BASE BALL, a game which holds the same position in the United States of America as cricket does in Great Britain. It was founded on the old British game of rounders, though many additions and alterations have been made. Americans do not appreciate the patience of Englishmen, and do not care to witness a cricket match which may extend to three days, and then remain undecided, whereas the average time of a base ball match is from two hours to two hours and a half. The first regular base ball society was the old Knickerbocker Club, founded at New York in the autumn of 1845; and for fifteen years the sphere of play was very limited. In the spring of 1860 the Excelsior Club was inaugurated at Brooklyn, New York, and the amateur element, in contradistinction to the profes-sional, gave a marked impetus to the pastime. This club was second to none in the United States of America, either ;n social standing or as correct exponents of the game. The secession of the Confederate States soon after, and the sanguinary civil war which followed, was a serious interrup-tion to national or other sports, and base ball became almost obsolete till the season of 1865. Then it began to spread throughout the Union, and to be recognized as a profession, not a few devoting their whole time to it and being paid for their services. Now there are hundreds of games played for every one ten years since. In the
Diagram illustrating the Game of Base Ball
The position of the bases and base lines may be likened to a 90 feet square shaped diamond. The first point to be selected is the rear angle of the home base, which should be not less than 90 feet from the most suitable end of the ground, and equi-distant from each side. Lay out this base 1 foot square, and from the front apex measure 127 feet 4 inches in a straight line down the ground, and the point reached will be the centre of the second base. Take a cord, 180 feet long, fixing one end on the front angle of the home base, and the other on the centre of the second base. By hauling the centre of this cord taut on the two sides, two isosceles right angled triangles will be formed, and the 90 feet square completed. Standing on the home base and looking down the ground, the apex of the triangle on the right hand is the centre of the first base, and of that on the left hand the centre of the third base. 48 feet from the front angle of the home base has then to be measured down the diagonal of the square, in order to fix the centre of the pitcher's position, which is 6 feet square. Lastly come the foul ball posts, which are on a line with the home and first bases, and home and third bases, and not less than 100 feet from the centres of first and third bases respectively.
Formerly, nine a side was the usual number of players ; but, latterly, an additional man has been introduced as right short-stop, and the sides increased to ten. Their positions are marked in the above diagram. The theory of the game is that one side takes the field, and the other goes in. The pitcher then delivers the ball to the striker, who endeavours to hit it in such a direction as to elude the fielders, and enable him to run round all the base lines home without being put out. Ii he succeeds a run is scored. When three players are put out the fielding side come in : and after nine innings have been played the side which have scored the most runs wins the game. The rules are voluminous and minute, but the pith of them may be gleaned from the following résumé :
The ball must weigh not less than 5 ounces or more than B\ ounces avoirdupois, must be not less than 9 inches or more than 9 j inches in circumference, and must be composed of 1 ounce avoirdupois of vulcanized india-rubber, covered with worsted and leather, red being the most suitable colour for the latter. The bat must be circular in shape, not exceeding 2J inches in diameter at any part, or 42- inches in length, and must be made exclusively of wood. The bases shall be 1 foot square, the first, second, and third consisting of white canvas bags securely fastened to the ground, and the home base of white stone or marble, level with the ground, and with one angle facing the pitcher. Unless five innings on each side are concluded it is no game. No game can be drawn, unless play is stopped by darkness or the weather, when the score of the two sides is even. The pitcher's position shall be within a 6 feet square, the front of which shall be 45 feet from the centre of the home base, and the centre equi-distant from the centre of first and third bases, each angle being marked by a flat iron or stone plate 6 inches square. In delivering the ball, the pitcher must not move either foot outside the limits of the square, and the hand must not be raised higher than the hip. All balls delivered over the home base, and at the height requested by the striker, are fair balls. All other balls are unfair or called balls, and if three occur in succession the striker is allowed to take the first base, and any other players move on a base accordingly. A striker may, however, take an unfair ball at his own risk. Balk-ing, or pretending to deliver the ball and not doing so, is inadmis-sible, and any player, on first, second, or third base, is allowed to run a base whenever balking is attempted. If, after being warned by the umpire, three balks are made during the same innings, the out side at once forfeit the game. A ball which hits the bat with-out being struck at, or the person of the striker or umpire, is a dead ball and out of play. The striker shall stand in a space of ground 6 feet by 3 feet, on either side of the home base, extending 2 feet in front and 4 feet behind the centre thereof, and the inside 1 foot from the outside angle thereof, otherwise it is a foul strike. The striker may call for a high ball, which shall be delivered above his waist, but below his shoulder, or a low ball, i.e., below his waist, but not within 1 foot of