Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions of fans and players across the globe. It has a rich and fascinating history, dating back to the mid-19th century when it was first played in America. But how were the rules of baseball created, and who was responsible for developing them?
Origins of Baseball
The origins of baseball are somewhat murky, with various theories and stories about how the game was first created. However, most historians agree that baseball evolved from a number of earlier ball games, including rounders and cricket. These games were popular in Britain and were brought to North America by British colonists.
The first recorded game of baseball was played in 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey, between the Knickerbocker Baseball Club and the New York Baseball Club. The Knickerbocker Club, which was founded by Alexander Cartwright, is often credited with creating the first formal set of rules for the game.
The Rules of Baseball
The rules of baseball have evolved over time, with various changes and revisions made to the game as it has grown in popularity and complexity. However, the basic principles of the game have remained largely the same since the mid-19th century.
The original rules of baseball were written by Alexander Cartwright in 1845 and were adopted by the Knickerbocker Club in 1846. These rules were designed to standardize the game and make it more consistent and fair.
Some of the key rules established by Cartwright included the use of a diamond-shaped playing field, with bases located at each corner; the use of a round ball, rather than a square one; and the requirement that a player must be tagged with the ball in order to be considered out.
Other important rules established in the early years of baseball included the use of nine players on each team; the requirement that the pitcher throw the ball overhand, rather than underhand; and the establishment of a foul ball rule, which penalized batters for hitting the ball outside the boundaries of the playing field.
As baseball grew in popularity, more rules were added to the game, including rules governing base stealing, balks, and the use of designated hitters in the American League. Today, the rules of baseball are governed by Major League Baseball, which has the authority to make changes and revisions to the rules as needed.
The Evolution of Baseball Rules
While the basic principles of baseball have remained largely unchanged since the mid-19th century, there have been numerous changes and revisions made to the game over the years. Some of the most significant changes include:
The introduction of night games: Prior to the 1930s, all baseball games were played during the day. However, the invention of floodlights in the 1930s made it possible to play games at night, which greatly expanded the popularity and accessibility of the sport.
The lowering of the pitcher's mound: In the early years of baseball, the pitcher's mound was located 45 feet from home plate and was 12 inches high. However, in the 1960s, the mound was lowered to its current height of 10 inches and moved back to 60 feet.
The expansion of the strike zone: The strike zone has been expanded over the years, making it easier for pitchers to get strikeouts and increasing the importance of pitching in the game.
The introduction of instant replay: In 2008, instant replay was introduced to baseball, allowing umpires to review close calls and make more accurate calls on the field.
The establishment of the designated hitter rule: In the American League, a designated hitter is allowed to bat in place of the pitcher, which has changed the strategy and dynamics of the game.
Starting a few weeks ago for the 2023 season, MLB has implemented 4 additional rule changes
1. A pitch clock: Pitchers will have to throw within 15 seconds when no one is one base. They will receive 20 seconds when a runner is on base.
2. The elimination of the shift: All 4 infielders now have to be on the dirt when the ball is thrown. Also, there must be 2 on each side of second base. Once the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, they are free to move.
3. Bigger bases: The size of the bases are increasing from 15 inches to 18 inches.
4. A limit to how many times a pitcher can disengage from the rubber: The short answer here is that pitchers can step off the rubber twice during a batter's plate appearance.
The four changes for 2023 have previously been tested in the minor leagues and led to faster pace of play in spring training. We're only a few weeks into the season, but players and managers seem to be adjusting quite well to the rule changes.
It's nice to see Major League Baseball addressing fan concerns of game length with some of the new rule changes. Anytime there are changes to anything, there are going to be mixed opinions. However, if this can improve the fan experience, I'm all for it.
For a list of our favorite baseball books, check out this blog post.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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