fair ball regardless of whether it goes foul before reaching first or third base bags.

Foul Bound Rule: Any foul ball caught on one bounce is an out.

Pitching Motion: Must be underhand delivery perpendicular to the ground with no bend of the elbow. No speed limit applies.

Running: There is no infield fly rule. Tagging up is permitted. Sliding is permitted. Runner can lead from the bases and may steal bases.

Foul Balls/Running: Any foul ball is also considered a dead ball and is not “live” again until the pitcher touches the ball. All runners must return to their base and are subject to being out in the event that the ball is returned to the pitcher and the pitcher throws to the base before the runner returns.

1886 Game Rules

Batting: Same as 1868/1871 rules.

Base on Balls: 7

Strike Out: 3

Foul Balls: Foul balls are not counted as strikes and the ball is dead.

Foul Tip: Any foul tip caught by the catcher, regardless of count, is an out.

Dropped Third Strikes: Any called or swung third strike dropped by the catcher is a live ball and in a force situation, runners must advance accordingly or be subject to a force out.

Pitching Motion: Unrestricted and can include overhand, three-quarter, sidearm, and underhand motions. Breaking balls, changeups, and spitballs are permitted.

Running: Stealing and leading off is permitted. No infield fly rule. Tagging up is permitted.