the ground. Should the striker fail to strike three fairly delivered balls, he must run the first base. The foul ball lines are unlimited in length, and shall extend in a straight line from the front angle of the first base through the centres of first and third bases respectively. A ball is fairly hit if it first touches the ground, a player's person, or other object, on or in front of the foul ball lines. A batsman is out:(1.) If a fair ball be caught be-fore touching the ground, no matter how held by the fielder catch-ing it, or whether the ball first touches the person of another fielder or not, provided it be not caught by the cap ; (2.) If a foul ball be similarly held, or if it be so held after touching the ground but once ; (3.) If a fair ball be securely held by a fielder while touching the first base with any part of his person before the base-runner touches said base, after hitting a fair ball; (4.) If the batsman, after striking three times at the ball and failing to hit it, and, run-ning to first base, fails to touch that base before the ball is legally held there ; (5.) If, after the batsman has similarly failed to hit the ball, it be caught either before touching the ground, or after touch-ing the ground but once ; (6.) If the batsman wilfully strikes at the ball to hinder the ball from being caught; (7.) If the batsman hit the ball on a called foul strike, and it be caught either fair or foul, or if he make two called foul strikes. Directly a striker has fairly struck a fair ball he becomes a base-runner ; starting from the home base to first base, thence to second, third, and home bases respec-tively, all bases being invariably run in this order. No ba3e-runner is compelled to vacate his base except by the striker's striking a fair ball. The lines from base to base are 3 feet wide, clearly marked out on the turf, and a base-runner who leaves the base line to avoid being touched by the ball in the hands of a fielder is out. A run is scored when any base-runner reaches the home base again, after touching all the other bases in proper succession, and provided three players are not put out. No base can be run, or run scored, when a fair strike is caught before touching the ground, unless the base-runner returns to the base he started from, which he cannot leave again until the ball is held by the pitcher, wherever that fielder may happen to be. No unavoidable obstruction may be offered to any base-runner keeping the base lines. A base-runner is out(1.) If, while the ball is in play, he be touched by a fielder with the ball in hand, when no part of his person is touching a base; and should the said fielder, while in the act of touching the base-runner, have the ball knocked out of his hand, the base-runner so touched shall be declared out ; (2.) If the ball be held by a fielder on the first base before the base-runner, after hitting a fair ball, touches that base ; but if a fielder holding the ball, and a base-runner touch a base simultaneously, the latter shall not be declared out; (3.) If he fail to touch the base he runs for, the ball being held by a fielder, while touching said base, before the base-runner returns and touches it; (4.) If he in any way interfere with or obstruct a fielder while attempting to catch a fair fly-ball or a foul ball; (5.) If he wilfully obstruct a fielder from fielding a ball. (6.) If he intentionally kick the ball or let it strike him. The umpire must be thoroughly conversant with the game and all minutiae of the rules. He is the sole arbiter of every point of play, whether pitching, catching, fielding, striking, or run-ning the bases.
The catcher's duty is to catch all balls pitched to the striker. He stands close to the striker's position when the pitching is slow, and some 50 feet off when it is swift. He must be a sure catch in order to catch the striker out when opportunity occurs, and a swift and accurate thrower of the ball to the basemen. The pitcher is the most responsible person on the out side. His great object is to deceive the striker as to where a ball is coming, and he must therefore have full command over the ball, besides possessing the nerve to face any catches hit straight at him. The first, second, and third basemen must all be sure catchers, swift and accurate throwers, and good judges of which bases to send the ball to in order to put an opponent out. The short-stop must be an active man, of great coolness and judgment, a general backer up of the in-field. He is placed near the line from second to third base. The right, centre, and left fielders must all be sure catchers, good long distance throwers, and active runners. Eight short-stop is generally the captain of the side, and is available either in this position or anywhere else where an extra hand is required. Having less work to do than any other fielder, he has better opportunities of attending to his general duties of supervision. The usual positions of all the fielders are defined in the diagram. The catcher, pitcher, first and third basemen, and short-stop comprise the in-field; the remainder the out-field.
The pastime requires good catching, throwing, and run- ning powers, combined with courage, nerve, good judgment, and quick perception of what to do in the field. The great draw-back is so much being left to the umpire, and his decision being so frequently called for. Hardly a ball is pitched or struck, or a base run without his being called on for a decision under some rule or other, whereas the details of the game should be so plain and clear as only to call for an umpire's decision under exceptional circumstances. The attitude of the striker is not an elegant one, and the pitcher is allowed to keep the former's muscles too long on the stretch before actually delivering the ball. Base ball is a quicker and more lively pastime than the great English national game of cricket, which is the chief thing to be said in its favour. (H. P. W.)