The Baseball Convention of 1857, a Summary Report

Porter's Spirit, March 7, 1857

Porter’s Spirit, March 7, 1857

From Porter’s Spirit of the Times, March 7, 1857, page 5.




The final meeting of the delegates from Base Ball Clubs to the above Convention, met at Smith’s Hotel, 462 Broome street, on February 25, and adopted the report of the committee of one from each club, which was appointed some time since, to draw up a code of rules for the government of the game of Base Ball. The following clubs were represented: The Knickerbocker, Gotham, Empire, Putnam, Baltic, Excelsior, Harlem, Atlantic, Eagle, Union, Eckford, Continental, Nassau, Harmony, and Olympic. Mr. Adams, of the Knickerbocker, was president; Mr. Andrews, of the Excelsior, was secretary; and Mr. Brown, of the Harlem, treasurer.

The Knickerbocker Club, having played the game for many years at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, were desirous of changing the rules of the game, from the easy mode in which they have hitherto played it; and, with that view, called a convention of all the clubs, to discuss the revision of the rules. The Knickerbocker was the only club in the convention which existed previous to 1853; and the majority of the clubs were only organized during the last two years—some only last year. Although many old Base Ball players wore connected with the new clubs, it was generally conceded, and expected, that the Knickerbockers would, from their well-known experience, as to the requirements of the game, take the lead in proposing the necessary reforms. They, accordingly, submitted a new code of laws, in which they clearly defined every point in the game; and, with a view of making the game more manly and scientific, they proposed, that no player should be out on a fair struck ball, if it was only taken by the fielder according to the old rule, after it had touched the ground once, and was then caught on the bound; but that the ball must be caught in the air before it had touched the ground, or the player was not out. This rule, Sec. 16, was discussed in the committee, some objecting to it as being too much like Cricket, some that it would hurt the hands more than by taking the ball on the bound, the committee being pretty equally divided. The advocates of the reform finally acceded to a proposition of their opponents; namely, that if a man was caught out before the ball touched the ground, that then the players who were running to the different bases, or home, could neither make an Ace nor Base, but had to return to their original position. This was, certainly, a greater inducement to a display of nerve on the part of the fielders, as, by the former rules, the players could make as many Aces and Bases as they pleased, if the ball was taken on the bound. This section was adopted by the committee unanimously. Many other rules were adopted, and a code of 34 rules was laid before the convention for its action.

Knickebockers' First Recorded Game, at Hoboken, October 6, 1845

Knickebockers’ First Recorded Game, at Hoboken, October 6, 1845

The Knickerbockers also proposed that strikers might have the privilege of squaring down the round bat, or club, if they desired to play with a flat face, instead of the uncertain round club; this was not adopted; and Sec. 30 had a rider attached to it, which protected the players back to their places of starting, instead of allowing a premium for sharp fielding, if the ball was passed quickly to the pitcher, and again back to a base, before a player got back to his original post. Many ambiguous rules have been clearly defined, whilst others are susceptible of doubt: much will depend upon the prompt decision of the Umpires. Sec. 1 determines the weight and make of the ball, which has hitherto been very uncertain. Sec. 5 settles a doubtful point, as to the position of the Pitcher. Sec. 6.–This was always a mooted question. The Knickerbockers desired to settle it by making it imperative for the Pitcher to deliver the ball whenever one of his feet was over a settled line; then, if he did not deliver the ball, but threw it to one of the bases, it was to be declared a baulk. Now, as adopted by the convention, it entirely depends upon the opinion of the Umpires, who may declare it a baulk, although the Pitcher, in drawing back his hand, may really intend to throw the ball to a base, and not to the striker: it is a knotty point for the umpires and referee. Sec. 10 is the old rule, which we have already suggested ought to be altered to “every three fair pitched balls,” if not struck at, should be considered as a miss; this would prevent playing against time; but, as Sec. 26 was adopted by the committee, on the recommendation of the Knickerbockers, making the game “seven innings,” and amended in convention, on motion of Mr. Wadsworth, to “nine innings,” instead of the old game of twenty-one Aces, the inducement to make a drawn game is done away with, if the section is taken in connection with Sec 31.

Section 21.—Such dishonorable conduct as is supposed, should have been visited by a penalty on the party offending, and not merely allow that, which might have been reached without the interference of the offending party.

Sec. 22.—A ball may be struck with such force as to bring all the men home; yet, in such a case (were it possible to suppose such a thing could be) Short, might stop it, return it to the Pitcher—the only penalty—Instead of the side coming home, a man is out sure. Ought there not to be a penalty?

Sec. 27 is an excellent rule, and will prevent much dissatisfaction. Sec. 28 Is another good rule, which will prevent good players from monopolizing the play in matches. Sec. 30 is another good rule, and will tend much to prevent over-anxiety and ill-humor during a match. Sec. 33.—Experience has shown the necessity of this rule; it will prevent much annoyance to the persons engaged in the game. And section 35 will save much valuable time and many a drawn game, which has been too often frittered away, much to the disgust of parties who have gone into the field for an afternoon’s recreation.

