Just as technology has evolved overtime, so has baseball, and pretty much everything. As the saying goes, change is the only constant and that change has had its effects on how baseball game is played. Right from the Dead-Ball Era through today, there is quite a significant change worth writing home about.
Perhaps we might know much about how baseball was played in the early days, but we surely know that no two balls were the same. There are stories of some pitchers who made their own balls, varying in weight and size and softer than today’s.
Alexander Cartwright wrote baseball rules in 1837. Can we possibly be playing by the same rules? Surely not. Learn how these rules have evolved overtime below.
Modern day baseball begun in 1976 when they stopped using horsehide balls and instead adopted wool yarn balls that are still being used to date. These balls have a circumference of nine inches and weigh 5 ounces.
In the early 1900s, baseballs were not wound so tight and not even weighed. Pitchers used to modify balls using things like tar or spit to give them a greater advantage over the batter.
All these rules changed with the death of batter Ray Chapman on August 16, 1920 when Carl Mays threw a spitball that struck his head and killed him.
Another change in the baseball game is the number of balls used. Today’s baseball game uses 60 to 70 balls because when they land in the stands, fans keep them.
Umpires will get balls out of play after they have gotten dirty or hit a few times to keep the ball fair and maintain its integrity.
From 1900 through 1919, each game was using 5 or 6 balls, and this was also known as ‘dead ball era’. This time frame favored pitchers because batters couldn’t hit overused balls far enough.
That’s why in those years, the leading home run hitter in a season would have 14 home runs. Nelson Cruz had 40 home runs in 2014 and was the winner of both leagues.
In the mid-1800s, baseball became so popular that it led to the formation of the National league in 1876. In 1901, the American league was birthed and kicked off with 8 teams of its own which were considered bitter rivals of the National league.
That has changed in today’s games where both leagues are more competitive in the leagues and the other league is not their worry until the playoffs that lead to World Series begin.
However, if you have attended an inter-league game between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, then you know this rule doesn’t apply – rivalries between the two leagues actually exist.
Even the National league versus American League mentality has reduced in bitterness compared to when the American League came on scene in 1900s.
The National League’s first six years permitted players to choose the bats they would use. There were no rules in terms of height, weight or material the bats were made of. With time, the bats’ width became regulated to 2.61 inches which is still applicable to date.
Since 1896 when the maximum bat length was put at 42 inches, the same length is what we are using to date. However, bats which are 34- 35 inches long are usually considered the standard for today’s players.
There is a time when baseball players were using flat-sided bats but the rules were changed to having round bats in 1893.
Also, the wood type used to make bats is regulated now whereby players can choose between maple, ash and birch. As much as there isn’t an exact weight requirement, bats cannot be 3.5 ounces lighter than their length.
The American league introduced a new kind of player–a designated hitter in 1973. This position was intended to build up excitement at the game’s pivotal times.
The first year that the designated hitter was used, American league hits rose to nearly 2,500. The designated hitter does not only raise game excitement but also extends the career lifetimes of batters.
The game of baseball has evolved over the years into the beautiful and fun game that we see today. It rose from being just a pastime for Americans that involved a pitcher throwing a ball at a ‘striker’ that would be swinging a flat stick which today is the bat.
The first rules of baseball were written by Alexander Cartwright but have evolved today. For instance the material and number of balls has changed, shape and material of the bat too.