Having grown up rushing home after school at the end of the baseball season to watch such greats as Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra, watching the World Series is as much of a tradition for me as viewing Wimbledon, the U. S. Open Tennis Championships, and the Kentucky Derby. So, it’s with both history and interest in baseball, that I have avidly been watching the Boston Red Sox team as they work their way through each of the games of the current World Series. I have truly enjoyed watching the players unite as teammates, cheer each other on, and play the game as a team rather than individual stars similar to the way the game was played when I first started watching so many years ago.
After that interesting call in Game 3, when Will Middlebrooks was called for obstruction on runner Allen Craig, providing a win for the St. Louis Cardinals, I wanted to learn a bit more about the rule itself, as well as find baseball-related items in the Phillips Library collection.
I found multiple references to the rule. In the 1867 edition of Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player: Comprising the Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Baseball Convention, Together with the Amended Rules Adopted, Rules for the Formation of Clubs, and the Constitution and By-Laws of the National Association, Also, the Base-Ball Averages for 1866, the rule is referenced in the discussion on The Positions on the Field, the third base section, pg. 28:
The Third Base is quite as important a position as the others, and it requires its occupant to be a good player … Its importance, however, depends in a great measure upon the ability displayed by the catcher … basemen should avoid, by all fair means, obstructing the striker from reaching the base, as the penalty for any willful obstruction is the giving of the base to the striker …
A more specific statement was found in Haney’s Base Ball Book of Reference, written by Henry Chadwick in 1869. In the Rules and Regulations of the Game of Base Ball for 1869 As Amended by the National Association of Base Ball Players, December 9, 1868, Rule 4, Section 7 states:
If the player is prevented from making a base by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and shall not be put out. Any obstruction which could readily have been avoided, shall be considered as intentional.
Since this call was so controversial, it was great to witness the ending of Game 4, when Koji Uehara’s pickoff of Kolten Wong at first base created the third out in the top of the 9th inning allowing the Red Sox to even the score with the Cardinals. The pickoff earned Uehara his first save for the World Series. I have so enjoyed watching this pitcher – his skill is phenomenal. His enthusiasm at the end of the game after such concentration while pitching is well-deserved.
Haney’s book also includes a section on The Requisites of a Pitcher, in which it states that the essential point in pitching, is command of the ball. A pitcher may have speed and endurance, but without command of the ball in delivery he lacks the most important element of success in pitching. The next section in Haney’s book, The Lines of the Ball in Pitching, provides illustrations for throwing the ball accurately as well as drawings for different pitches – the fast low ball, a slow low ball, and several diagrams for the pace of the pitched ball. An interesting image in this book is that of the pitcher’s stance as he prepares to deliver the ball. Note the long hair and mustache; although not a beard, one can imagine other traditions in the earlier stages of baseball history. In high school, I was the pitcher on the girls’ softball game for four years and batted in the clean-up position. It was great fun to be on the team, especially the year we played the boys’ baseball team when I struck out their star player! Consequently, it has been very enjoyable for me to watch the talented pitchers on both teams this year, all of whom have made the games even more interesting .
Our collection includes many examples of baseball ephemera. Facts for Fans, compliments of the Daily Evening Item of Lynn, Massachusetts, includes … a record of all the most important points brought out in the forty years of organized baseball as well as the playing rules and schedules for the … season. The library holds the 1913 edition of this booklet. The Trade Card collection includes catalogs of sporting equipment, which display the necessities for playing baseball. The Illustrated Catalogue of General Sporting and Athletic Goods from Horace Partridge & Co. of Boston includes an illustration with directions for self-measurement to determine sizes needed for appropriate baseball clothing, such as a baseball coat, jersey, knee pants, stockings, and cap. Wright & Ditson’s Catalogue of Sporting Goods and Games For In and Out Doors includes options to purchase uniforms, pitcher’s toe plates, base ball shoes, and base ball hats, as well as official balls of both the American and National leagues.
Congratulations to both the Cardinals and the Red Sox teams for a well-played World Series. Special recognition to the Red Sox for winning their 8th championship in franchise history and the first at Fenway Park since 1918!