The new rules do not tend to elevate the scientific character of the game much more than the former ones, as intended by the originators of the convention, yet there is considerable improvement. The objection of some of the young members of the convention to catching the ball “on the fly,” ought not to have had much weight simply for the reason, that it is the way the ball is caught in the English game of cricket or, if Englishmen choose to hurt their hands by catching the ball before It touches the ground, why should Americans do so?

The Game of Base Ball, New York Clipper, September 19, 1857

The Game of Base Ball, New York Clipper, September 19, 1857

Let it be known that cricket was played in America before base ball; that within a year of this present time, more Americans played cricket than base ball; and that many of our best base ball players are Englishmen, who have joined it for a quick, lively game. And above all, let not Americans reject a manly point in the game merely because it is English, and hurts the hands (which it does not, if played in a scientific manner); for, surely, what an Englishman can do, an American is as capable of improving upon. Even the American cricketers, who played with the Englishmen last fall, and were defeated, are organizing their forces for the spring campaign, and intend to defeat the Englishmen in their national game (In a friendly way). But the rules of base ball are fixed for the present, and will meet a fair trial in the first match game between two clubs, and experience will settle all doubts as to their working. Practice will increase the ability to take the ball on the fly, as the inducement will cause the attempt oftener than heretofore. In any case, the game will be more popular than ever, and renewed health, both physically and morally, must accrue to those who practise this healthful out door exercise. The cricket-ground of thirty acres, will, by favor of our Republican Solons at Albany, soon be covered with a green carpet, inviting our base ball clubs to “spread themselves” that is, if the happiness of the white slaves of labor, and of Mammon, of this city, can have a consent to be allowed to spend their own money, in improving their waste lands for the benefit of the health of their families.

We have, in a former number, recommended a new rule for playing base ball, which we should like to see tried in a practice game, to see how it would work. It is to make six out all out, instead of making three out all out. A player who is caught out on the fly, being marked 00, or two out to his side; whilst a player who Is only caught out on the bound, is marked 0, or only one out on his side. This rule is an incentive to Increased activity by the fielders; as by catching the ball in a manly way, before it touches the ground, the six out all out, are practically reduced to three out all out. This rule will accomplish all that the “Knickerbockers” wished, and will give a chance to the young gentlemen with soft hands, and a double chance to those who fail to take the ball on the fly, where they cannot possibly reach it till it touches the ground, or on occasions where their fingers have been buttered.

Cricket Match at Hoboken, Canda vs. U.S., Sept. 9-10, 1856. 10, 1856, Clipper, Sept 27.

Cricket Match at Hoboken, Canada vs. U.S., Sept. 9-10, 1856, Clipper, Sept 27.


Sec. 1. The ball must weigh not less than 6 nor more than 6-1/4 ounces avoirdupois; it must measure not less than 10, nor more than 10-1/4 inches in circumference ; it must be composed of india-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather. It shall be furnished by the challenging Club, and become the property of the winning Club, as a trophy of victory.

Sec. 2. The bat must be round, and must not exceed 2-1/2 inches In diameter, in The thickest part; it must be made of wood, and may be of any length, to suit the striker.

Sec. 3. The bases must be four in number, placed at equal distances from each other, and securely fastened upon the four corners of a square, whose sides are respectively thirty yards. They must be so constructed as to be distinctly seen by the umpires and referee, and mast cover a space equal to one square foot of surface; the first, second and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or saw-dust; the home base and pitcher’s point to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate, painted or enamelled white.

Sec. 4. The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated the homer base, and must be directly opposite to the second base; the first base must always be that upon the right hand, and the third base that upon the left hand side of the striker, when occupying his position at the home base.

Sec. 5. The pitcher’s position shall be designated by a line four yards In length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to the second base, having its centre upon that line, at a fixed iron plate placed at a point fifteen yards distant from the home base,.

Sec. 6. The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown to the bat, and whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it. The pitcher must deliver the ball as near as possible, over the centre of the home base, and must have neither foot in advance of the line at the time of delivering the ball, and if he fails in either of these particulars, then it shall be declared a baulk.

Sec. 7. When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base, without being put out.

Sec. 8. If the ball from a stroke of the bat is caught behind the range or home and the first base, or home and the third base, without having touched the ground, or first touches the ground behind those bases, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpires, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, or is caught without having touched the ground, either upon or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.

Sec. 9. A player making the home base, shall be entitled to score one run.

Sec. 10: If three balls are struck at and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, arid the striker must attempt to make his run.

Sec. 11. The striker is out If a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground or upon the first bound.

Sec. 12. Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught either before touching the ground or upon the first bound.

