This day in baseball: Changing the rules

On December 8, 1881, the National League approved the following rule changes:

~ the 3-foot lane along first base was adopted for the first time

~ runners returning to their bases after a foul ball is not caught by the defense could no longer be put out

~ the fine against pitchers for hitting batters was repealed

~ on a ball that goes into the crowd, the runner can take as many bases as he can, and the defense can only put him out after having returned the ball to the pitcher in his box

The three-foot running lane along the first base line (
The three-foot running lane along the first base line (

2 thoughts on “This day in baseball: Changing the rules

  1. Can you elaborate on that last rule change, Precious? I assume they’re talking about a crowd in the outfield? What happens if the crowd doesn’t want to give the ball back? Also, what’s up with this pitcher’s box? Are they saying the ball has to be returned to the pitcher (on the mound?) before it can be distributed to a base or home plate? I’m confused. 🙂

    1. I tried to find more information on it as I was writing the post, but wasn’t having any luck, but here’s my take on it:

      Since not all fields had fences in 1881 (if any of them did), the ball would inevitably end up rolling/flying into the crowd, whether it gets hit there are ends up there on a defensive miscue. I really don’t know what happened if the crowd didn’t want to give it back. Maybe something akin to the ground rule double? On the other hand, I imagine there were instances when the crowd would throw it back in an attempt to help its own team, and I don’t know what would’ve happened in those cases either.

      As for the “pitcher’s box,” I imagine that yes, they are referring to the mound. I recall a rule in Little League, in the younger age groups especially, where throwing the ball to the pitcher on the mound was emphasized to freeze the runners, especially in the midst of plays that weren’t going so well. I’m guessing that philosophy stemmed from this rule here.

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