Sec. 13. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground or upon the first bound.

Sec. 14. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base.

Sec. 15. Or, if at any time he is touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on a base.

Sec. 16. No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball, nor when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground; and the ball shall, in both instances, be considered dead and not in play, until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher. When a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground, the players running the bases shall have the privilege of returning to them.

Sec. 17. Players must stand on a line drawn through the centre of the home base not exceeding in length three feet from either side thereof, and such line shall be parallel with the line occupied by the pitcher. They shall strike In regular rotation; and after the first innings is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.

Sec. 18. Players must make their bases in the order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying, nor on the first bound, the first base must be vacated, as also the second and third bases, if they are occupied at the same time. Players may be put out upon any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

Sec. 19. Players running the bases must, so far as possible, keep upon the direct line between the bases; and, should any player run three feet out of this line, for the purpose of avoiding the ball in the hands of an adversary, he shall be declared out.

Sec. 20. Any player, who shall, intentionally, prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.

Sec. 21. If a player is prevented from making a base, by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and not be put out.

Sec. 22. If any adversary stops the ball with his hat or cap, or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can he put out, unless the ball shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher.

Sec. 23. If a ball, from the stroke of the bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in section 22, and without having touched the ground more than once, the striker is out.

Sec. 24. If two hands are already out, no player, running home at the time a ball is struck, can make an ace, if the striker is put out.

Sec 25. An innings must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out

Sec. 26. The game shall consist of nine innings to each side, when, should the number of runs be equal, the innings shall be continued until a majority of runs, upon an equal number of innings, shall be declared, which shall conclude the game.

Sec. 27. In playing all matches, nine players from each club shall constitute a full field, and they must have been regular members of the club which they represent, for thirty days prior to the match. No change or substitution shall be made after the game has been commenced, unless for reason of illness or injury. Positions of players shall be determined by captains, previously appointed for that purpose by the respective clubs.

Sec 28. Any player holding membership in more than one club, at the same time, shall not be permitted to play in the matches of either club.

Sec. 29. The umpires in all matches shall take care that the regulations respecting the ball, bats, bases, and the pitcher’s position, are strictly observed; they shall be the judges of fair and unfair play, and shall determine all differences which may occur during the game; they shall take especial care to declare all foul balls and baulks immediately on their occurrence. They shall together select a referee, from whose decision in case of a disagreement between them there shall be no appeal.

Sec. 30. No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, referee, or player, shall be either directly or indirectly interested in any bet upon the game. Neither umpire, referee nor player shall be changed during a match, unless with the consent of both parties, except for a violation of this law, and except as provided in section 27, and then the referee may dismiss any transgressor.

Sec. 31. The umpires and referee in any match, shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game cannot be concluded, it shall be decided by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played; and the party having the greatest number of runs shall be declared the winner.

Sec. 32. Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of the bounds of the field, as the circumstances of the ground may demand, and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, and the referee, previous to the commencement of the game.

Sec 33. No person shall be permitted to approach or to speak with the referee, umpires, or players, or in any manner to interrupt or interfere during the progress of the game, unless by the special request of the umpires or referee.

Sec. 34. No person shall be permitted to act as umpire or referee in a match, unless he shall be a member of a Base Ball Club, governed by these rules.

Sec. 35. Whenever a match shall have been determined upon between two clubs, play shall be called at the exact hour appointed; and should either party fail to produce their players within fifteen minutes thereafter, the party so failing shall admit a defeat.


Knickerbocker—D. L. Adams; W.H. Grenelle; L. F. Wadsworth.

Gotham—W. H. Van Cott; R.H. Cudlip; G. H. Franklin.

Eagle—W. W. Armfield; A. J. Blxby; J. W. Mott.

Empire–R. H. Thorn; Walter Scott; Thomas Leavy.

Putnam—Theo. F. Jackson; J. W. Smith; E. A. Walton.

Baltic—Philip Weeks; R. G. Cornell; C. W. Cooper.

Excelsior—J. W. Andrews; J. Rogers; P. B. Chadwick.

Atlantic—C. Sniffen; W. Babcock; T. Thasie [Tassie].

Harmony—R. Justin, jr.; G. M. Phelps; F. D. Carr.

Harlem—E. H. Brown; J. L. Riker; C. M. Van Voorhis.

Union—Thos. E. Sutton; Wm. Cauldwell; S. D. Gifford.

Eckford—C. M. Welling; Francis Pidgeon; J. M Gray.

Bedford–John Constant; Charles Osborn; Thomas Bogart.

Nassau—W. P. Howell; J. R. Rosenquest; E. Miller.

Continental—John Silsby; N. B. Law; J. B. Brown.

Olympic—Charles Smith; W. B. Dodson

D. L. ADAMS, President.

JAMES W. ANDREWS, Secretary.


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